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 …
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
“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
SPIRIT LED PEOPLE
In this weeks verses we got to see this in action through Phillip and his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. The Spirit tells Philip to go to a chariot and stay near it. Without hesitation Phillip does exactly what he has been told. I don’t know about you but I would have been full of questions, like what do I do/say when I get there? Won’t I look a bit weird just walking beside the chariot?
When Philip got there however it all became clear. He heard the Ethiopian eunuch reading and began talking to him about what he was reading. Through their conversation he was able to share the gospel with him and lead him to Christ.
The work of preparing the Ethiopians heart to receive what Philip would tell him had already been done by the Spirit. He was reading a passage from the old testament and had lots of questions about he was reading. At that point Phillip turns up, led by the spirit, and he is able to answer his questions and ultimately lead him to Christ.
This account is a powerful reminder to me of how we need to be ready to be led and used by the Spirit. To get to the place where Phillip was in being able to go without hesitation, he must have been walking closely with God so he knew his voice when he spoke to him. It’s amazing to think that the same Spirit that led Phillip is with every Christian and is with you and me. He can and will use each of us in different ways, we just need to be willing and ready.
THE PROCESS OF CONVERSION
This passage reminded me a lot of the process of someone coming to know Christ as their Lord and Saviour. It isn’t one of us ramming scripture down people’s throats, and although there is a place for preaching the gospel in large groups and many people hearing, I love this picture of a gentle one on one conversation.
In my Facebook Live I spoke about the stages we see there and the work that God has already done in the background. God had done all the hard stuff!! Putting the idea out there – God has done. Softening this person’s heart – God has already done. Making them interested in the gospel – God has done! So when Philip arrives on the scene, all he has to do is to come alongside this person, listen and pay attention to the cues he is already giving and then ask permission to help him. The really important step is that the eunuch invites Philip openly to talk to him about this. He lets him in. We will never help people see the amazing loving God that we know if we barge in uninvited. It has to be the other person’s decision.
Yes there are many things we can do to help lead to this point – our actions, our love, our words or comments on things might help us get to the point where if we ask “can I share my faith with you” people will say yes and give us permission. But ultimately it is their choice, and we need to respect that. We need to trust that God is doing the work that we cannot. We need to trust that God will lead us to those who are ready and will allow the answer to be yes when we ask them. We need to let God be God, and we be his workmen.
Well a few weeks back we saw the moment where Saul was there approving the death of Stephen. But this week we see the moment that his life changes for ever. This is the verse we will be meditating on together:
“The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 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. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” Acts 9:7-9
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 …
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 …
Well, Mummy Meditators, it would appear this weekend got away from me! It is now officially the summer holidays for us, and with that comes the days that merge into one another. Anyway, we are here reflecting on this weeks verse (better late than never!), and some of our amazing contributors have sent in their thoughts.
Our verse was:
“Brothers and sister, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:3-4
Reflecting on this weeks highlighted verse has reminded me that we are in a fellowship, we are a body and we are all one. Being online has been so hard but church online is not fake in comparison to meeting in a building. I’ve seen more people stepping in and taking on more roles within the church than I have when we’ve been in the building! This has definitely been a season of hardship but also a season of tiny green shoots pushing through the soil of discouragement, despondency and feeling forgotten. It’s almost as if something is clicking within us that the church is a body of people full of different gifts and others are realising that they can contribute to the service and the every day tasks in some small or big way.
Being a body of believers means that when we are gifted in some area, we are to help others and show and grow them in what we are gifted with. God never intended us to bare all the work but to share it and lead, encourage and help each other and when entrusting someone to lead in an area, we should always choose character over gifts. Gifts are important but character is so telling for how something will be managed or lead and especially if it will be for mans glory or Gods glory. The apostles here were not wrong to choose those who were wise and full of the spirit. Don’t be disheartened if you know you are called to lead but haven’t yet stepped in that place. God is refining you in his fire and your time will come.
A Beautiful Blueprint
The scripture this week reminded me that God always gives us clear instruction and I for one am very thankful that he does.
It has three main threads woven throughout; kingdom culture, the character of God and a culture clash.
It gives us a glimpse of Kingdom culture; that of family and responsibility. The church blueprint where no one is forgotten because we are all each others responsibility. That our first ministry or mission field is family whether its church family or our own family.
The verse draws our attention to the clash between the Helenistic (Greek) and the Hebraic (Aramaic) Jews and gives us a solution. When discernment and wisdom are applied as gifted by the Holy Spirit, we can find a way forward through fundamental differences we don’t even have to speak the same language to be heard. It’s the transcendent nature of the Holy Spirits outworking in us. Its less of us and more of God.
The revelation of Gods heart towards us, his children to protect and provide not matter what circumstances we face. We may feel forgotten by our churches or left out because of the season, perhaps even outside our Christian culture on occasion especially when we are new to church life. Ultimately God has his eye on you.
His character as a redemptive God JEHOVAH- JIREH, JEHOVAH-NISSI, JEHOVAH-TSID-KENU, JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH, JEHOVAH-SABOATH and JEHOVAH-RAAH.
I wonder where you are at today reading this, are you ok feeling including or are you one of the churches many tasked with including the flock who are spread far and wide due to C-19.
Not matter where you could simply follow Gods beautiful blueprint.
Pray come HOLY SPIRIT increase my giftings of Wisdom and Discernment, you could pray that over your church and church leadership.
Be obedient to the instructions given to you by the HOLY SPIRIT
Keep your eyes focused on God encourage yourself in the word for our God transcends the world. Psalm 121, 139, 23 and John 16:33.
It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables: The apostles explained that they should remain faithful to their central calling, which was prayer and to the ministry of the word. It was wrong for them to spend their time administrating the practical needs of the widows. Some believe that this is evidence of a superior attitude among the twelve; that they considered themselves above such work. This was probably not so, and they were wise in delegating these responsibilities. God did not call these apostles to be everything for the church. God has and will raise up others to serve in other ways. A pastor should not have his time consumed in tasks that are essentially serving tables. Yet there is something wrong with a pastor who considers such work beneath him. This didn’t concern the actual serving of food and cleaning of dining tables for these widows. This speaks of handling the practical administration of the financial and practical details relevant to caring for the widows. “A ‘table’ at that time meant a place where a money changer did his collecting or exchanging of money. The deacons were elected to oversee the distribution of monies and provisions to the needy among the fellowship.”
We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word: The fact that the apostles busied themselves with prayer and the ministry of the word shows how energetically they did those things and how consuming it is to preach and pray rightly. The ministry is a lot of work, even apart from administrative headaches. A young man said to Donald Grey Barnhouse, “I’d give the world to be able to teach the Bible like you.” Looking him straight in the eye, Dr. Barnhouse replied: “Good, because that’s exactly what it will cost you.” We will give ourselves continually to prayer: They gave themselves to more than the ministry of the word. “Therefore, pastors must not think that they have so done their duty that they need to do no more when they have daily spent some time in teaching.”
Seek out from among you: The apostles (the twelve) spoke to the general group of believers (the multitude of the disciples) and pursued the solution with a lot of communication and input from among the people. They even asked those – probably especially those who felt wronged – to suggest men of good character to do this work. This was a wonderful way to solve the problem. They didn’t throw the complainers out. They didn’t divide into two congregations. They didn’t shun the unhappy people. They didn’t form a committee and discuss the problem to death. No doubt, someone suggested that the apostles themselves give more direct attention to the distribution of help to the widows. Instead, they delegated and brought more people into doing work of ministry. Meeting unmet needs is a great way to bring more people into ministry.
Of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom: The qualifications described by the apostles focused the character of the men to be chosen. The apostles were far more concerned with the internal quality of the men than their outward appearance or image. The idea behind full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom is that these men were to be both spiritually minded and practically minded. This can be a hard combination to find. Seven men: Possibly they chose seven so that one could oversee the needs of the widows a different day of the week. Whom we may appoint: The final decision rested with the apostles. They asked the congregation to nominate the men (seek out from among you), but the decision really rested with the apostles. This was not an exercise of congregational government, though the apostles wisely wanted and valued the input from the congregation.
Whom we may appoint over this business: Seven men were to be chosen to serve tables. It was simple, practical service that they are appointed to; yet they must be well qualified in a spiritual sense, especially because of the danger of division. Therefore, the men need to be of good reputation. They had to be men the church family felt confident in.“The apostles were not trying to protect their own rights. They were not even protecting their own point of view. They simply wanted to solve the problem.”
We are a day behind, but we’ve still plenty of time to mull over this week’s verse below:
“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 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. And Saul approved of their killing him” Acts 7:59-60