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Reading through Acts- Day 31

September 19th, 2012

Acts 12:1-19- James executed, Peter saved.

He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.’

Sometimes, God answers our prayers exactly as we expect, at other times, He doesn’t. This was true for the early Christians and in today’s passage we see God allow one of Jesus’ disciples, James, get executed, while he chooses to miraculously save Peter. Sometimes God’s work is mysterious and we simply don’t know why things happen. Let today’s passage build your faith in God’s ability to extraordinarily intervene in situations, but let it also help you grow in wisdom, to recognise that God’s ways are not always our ways.

Read Acts 12:1-19

Questions to consider/ Things to do

-         ‘It was about this time’ (v1)- remind yourself of all the exciting things that are going on in Acts 11:19-30. Notice this pattern of blessing and persecution that comes up in Acts. If you are going through persecution or trouble, realise that it is not unusual and it is probably not a sign of God’s judgement, this is what the Bible prepares us for. Trust Him to help you through these times.

-         How do the church respond to James’ death and Peter’s arrest? (v 5, 12). A church gathered to pray can make a massive difference. What miracles
do you need God to do today? For you? For the church?

 

Further Study

Look at other reports of church prayer meetings in Acts. What happens? What are the results of the prayer meetings?

-         Acts 4:23-31

-         Acts 6:5-7

-         Acts 13:1-3

God does amazing things when churches gather to pray. Come along to the church’s half week of prayer over the next couple of days and see what miracles he does in response to our prayers.

Reading through Acts- Day 27

September 15th, 2012

Acts 10:9-23- Another man who’d learnt to listen

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.

God’s kingdom is about to advance in a whole new way- God wants the Jews to take the gospel to the Gentiles. But how will it happen seeing as Jewish believers won’t even associate with Gentiles? To bring about such a crunching gear change, God must communicate dramatically to his people and to communicate like this he needs to find people who’ve learnt to listen. Yesterday he found Cornelius who ‘prayed to God regularly’ (10:2) and today he finds Peter who ‘went up on the roof to pray’ (10:9). Are you the kind of person whose regular prayer life would make you available to hear God speak like this?

Read Acts 10:9-23

Questions to consider/ Things to do:

- How does Peter’s vision begin? What is he doing? How is he feeling? Notice how God starts to speak to him through very normal everyday things.

- Notice also God’s amazing timing here- what is happening as Peter goes to pray? (v9) What is happening as he is thinking about the vision? (v17)

- Peter is led by a vision but also in another way in v19. What was it?

- Why is v23 so important? (look ahead to v 28 for a clue!)

 

Further Study

Peter was a great man who did mighty exploits of faith, however its comforting for us to see that, just like us, he can be quite slow to catch on to what God is doing? Today’s reading is a good example of this as he should have known what was going on in the vision. Read Mark 7:1-23 to find out why?

Do you sometimes disqualify yourself because you make mistakes? Take encouragement from Peter’s great, if occasionally stumbling, example.

Reading through Acts- Day 25

September 13th, 2012

Acts 9:32-43- In all Judea…

40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and
seeing Peter she sat up.
41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive.’

Jesus told his disciples ‘you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8) and the second stage of this plan is well and truly underway. Philip had gone to Samaria and Gaza, Saul is preaching in Damascus and now Peter is off to Lydda and Joppa (all these places are in Judea). Today’s passage confirms once again that when we go where he calls us, he comes with us in power!

Read Acts 9:32-41

Questions to consider/ Things to do:

-         Meditate on the nature of these two miracles- what makes them so remarkable?

-         What was the effect of each of the miracles?

-         Ask God to give you opportunities (and the boldness) to pray for sick people and see them healed today.

 

Further Study

Notice Peter’s method for healing Tabitha- he prays until he is in faith for the healing (40) then he commands her to be healed. The disciples had not always been so successful! Read Mark 9:14-32 and see how Peter has followed the advice that Jesus gives in this story.

-         Why is Jesus’ comment in v29 strange considering how Jesus healed the boy?

-         What kind of prayer do you think Jesus is talking about in verse 29?

-         Aim to develop your prayer life in such a way that when the opportunity comes you have faith to command illnesses to go!

Reading through Acts- Day 24

September 12th, 2012

Acts 9:20-31- A new creation!

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name?And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 

Jesus changes people’s lives! Saul is perhaps the best example in the Bible of his life transforming power, but that doesn’t mean that he is special in this regard. Everyone who becomes a Christian is ‘born again’ (John 3:3) and is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the same Jesus who transformed Saul of Tarsus is committed to make us more and more like himself (Romans 8:29). He can change your friends, your family, even you! Wow!

Read Acts 9:20-31

Questions to consider/ Things to do:

-         How has Saul changed? How do other people view his change?

-         Think about how you’ve changed since you became a Christian and thank God for it. Be encouraged by the story of Saul and pray that God would change you and your friends more and more.

-         What is the effect of all these supernatural events (Philip and the Ethiopian, Saul’s conversion)? (v31) There are times of persecution and suffering and there are times of peace and encouragement and God knows when we need the latter. Are you going through troubles? Trust God that he will bring about peace.

 

Further Study

It turns out that the ‘many days’ of 9:23 was actually 3 years, and it was spent in the desert in Arabia!

Read Galatians 1:11-24 to find out Paul’s first hand account of this story.