Together, we serve
to know Christ
and to make Christ known
for the glory of God

20 June 2019

Acts 19

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’
They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’
So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’
‘John’s baptism,’ they replied.
Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to those who were ill, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.
13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’ 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?’ 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honour. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practised sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
21 After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. ‘After I have been there,’ he said, ‘I must visit Rome also.’ 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.


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

‘In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.’ (verse 20)

Prayer:  Our Lord and God, throughout history You have done extraordinary miracles (verse 11) and deeds, and we are in awe of Your power and holiness. May You by Your grace expose our sins so that we, with the Ephesians, ‘will believe and confess our evil deeds’ (verse 18). And may we turn from our sins, turn to You and proclaim Your Name alone, here at home and throughout the world. With John Newton, we thank and praise You for the ‘Grace that taught my heart to fear, and Grace, my fears relieved’. May we spread Your wonderful story of amazing grace throughout the world! Amen.

19 June 2019

Judges 13

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.
A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth. The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, ‘You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.’
Then the woman went to her husband and told him, ‘A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn’t ask him where he came from, and he didn’t tell me his name. But he said to me, “You will become pregnant and have a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb until the day of his death.”’
Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.’
God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. 10 The woman hurried to tell her husband, ‘He’s here! The man who appeared to me the other day!’
11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, ‘Are you the man who talked to my wife?’
‘I am,’ he said.
12 So Manoah asked him, ‘When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule that governs the boy’s life and work?’
13 The angel of the Lord answered, ‘Your wife must do all that I have told her. 14 She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.’
15 Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, ‘We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.’
16 The angel of the Lord replied, ‘Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the Lord.’ (Manoah did not realise that it was the angel of the Lord.)
17 Then Manoah enquired of the angel of the Lord, ‘What is your name, so that we may honour you when your word comes true?’
18 He replied, ‘Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.’ 19 Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. And the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: 20 as the flame blazed up from the altar towards heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. 21 When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realised that it was the angel of the Lord.
22 ‘We are doomed to die!’ he said to his wife. ‘We have seen God!’
23 But his wife answered, ‘If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.’
24 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him, 25 and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

‘He replied, Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.’ (verse 18)

“And the Lord did an amazing thing while they watched. Seeing this, they fell with their faces to the ground.” (verse 19-20)

Prayer:  (lyrics by Chris Tomlin)

‘Indescribable, uncontainable

You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name

You are amazing God

All powerful, untameable

Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim

You are amazing God!’

We worhip, praise and adore You, holy Lord! Amen.

18 June 2019

Judges 7

Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, “My own strength has saved me.” Now announce to the army, “Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.”’ So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
But the Lord said to Gideon, ‘There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, “This one shall go with you,” he shall go; but if I say, “This one shall not go with you,” he shall not go.’
So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, ‘Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.’ Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
The Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.’ So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.
Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. During that night the Lordsaid to Gideon, ‘Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. 10 If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah 11 and listen to what they are saying. Afterwards, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.’ So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. 12 The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.
13 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. ‘I had a dream,’ he was saying. ‘A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.’
14 His friend responded, ‘This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.’
15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshipped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, ‘Get up! The Lordhas given the Midianite camp into your hands.’ 16 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.
17 ‘Watch me,’ he told them. ‘Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all round the camp blow yours and shout, “For the Lord and for Gideon.”’
19 Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, ‘A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!’ 21 While each man held his position round the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.
22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah towards Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 23 Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. 24 Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, ‘Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.’
So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they seized the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah. 25 They also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was by the Jordan.

‘In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her…’ (verse 2).

Prayer:  Our Lord and Saviour, we thank You that You are with us, and that we can lean on You in our weaknesses. We ask for forgiveness for all those times, when we trusted in our own efforts, and for that tendency in us to glorify self, instead of You. We acknowledge that our hearts are prone to wander from You, our loving Father and sovereign God, the Creator. We thank You that You know our fears, and that you will strengthen us (verse 10-11).  May we rely on Your wisdom and strength, and may Your presence and peace be very real and close to us, especially in times of trials and fears. Amen

17 June 2019

Judges 6

The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.
When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.” But you have not listened to me.’
11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’
13 ‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, “Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?” But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.’
14 The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?’
15 ‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’
16 The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.’
17 Gideon replied, ‘If now I have found favour in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.’
And the Lord said, ‘I will wait until you return.’
19 Gideon went inside, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak.
20 The angel of God said to him, ‘Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.’ And Gideon did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. 22 When Gideon realised that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, ‘Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!’
23 But the Lord said to him, ‘Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.’
24 So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
25 That same night the Lord said to him, ‘Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.’
27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.
28 In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly-built altar!
29 They asked each other, ‘Who did this?’
When they carefully investigated, they were told, ‘Gideon son of Joash did it.’
30 The people of the town demanded of Joash, ‘Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.’
31 But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, ‘Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.’ 32 So because Gideon broke down Baal’s altar, they gave him the name Jerub-Baal that day, saying, ‘Let Baal contend with him.’
33 Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them.
36 Gideon said to God, ‘If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised – 37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing-floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.’ 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew – a bowlful of water.
39 Then Gideon said to God, ‘Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.’ 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

‘I have snatched you from all your oppressors’ (verse 9), … ‘but you have not listened to me’ (verse10b).

 Again, Israel’s cycle of abandoning God, and compromising with the world, resulting in idolatry, is revealed. As we know, there are consequences to our deliberate sin and neglect of God, as he hands us over to our sin (verse 1ff). Yet, our gracious God reveals the reason for our misery by His Word (here through God’s judge, Gideon). But instead of judgement, God has a rescue planned! He hears His people’s cry for help, and sends a rescuer. (Does that sound familiar?) He does not abandon us; God is with us (verse 12). Although, Gideon is not our ultimate rescuer, it does encourage us, that God uses the weak, the fearful, and the inadequate to achieve his purposes. We see God’s power in action (verse 20-22) and God’s holiness (verse 22-24). Dale Ralph Davis writes, ‘There is nothing amazing about grace as long as there is nothing fearful about holiness’. And Gideon obeyed God’s commands. He sneaks out in the dark, but he does what God had told him to do. As Davis comments wryly, ‘Obedience is essential , but heroism is optional’.

Prayer: God, our gracious Father, we humbly thank You, that You are so merciful and that You hear our cries. We repent of our compromises with worldly desires and our failure to depend on You and trust You. We realise that all we have is from You, and that You alone can rescue us. We praise You for our perfect Rescuer, Jesus, and that You are still with us through the Holy Spirit. We thank You that you have spoken to us, and continue to speak to us and reassure us through Your Word. Thank You for being patient with our weaknesses, fears and doubts. Give us this day, the grace and strength to obey Your Word, and for the rest of the days You have ordained for us. Amen.

15 June 2019

Matthew 25:31-46

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 ‘Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
37 ‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?”
40 ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
41 ‘Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was ill and in prison and you did not look after me.”
44 ‘They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or ill or in prison, and did not help you?”
45 ‘He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
46 ‘Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.’

Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us Your servants grace by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and by Your divine power to worship You as One: we humbly pray that You will keep us steadfast in this faith and evermore defend us from all dangers; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

14 June 2019

Acts 18

 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’
Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshipper of God. Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptised.
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.’ 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 ‘This man,’ they charged, ‘is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.’
14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, ‘If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanour or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law – settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.’ 16 So he drove them off. 17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.


Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos
18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. 19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, ‘I will come back if it is God’s will.’ Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.
23 After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and travelled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.

Prayer: Dear Lord, as we reflect on the ministry of the Apostle Paul in Corinth recorded in this chapter, we are struck and challenged by his passion for preaching and teaching the Word of God; his willingness to function as a tent-maker to facilitate this ministry; the partnerships he fostered to further promote Gospel ministry, and the faithful promises of God (verse 9-10) that encouraged him to persevere in the midst of the numerous challenges and obstacles he faced in the course of serving You.

Thank You, Lord, that we serve the same God, believe the same Gospel and can freely study and listen to the same Word of God whenever we want to. Forgive us, we pray, for neglecting Your Word at times, and for not being more zealous in our witness and more committed in our service. Give us all, we pray, grace and strength to imitate the example of the Apostle Paul. We pray this prayer not only for ourselves but also for the missionaries that TCC supports. For Your Name’s sake. Amen.

13 June 2019

Acts 17

When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.
But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the market-place, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: ‘These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.’ When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they put Jason and the others on bail and let them go.

In Berea
10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

In Athens
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the market-place day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, ‘What is this babbler trying to say?’ Others remarked, ‘He seems to be advocating foreign gods.’ They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.’ 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: ‘People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship – and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 ‘The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 “For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring.”[c
29 ‘Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.’
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, ‘We want to hear you again on this subject.’ 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

Acts 17 records details of Paul’s so-called ‘Second Missionary Journey’. We will focus our attention on Paul’s ministry in the city of Athens. One commentator analyses his ministry as follows: What Paul saw, felt and did in Athens?

What did Paul see? Athens was renowned for its splendid architecture and beautiful art, but what Paul finds most noteworthy is the idolatry; they even had an altar to ‘an unknown god’ (verse 23). The city was full of idols. I recall a Bible misreading of this passage many years ago in our church: ‘Paul saw that the city was full of idiots’ – rather than ‘idols’ (verse 16)! The Old Testament prophets would agree – a man cuts down a piece of wood, half of which he uses to make a fire to warm himself, and the other half he fashions into a god, an idol, that he bows down to worship (cf. Isaiah 44:14-19). Idiots indeed! But Paul reminds us elsewhere that idolatry can be far more subtle, like simple greed (cf. Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5).

What did Paul feel? Paul is provoked in his spirit; he is ‘greatly distressed’ (Acts 17:16)! Clearly the Apostle is not happy with this state of affairs. The Athenians were under God’s judgment; they neither glorified God nor gave thanks to Him (cf. Romans 1:21).

So what did Paul do? Paul does not leave them in their idolatry. He begins to reason with the people of Athens – first with the Jews and God-fearers in the synagogue, and then day-by-day with those in the marketplace (verse 17), followed by a group of local philosophers (verse 18ff.).

It is all too easy to seek to escape the implications of this passage by insisting that what is required of an Apostle is not necessarily right for us. But we forget that the same Spirit that indwelt Paul indwells you and me, and that Spirit is a Spirit of witness (Acts 1:8; cf. 8:4). So we need to grapple with the same questions. Do we see our society through a biblical lens, identifying idolatry for what it is? Or are we so immersed in it, that we are oblivious to it? Like Paul, are we ‘provoked’ in our spirit by the error and danger of it all? Put differently, what moves you? What concerns you on a day-to-day basis – the fluctuations of the stock market or the eternal destiny of your co-worker or neighbour? And, finally, what are you doing about it?  

Prayer: Dear Lord, we acknowledge that You alone are worthy of all honour and glory and praise. Please forgive us when we allow other things to captivate our hearts and affections, even good things that can become ‘god things’ in our lives, idols that detract from Your honour and glory.

Please open our spiritual eyes to recognise the idols in our lives and in our society, and please work in us by Your Holy Spirit so that, like Paul, these idols would evoke feelings of great distress, and would motivate us to remove them from our lives, and not to be content to leave unbelievers in their spiritual darkness. In your Name we pray. Amen.

12 June 2019

Judges 4

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.
Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, ‘The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: “Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the River Kishon and give him into your hands.”’
Barak said to her, ‘If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.’
‘Certainly I will go with you,’ said Deborah. ‘But because of the course you are taking, the honour will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.’ So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.
11 Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law,[b and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.
12 When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the River Kishon all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.
14 Then Deborah said to Barak, ‘Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?’ So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. 15 At Barak’s advance, the Lordrouted Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.
16 Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.
18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, ‘Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.’ So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.
19 ‘I’m thirsty,’ he said. ‘Please give me some water.’ She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up.
20 ‘Stand in the doorway of the tent,’ he told her. ‘If someone comes and asks you, “Is anyone in there?” say “No.”’
21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.
22 Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. ‘Come,’ she said, ‘I will show you the man you’re looking for.’ So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple – dead.
23 On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. 24 And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him.

Historical context: God subdued Jabin, king of Canaan, before the Israelites, through the actions of a single foreign woman.

Prayer: Dear Lord, this account in Judges highlights Your saving purposes. No human judge could provide lasting deliverance from sin and evil (verse 1). This story reminds us that it is You who gives us the victory we so desperately need over our enemies (verse 6-7). And so it is appropriate that You should receive all the glory and honour (verse 9).

Lord, we marvel at the unexpected way in which You secured military victory over the enemies of Your people – through the hands of a single foreign woman rather than the armies of Israel. But this was all in accordance with Your purposes (verse 9). This reminds us of how You unexpectedly secured victory over sin and death for us, as Your people – through the death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. It was not by human might or power, but by Your hand, so that You would rightly get all the glory!

Dear Lord, we thank You for our great salvation, and happily give You all the honour and glory, for this is Your due. Amen.

11 June 2019

Judges 2

The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, ‘I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, “I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.” Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? And I have also said, “I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.”’
When the angel of the Lord had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the Lord.
Disobedience and defeat
After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.
Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshipped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.
16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshipped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshipping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
20 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, ‘Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.’ 23 The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.

Historical context: Judges 2 identifies a cycle that is a pivotal to understanding this book of the Bible. One commentator describes this cycle as follows: ‘Israel’s cycles of apostasy (verse 16–19) always begin with a relapse into sin, followed by ruin and servitude to a foreign power. After crying out to God in repentance, the nation (is) restored through a judge and enjoys a period of rest. This cycle, repeated throughout the book of Judges, forms the pattern for Israel’s bondage and deliverance.’

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the Book of Judges that shows us so effectively that we need a Saviour to deliver us from our sins. Like Old Testament Israel, whom You redeemed out of slavery in Egypt, thank You for redeeming us from our sins. Thank You that You will never break Your gracious covenant with us (verse 1). You are always completely trustworthy. This was true for Israel, and this remains true for us.

Lord, help us, we pray, unlike Old Testament Israel, to be faithful witnesses to our family and friends and those we meet so that a true knowledge of You will not die out with our generation.

Lord, help us, we pray, to guard our hearts and minds lest we, like Old Testament Israel, be drawn back into the world and its ways. The hymn-writer tells us that our hearts are prone to wander, while another writer warns that our hearts are ‘idol-factories’. So, Lord, please help us to worship You alone, and not to pursue or ‘prostitute’ ourselves with the man-made gods of this world who will always fail us.

Lord, in this chapter, we see the distress and devastation that sinful rebellion and disobedience can bring. Help us not to turn aside from You, Lord, like Old Testament Israel. Thank You, Lord, that You did not leave Israel in their distress. Judgment was not the last word for them. You raised up deliverer after deliverer, to rescue them.

O Lord, like Old Testament Israel, we too need a Deliverer, but unlike the Old Testament judges, a deliverer who will never fail us, who will secure a permanent victory over our enemies. Thank You that we have such a Deliverer in the Lord Jesus Christ! Help us, we pray, to live faithful lives of obedience that honour Him in the midst of all the difficulties and challenges we face day-by-day. It is in His Name that we pray. Amen.

10 June 2019

Judges 1

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, ‘Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?’
The Lord answered, ‘Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.’
The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, ‘Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.’ So the Simeonites went with them.
When Judah attacked, the Lord gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.
Then Adoni-Bezek said, ‘Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.’ They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.
The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.
After that, Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. 10 They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. 11 From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher).
12 And Caleb said, ‘I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.’ 13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage.
14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, ‘What can I do for you?’
15 She replied, ‘Do me a special favour. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.’ So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.
16 The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms with the people of Judah to live among the inhabitants of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad.
17 Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their fellow Israelites and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah. 18 Judah also took[e Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron – each city with its territory.
19 The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron. 20 As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak. 21 The Benjaminites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjaminites.
22 Now the tribes of Joseph attacked Bethel, and the Lord was with them. 23 When they sent men to spy out Bethel (formerly called Luz), 24 the spies saw a man coming out of the city and they said to him, ‘Show us how to get into the city and we will see that you are treated well.’ 25 So he showed them, and they put the city to the sword but spared the man and his whole family. 26 He then went to the land of the Hittites, where he built a city and called it Luz, which is its name to this day.
27 But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. 28 When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labour but never drove them out completely. 29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. 30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, so these Canaanites lived among them, but Zebulun did subject them to forced labour. 31 Nor did Asher drive out those living in Akko or Sidon or Ahlab or Akzib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob. 32 The Asherites lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land because they did not drive them out. 33 Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced labourers for them. 34 The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. 35 And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the tribes of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labour. 36 The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond.

One commentator summarises the historical context of the Book of Judges as follows: ‘It had been forty years since Joshua triumphantly led the Israelites into the Promised Land. A new generation had emerged but there were still pockets of resistance from the Canaanites, Hittites and Philistines. It was time for God’s people to complete the conquest!’

It is gratifying and instructive to see the people of God turning to the Lord in prayer for help as they commence a new chapter in their history with the death of Joshua. The challenges facing them at that time were considerable; their enemies were numerous and Joshua was no longer present to lead them. But the Lord God is powerful and present with His people; He is able to fulfill His promises without the likes of Joshua. This is a salutary reminder for us to put our trust in God rather than man when we face challenges of any kind. This trust is reflected in the act of dependent prayer.

So the Israelites ask the LORD, ‘Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?’ The LORD answers, ‘Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.’ A specific prayer receives a specific answer from the Lord. The Lord promises His people victory through the leadership of the tribe of Judah. And we see this promised victory clearly displayed in the verses that follow (verse 3-19a). But God had promised His people ‘the land’, and they falter in their obedience due to unbelief  (verse 21ff).

This outcome reminds the reader that we need a deliverer who will not fail. As we read on in the Bible’s story of redemption, we learn that complete victory does indeed come through Judah. However, it is not the tribe, but rather a descendant of Judah, Jesus, who secures victory over the enemies of sin and death, and the complete fulfillment of all God’s good promises to His people.

Prayer; Dear Lord, thank you for this episode in Israel’s history that portrays You as a God who hears and answers the prayers of His people. Forgive us, Lord, when we fail to turn to You in prayer and seek to handle the challenges we face in our own strength even though we are Your children.

Help us, we pray, like the Israelites here, to take You at your word and to act on Your promises. Forgive us when we, like the Israelites, falter in our obedience due to unbelief.

Lord, we see here that victory over the enemies of your people comes through Judah. We thank You, Lord, for Jesus, a descendant of Judah, who secures our victory over sin and death, and the fulfillment of all Your good promises to us as Your people. Amen.

8 June 2019

Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Prayer: Almighty God, You, at this time, taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending to them the light of Your Holy Spirit: grant to us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things and always to rejoice in His holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

7 June 2019

Acts 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. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 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. As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.


Paul’s vision of the man of Macedonia
Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 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.


Lydia’s conversion in Philippi
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we travelled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptised, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.


Paul and Silas in prison
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.’ 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned round and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her.
19 When her owners realised that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, ‘These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practise.’
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’
31 They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’ 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptised. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole household.
35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: ‘Release those men.’ 36 The jailer told Paul, ‘The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.’
37 But Paul said to the officers: ‘They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.’
38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

Prayer: Lord, we thank You for this story in Acts 16 which, amongst other things, demonstrates the personal resources which can be used for building up Your kingdom. Our homes, particularly, are an example from this story. Help us, Lord, to remember that all that we have comes from You and to use our homes for the strengthening of fellow believers. We see too, how You prompted Paul to act through a dream. However You prompt us, Lord, grant that we would be obedient, trusting in Your leading. Help us to encourage one another in the faith, always seeking to build one another up. It is clear from this story that we do not need to know each other well to do so. Lord Jesus, teach us to walk in faith, sharing all that we have for Your glory. In Your name we pray. Amen.

6 June 2019

Acts 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.’ 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. The church sent them on their way, and as they travelled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 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.
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.’
The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 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 should hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 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.’
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 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.[c
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.’


The council’s letter to Gentile believers
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 authorisation 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.
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. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.


Disagreement between Paul and Barnabas
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.

In the centuries following the Council of Jerusalem, there have been many disagreements and discussions between groups of people in the Church, who insist that certain practices must be followed. The list of conflicts is sadly, far too long, and many people have suffered as a result of being directed by self-seeking or misguided leaders.

It didn’t take much time for the early Church to be dealing with such issues as is demonstrated in this passage. Some believers were insisting that Gentile converts should be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses (verse 5). There, the apostles Peter and Paul were able to address the issue, clearly articulating that cleansing of the heart can only be done by faith in Jesus, and that the Jewish traditions had been superceded for all people because they were not effective for salvation.

The apostles are no longer with us but we have the Scriptures to inform us what is required to follow Jesus. People before the Reformation did not have access to a Bible and were hugely deceived by a Church that had lost its way. It is incredible for us to think that at one time in church history, people were told by church leaders that by giving money to the Church they could reduce a relative’s stay in a place called purgatory. But that is what the Church taught.

As believers in Christ, we are taught not to give up meeting together so it is important that we belong to a local Church. It is also vital that we read the Scriptures regularly and familiarize ourselves with its teachings. In doing so we inform ourselves of how to know the Lord better and how we ought to live. It also, crucially, enables us to listen carefully to our Church leaders and recognise if they are leading us astray in a way that is contradictory to what Scripture teaches us. 1 Timothy 4 warns us about false teachers. ‘The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits’ (verse 1) ‘Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers’ (verse 16).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You that Peter was able to refute false teaching and we have this record in the bible today. Thank You too, that we have the Scriptures in our own language so we can read them every day. Thank You that if we are ever in doubt about what we hear from preachers and teachers that we can test what is said against the Scriptures. We thank You that we are saved by faith alone and that there is nothing that we can ever do to add to what you have done for us. Grant that we would make good use of our bibles, read them regularly, learn from them and in doing so grow into the godly people that You would have us be. We pray this in in Your precious name. Amen.

5 June 2019

Joshua 6

Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.
Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March round the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Make seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march round the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, make the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.’
So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, ‘Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and make seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.’ And he ordered the army, ‘Advance! March round the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.’
When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forwards, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. 10 But Joshua had commanded the army, ‘Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!’ 11 So he had the ark of the Lord carried round the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there.
12 Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forwards, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. 14 So on the second day they marched round the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.
15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched round the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time round, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, ‘Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted[a] to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. 18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. 19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.’
20 When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. 21 They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it – men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.
22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, ‘Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.’ 23 So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.
24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. 25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho – and she lives among the Israelites to this day.
26 At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: ‘Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:
‘At the cost of his firstborn son
    he will lay its foundations;
at the cost of his youngest
    he will set up its gates.’
27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, it is very striking that in this story You gave clear instructions to Your people, Israel, and equally striking that they followed Your instructions to the letter. Lord Jesus, You have clearly told us how to live as Your disciples. Help us to follow You in the ways You have instructed. Grant that we would be obedient people seeking to bring glory to Your name. Help us to walk by faith, trusting where we cannot see the way, knowing that You know all things and that all our days are in Your hands. We commit ourselves to You now, praying that we will follow You all the days of our lives. We pray this in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

4 June

Joshua 4

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.’
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, ‘Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, “What do these stones mean?” tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel for ever.’
So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.
10 Now the priests who carried the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the Lord had commanded Joshua was done by the people, just as Moses had directed Joshua. The people hurried over, 11 and as soon as all of them had crossed, the ark of the Lord and the priests came to the other side while the people watched. 12 The men of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over, ready for battle, in front of the Israelites, as Moses had directed them. 13 About forty thousand armed for battle crossed over before the Lord to the plains of Jericho for war.
14 That day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him all the days of his life, just as they had stood in awe of Moses.
15 Then the Lord said to Joshua, 16 ‘Command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant law to come up out of the Jordan.’
17 So Joshua commanded the priests, ‘Come up out of the Jordan.’
18 And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran in flood as before.
19 On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their parents, “What do these stones mean?” 22 tell them, “Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.’

‘In the future when your descendants ask their parents, “What do these stones mean?” tell them, “Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.”’

When something newsworthy occurs almost anywhere in the world it is not long before we hear about it. In an era of 24/7 news broadcasts and social media, it is almost impossible not to hear of a natural disaster, an overthrown government, a major sporting achievement, a high profile corruption case or even the ususual antics of a prized cat or dog. We see such events unfolding on our televisions daily and happily discuss them with others. We whatsapp our family and friends sending pictures and videos just moments after special occasions. It is easy, isn’t it, and we do it all the time.

If you are anything like me though, witnessing to others about our faith is something that we long to do but almost dread with equal measure. We anticipate the negative response before we have said a word and quietly decide maybe now is not the best time.

This contradicts what our great and mighty God, who is worthy of all our praise and worship, tells us to do. The message could not clearer from this passage. ‘Tell them, Israel crossed the Jordon on dry ground.’ Just tell them! So how might it go? Well, this amazing thing happened. The waters of the river Jordan just stopped and we were able to walk across a river that was actually in FLOOD and I didn’t even get my feet wet! It was just incredible. Our great God did this because He promised He was giving us land and this was the way to it and we had to get across and He made a way. He did it. He is a mighty powerful God but that is not all He did….

If Jesus Christ has made Himself real to us by forgiving our sins and pouring his Holy Spirit upon us, we are witnesses to the living power of God. We are witnesses to who Jesus is and all that He has done for us. It is real. It is far more real and life changing than any news story. Let us be people who ‘tell them’ about the One who is the most newsworthy story of all.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank You for all that You have done for Your people from the time You rescued them out of Egypt. We thank You that You have rescued us from our sins by giving us a Saviour, Your son Jesus. We thank You too, that He has simultaneously provided us with the way to heaven. All this is Your doing Lord, and we praise you for it. Embolden us, by the power of your Holy Spirit, to tell others about this amazing, life changing news. Thank You that You promise to be with us always. And may glory be given to Your name. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

3 June 2019

Joshua 3

Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: ‘When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits[a between you and the ark; do not go near it.’
Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.’
Joshua said to the priests, ‘Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.’ So they took it up and went ahead of them.
And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so that they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: “When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.”’
Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord – the Lord of all the earth – set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.’
14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is in flood all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

Prayer: Almighty God, thank You for Your faithfulness to Your people, despite their unfaithfulness. This story reminds us that You continued to work out Your purposes in giving a land to your chosen ones. It echos the miraculous passing through the Red Sea. Who else has power over creation but Your son Jesus!
Thank You Lord Jesus, that in demonstrating Your power in healing, exorcism, raising people from the dead, and calming a storm, Your identity as God was truly affirmed. How great and marvellous is our God. You are worthy of all praise and worship and adoration. How great is Your name. Amen!

1 June 2019

Ephesians 6:10-20

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Prayer: God, the king of glory, You have exalted Your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to Your kingdom in heaven; leave us not desolate, but send Your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to where our Saviour Christ has gone before, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for evermore. Amen.

31 May 2019

Acts 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. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 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. The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to ill-treat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the gospel.


In Lystra and Derbe
In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 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 round him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.


The return to Antioch in Syria
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.

Prayer: Lord, as we read how Paul was persecuted, stoned and left for dead we remember that the persecuted church is still facing this very same opposition today. Lord, strengthen those of our brothers and sisters who are facing real physical harm with the knowledge that they will ultimately be in Christ’s rest and glory for all eternity.

Lord, give wisdom to the church in the West which is facing the threat of secularism. Help us not to compromise to the pressure to conform to the world and help us to look to Your infallible scripture to the challenging issues which we face; such as power, wealth, health, sexuality and abortion. Help us to be uncompromising but yet sensitive and wise in how we approach and deal with these difficult issues.

Thank you Lord, that we have the perfect example of Jesus to follow in how we show our love the world.  Amen.

30 May 2019

Acts 13

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. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
On Cyprus
The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.
They travelled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 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. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. 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.
In Pisidian Antioch
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 for 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 Saviour 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 recognise 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 travelled 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.”’
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.
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 light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”’
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured 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.

Prayer: Lord thank You for the example of Paul and Barnabas, and their willingness to take the gospel of our Saviour Jesus to the ends of the earth.  I feel humbled by them and other missionaries over the last 2000 years who have left the comforts of their homes and families to tell the good news of Jesus. I pray Lord, that Your Holy Spirit would give me the courage and wisdom to be a missionary in my workplace and amongst my friends and family. Help me to have the same zeal as those first missionaries – to see more and more added to Your Kingdom – and help me Lord not to try and do this in my strength but in total reliance on You. Amen.

29 May 2019

Joshua 1

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the River Jordan into the land I am about to give to them – to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates – all the Hittite country – to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
‘Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’
10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11 ‘Go through the camp and tell the people, “Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.”’
12 But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13 ‘Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, “The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.” 14 Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan towards the sunrise.’
16 Then they answered Joshua, ‘Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18 Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!’

Click to play video

Prayer: Lord, You are a promise-keeping God whom we can rely on completely. You never let us down as others do to us and we do to others. Forgive us Father when we turn away from You. We pray dear Father, that we would have the faith and perseverance of Joshua who faithfully followed You and supported Moses in 40 years of wandering in the desert.

Lord, we pray that when we face the world and its perils every day, we would also have the courage of Joshua as he got ready to cross the river Jordan. As believers, we know that You have mapped out our lives and that whatever scary or daunting situation we face, we have the assurance that we have an eternity with You to look forward to. Thank You that You are our Father and hope. Amen.

28 May 2019

Deuteronomy 32

Listen, you heavens, and I will speak;
    hear, you earth, the words of my mouth.
Let my teaching fall like rain
    and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
    like abundant rain on tender plants.
I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
    Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
    and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
    upright and just is he.
They are corrupt and not his children;
    to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation.
Is this the way you repay the Lord,
    you foolish and unwise people?
Is he not your Father, your Creator,
    who made you and formed you?
Remember the days of old;
    consider the generations long past.
Ask your father and he will tell you,
    your elders, and they will explain to you.
When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
    when he divided all mankind,
he set up boundaries for the peoples
    according to the number of the sons of Israel.
For the Lord’s portion is his people,
    Jacob his allotted inheritance.
10 In a desert land he found him,
    in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him;
    he guarded him as the apple of his eye,
11 like an eagle that stirs up its nest
    and hovers over its young,
that spreads its wings to catch them
    and carries them on its pinions.
12 The Lord alone led him;
    no foreign god was with him.
13 He made him ride on the heights of the land
    and fed him with the fruit of the fields.
He nourished him with honey from the rock,
    and with oil from the flinty crag,
14 with curds and milk from herd and flock
    and with fattened lambs and goats,
with choice rams of Bashan
    and the finest grains of wheat.
You drank the foaming blood of the grape.
15 Jeshurun grew fat and kicked;
    filled with food, they became heavy and sleek.
They abandoned the God who made them
    and rejected the Rock their Saviour.
16 They made him jealous with their foreign gods
    and angered him with their detestable idols.
17 They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God –
    gods they had not known,
    gods that recently appeared,
    gods your ancestors did not fear.
18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you;
    you forgot the God who gave you birth.
19 The Lord saw this and rejected them
    because he was angered by his sons and daughters.
20 ‘I will hide my face from them,’ he said,
    ‘and see what their end will be;
for they are a perverse generation,
    children who are unfaithful.
21 They made me jealous by what is no god
    and angered me with their worthless idols.
I will make them envious by those who are not a people;
    I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.
22 For a fire will be kindled by my wrath,
    one that burns down to the realm of the dead below.
It will devour the earth and its harvests
    and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.
23 ‘I will heap calamities on them
    and expend my arrows against them.
24 I will send wasting famine against them,
    consuming pestilence and deadly plague;
I will send against them the fangs of wild beasts,
    the venom of vipers that glide in the dust.
25 In the street the sword will make them childless;
    in their homes terror will reign.
The young men and young women will perish,
    the infants and those with grey hair.
26 I said I would scatter them
    and erase their name from human memory,
27 but I dreaded the taunt of the enemy,
    lest the adversary misunderstand
and say, “Our hand has triumphed;
    the Lord has not done all this.”’
28 They are a nation without sense,
    there is no discernment in them.
29 If only they were wise and would understand this
    and discern what their end will be!
30 How could one man chase a thousand,
    or two put ten thousand to flight,
unless their Rock had sold them,
    unless the Lord had given them up?
31 For their rock is not like our Rock,
    as even our enemies concede.
32 Their vine comes from the vine of Sodom
    and from the fields of Gomorrah.
Their grapes are filled with poison,
    and their clusters with bitterness.
33 Their wine is the venom of serpents,
    the deadly poison of cobras.
34 ‘Have I not kept this in reserve
    and sealed it in my vaults?
35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay.
    In due time their foot will slip;
their day of disaster is near
    and their doom rushes upon them.’
36 The Lord will vindicate his people
    and relent concerning his servants
when he sees their strength is gone
    and no one is left, slave or free.
37 He will say: ‘Now where are their gods,
    the rock they took refuge in,
38 the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices
    and drank the wine of their drink offerings?
Let them rise up to help you!
    Let them give you shelter!
39 ‘See now that I myself am he!
    There is no god besides me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
    I have wounded and I will heal,
    and no one can deliver out of my hand.
40 I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear:
    as surely as I live for ever,
41 when I sharpen my flashing sword
    and my hand grasps it in judgment,
I will take vengeance on my adversaries
    and repay those who hate me.
42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood,
    while my sword devours flesh:
the blood of the slain and the captives,
    the heads of the enemy leaders.’
43 Rejoice, you nations, with his people,
    for he will avenge the blood of his servants;
he will take vengeance on his enemies
    and make atonement for his land and people.
44 Moses came with Joshua son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. 45 When Moses had finished reciting all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, ‘Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you – they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.’
Moses to die on Mount Nebo
48 On that same day the Lord told Moses, 49 ‘Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, opposite Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. 50 There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. 51 This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. 52 Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.’

The words of the Song of Moses, written thousands of years ago, are as applicable now as they were then! I have read this song a few times in my prep time for this blog and I can’t add anything – other than just being in awe of how mighty and how so extremely patient God is with us. Even as believers we want to do things ourselves and for our glory (even if inadvertently!) I look forward to the day when I am in heaven and I will be at peace and in God’s rest.

Prayer: Oh Father, I look forward to the time when I will no longer be wrestling with You and I will truly be in Your rest and be able to enjoy You and Jesus without any distractions. Please Father, grant me a glimpse of that peace now here on earth. Lord, I pray that Your Spirit would prick my conscience to turn away from the false gods that I continue to set up in my life and that distract me from You and Your Truth. Amen.

27 May 2019

Deuteronomy 31

Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: ‘I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has said to me, “You shall not cross the Jordan.” The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the Lord said. And the Lord will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. The Lord will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’
Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’


The reading of the law
So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the Levitical priests, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 Then Moses commanded them: ‘At the end of every seven years, in the year for cancelling debts, during the Festival of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people – men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns – so that they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.’


Israel’s rebellion predicted
14 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, where I will commission him.’ So Moses and Joshua came and presented themselves at the tent of meeting.
15 Then the Lord appeared at the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the tent. 16 And the Lord said to Moses: ‘You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. 17 And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, “Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?” 18 And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.
19 ‘Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and make them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them. 20 When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their ancestors, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant. 21 And when many disasters and calamities come on them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.’ 22 So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites.
23 The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: ‘Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.’
24 After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, 25 he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord: 26 ‘Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. There it will remain as a witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the Lord while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! 28 Assemble before me all the elders of your tribes and all your officials, so that I can speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to testify against them. 29 For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall on you because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord and arouse his anger by what your hands have made.’


The song of Moses
30 And Moses recited the words of this song from beginning to end in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel:

Our God is amazing in so many ways, He is the Creator and all-powerful ruler of the universe, and no human or spiritual force can stand up to Him. We’ve read in Numbers and Deuteronomy how God helped and sustained the ramshackle nation of Israel, who had been wandering around in the desert for 40 years; and now we hear how He is going to defeat the powerful people of Canaan (some of whom were giants). He is going to do this for the Jewish nation, yet He already knows that these very people wi;; turn away from Him when Moses dies (verse 16). God knows everything – past, present and future – and He knows that, like the Israelites of old, we will stumble, fall and turn away from Him.

Yet our Father is compassionate and loves us so much that He keeps holding out His arms for us to run back and be drawn back to Him. What a glorious and comforting thought.

Prayer: Thank You Father, that You are a patient God who doesn’t turn His back on us when we fall. Thank You that You have promised that You will never desert Your children. Thank You for Jesus and His once and for all sacrifice for us. Our gratitude overflows when we consider the enormity and wonder of the privilege of being Your children. Amen

25 May 2019

Matthew 6:5-15

‘And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
‘This, then, is how you should pray:
‘“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.[b
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, the giver of all good things, grant that by Your holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by Your merciful guidance may perform them; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

24 May 2019

Acts 12

 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 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. 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.
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
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. 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.
Then the angel said to him, ‘Put on your clothes and sandals.’ And Peter did so. ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me,’ the angel told him. 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 recognised 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.
Herod’s death
Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. 20 He had been quarrelling 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.
Barnabas and Saul sent off
25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.

This chapter always reminds me of the verse in the hymn “And can it be” which goes:

           ‘Long my imprisoned spirit lay

            Fast bound in sin and nature’s night

            Then shone your glorious gospel ray

            I woke! The dungeon flamed with light!

            My chains fell off, my heart was new

           I rose went forth and followed you!”

Peter’s rescue from prison is a picture of how God rescues each one of us.

Prayer: Father, anything is possible for You. I often forget this and so I try things on my own strength when I should be bringing those burdens to You to deal. Help me to remember that You control all things – circumstances, events, people. You are sovereign over all. Help me to trust in You in whatever my situation. Thank You for rescuing me from being a slave to sin and setting me free to worship and love You. Amen.