Reading through Acts- Day 42 September 30th, 2012

Acts 15:36-16:5- Even apostles fall out!

‘Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 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. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,
but Paul chose Silas and left…’

We can sometimes have a romanticised view of life in the first church. But, as we’re going to see, they faced many of the same challenges and issues as us: relationships go wrong, there are setbacks and disagreements, there’s a desperate need for new recruits. However, despite the destructive potential of this episode, it doesn’t ultimately thwart God’s mission.

Read: Acts 15:36-16:5

Questions to consider/ Things to do:

  • When someone lets you down, how do you respond? Do you tend to be more like Paul or Barnabas?
  • Have there been times in your life when you’ve been rejected by others? Although Paul rejected Mark, God didn’t – Mark went on to write one of the Gospels! Regardless of what’s happened in the past, God calls us to partner him in his mission.

 

Further study / action:

Memory verse: ‘We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him’ (Romans 8:28).

 

These notes are adapted from an original version that was first written for Closer to God and are © 2012 Scripture Union and used with permission.

Reading through Acts- Day 41 September 29th, 2012

Acts 15:22-35- A light burden

‘We have heard that some went out from us without our authorisation and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.’

If the church is growing, we can expect opposition. It shouldn’t surprise us, it shouldn’t discourage us, and it certainly shouldn’t make us think that God’s no longer with us. We’re in a battle and anything that involves advancing God’s kingdom is likely to meet with opposition. But what if we’re the ones doing the opposing? A lack of grace in our dealings with others in the church can be every bit as dangerous to the church as opposition from outside.

Read: Acts 15:22-35

  • What can we learn from the way the apostles and elders sought to resolve the issue?
  • What strikes you about the characteristics of those chosen to deliver the letter?
  • Can you think of steps you could take to ensure you’re an encouragement in the church?

The wise handling of this potentially destructive situation resulted in further growth in the church. Please do make it your regular habit to pray for wisdom for the leaders of the church.

 

These notes are adapted from an original version that was first written for Closer to God and are © 2012 Scripture Union and used with permission.

Reading through Acts- Day 40 September 28th, 2012

Acts15:12-21- Not making it difficult for others

‘It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.’

It’s great when we see people becoming followers of Jesus. But if we’re to effectively welcome new believers into the church we need to honestly examine what we believe and do, to see whether it truly reflects the values of Jesus, or whether it’s just the way we like things to be done.

Read Acts 15:12-21

Questions to consider/ Things to do:

  • How do you expect people to behave if they’re to be taken seriously as Christians?
  • The Holy Spirit challenges us to not only uphold the truth, but also live considerately with others. How might James’ compromise (v20) reflect this tension?
  • What steps do you need to take to put v19 into practice among the non-Christians you know?

 

Further study / action:

‘Search me, O God, and know my heart’ (Psalm 139:23) – Invite the Holy Spirit to highlight any wrong attitudes you may have. Ask for God’s forgiveness and his wisdom with people you know.

 

These notes are adapted from an original version that was first written for Closer to God and are © 2012 Scripture Union and used with permission.

Reading through Acts- Day 39 September 27th, 2012

Acts 15:1-11- By grace alone?

‘We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved…’

Are we really saved solely by faith in the gracious work of Jesus on the cross, or do we need to work for our salvation? This question has frequently been asked throughout the history of the church. There will always be people who argue that we need to contribute something in order to be saved, but we mustn’t budge from the truth that salvation is by faith alone.

Read: Acts 15:1-11

Questions to consider/ Things to do:

Everyone loves hearing about new believers (v3). However, it’s not long before some people grow anxious that things aren’t being done right (v5).

  • Circumcision perhaps isn’t such an issue in the church today! Can you think of alternative things that people nowadays feel they have to do to earn, deserve, or pay back their salvation?
  • Now compare these things with verses 8-11. How many of them seem important when measured against this standard?
  • As you reflect on your own life, to what extent are you relying on what Jesus has done for you? And are you ever tempted to think you must work to earn your salvation?

 

Further study / action:

Ask Jesus to help you grasp the full extent of what he’s done for you. Pray that you would go on living in the good of his grace.

 

These notes are adapted from an original version that was first written for Closer to God and are © 2012 Scripture Union and used with permission.

Reading through Acts- Day 38 September 26th, 2012

Acts 14:21-28- Encouraging the believers

‘They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 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.’

The reality is that power and weakness go together. This chapter records many powerful miracles (v1, 3, 8-10, 21), but in each case the disciples faced intense opposition. We need to know that the power of the cross is seen most clearly when we walk the way of the cross.

Read: Acts 14:21-28

Questions to consider/ Things to do:

  • Despite great opposition, Paul and Barnabas were able to report that they had completed the work given them (v26-28). Spend time reviewing this week’s readings. Consider what God wants you to learn (or receive) to help you complete the work he has for you.

 

These notes are adapted from an original version that was first written for Closer to God and are © 2012 Scripture Union and used with permission.

Reading through Acts- Day 37 September 25th, 2012

Acts 14:8-20- Lystra and Derbe

‘We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.’

James described Elijah as ‘a man just like us’ (James 5:17). As we read of Paul and Barnabas’ exploits, we need to hold in our minds that they had no more access to God than we do today. They stepped out in faith and trusted God in radical ways… and so can we.

Read: Acts 14:8-20

Questions to consider/ Things to do:

  • Serving God often meets with misunderstanding and opposition. After all the events in today’s reading, it would have been understandable had Paul or Barnabas chosen to give up. That they didn’t suggests they were governed by something greater than their current circumstances.
  • Consider for a moment the main the challenges you’re currently facing. Would you agree with Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 4:17 that these things are ‘light and momentary’?
  • Now think about all the things you can see Jesus doing in and around you right now-  every blessing, every encouragement, every evidence of his grace. Remember that these things are lasting!

 

These notes are adapted from an original version that was first written for Closer to God and are © 2012 Scripture Union and used with permission.

Reading through Acts- Day 36 September 24th, 2012

Acts 14:1-7- Iconium

‘At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.’

It’s amazing how people can hear exactly the same gospel message and some will respond with faith and others with hostility. The gospel has always had this affect – it did in the first century; and it still does today. The challenge for us lies in the apostles’ commitment to keep proclaiming the message regardless of the response they got.

Read: Acts 14:1-7

Questions to consider/ Things to do:

  • Why do you think Paul and Barnabas persisted in speaking boldly for the Lord? What, if anything, holds you back from following their example?
  • Have you ever seen God confirming the message of his grace with miraculous signs and wonders (v3)? The good news for us today is that God’s power hasn’t diminished!

 

Further study / action:

If you would like to see more signs and wonders in the church, and among your unbelieving friends, I’d urge you to commit to persevering in prayer until God answers.

 

These notes are adapted from an original version that was first written for Closer to God and are © 2012 Scripture Union and used with permission.

Reading through Acts- Day 35 September 23rd, 2012

Acts 13:44-45- Gathering crowds

‘On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.’

 Nothing can stop the spread of the gospel as long as there are followers of Jesus willing to persevere through opposition and disappointment.

Read: Acts 13:26-52

Paul sees God working out his plan, even in Israel’s rejection of Jesus (v27). When the Jews then reject Paul’s proclamation of the gospel, he still recognises that God’s in control (v46-48).

Questions to consider/ Things to do:

  • Are you easily discouraged?  What effect does opposition tend to have on you? What can you learn from Paul and Barnabas’ response?

 

Further study / action:

The gospel will always bear fruit, but those willing to respond are often found in the unlikeliest of places. Never give up on anyone, but ask God to lead you to people in whom he’s at work.

‘The harvest is plentiful… Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’ (Luke 10:2).

 

These notes are adapted from an original version that was first written for Closer to God and are © 2012 Scripture Union and used with permission.

Reading through Acts- Day 34 September 22nd, 2012

Acts 13:13-25- Introducing people to Jesus

 ‘On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.”’

When you’ve encountered Jesus for yourself, it’s only natural that you’d want others to come to know him too. So when Paul was given the opportunity to speak, he was only ever going to point people to Jesus. The approach that he takes is explained by the Jewish audience. However, regardless of the context, Jesus remains the chief focus.

Read: Acts 13:13-25

Questions to consider/ Things to do:

  • Read these verses again, noting each reference to God taking the initiative. As you look back on your own life, what evidence can you see of God’s gracious intervention? How does this make you feel about the future?
  • Paul, much like John (v25), was very quick to point to Jesus. Consider how you can do the same in the everyday situations in which you find yourself.

 

Further study / action:

Memory Verse: ‘Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ (Hebrews 12:2)

 

These notes are adapted from an original version that was first written for Closer to God and are © 2012 Scripture Union and used with permission.

Are you who you say you are? September 21st, 2012

Was there a time in your life that you were closer to God than you are today? If you’re like me, your spiritual drift didn’t happen on purpose. Like a small puncture in a tyre, your spiritual passion slowly slipped away. Instead of being a fully devoted follower of Christ, you’ve unintentionally become a full-time mum, or a full-time student, or a full-time career pursuer – and a part-time follower of Christ.

Maybe like so many, you’re a member of a church, but you’re secretly ashamed of your past. Perhaps you’ve heard about the love of God, but you’re still not convinced that God totally loves you. Or though you’re convinced God exists, your prayer life isn’t what it should be. Perhaps like many well-meaning Christians, you know what God wants you to do, but you still do whatever you want. Or you genuinely want to trust God as your provider, but you find it so hard to actually do it. Possibly you believe in heaven and hell, but sharing your faith with others is still way too intimidating for you. Or you may believe in God but don’t see much need for the church.

This Sunday we launch a brand new preaching series, ‘I believe in God, but…’,  in which we’ll address many of these struggles. We’ll take an honest look at the contrast between how we live and what we claim to believe with the aim of closing the gap between our behaviour and beliefs.

by Keywords: