Friday, 29 April 2016
The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” Acts 23.11
The following night refers to the night after Paul was at the centre of a ruckus in the Sanhedrin where a vicious fight broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees following Paul’s declaration: “I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 23.6). We are told that the hostility was so severe that the Roman commander removed Paul from the fray, fearing that he would otherwise be torn to pieces by the opposing factions.
Against this background, God’s words to Paul would surely have been greatly encouraging. But they are more than this. God is also giving Paul a clear direction for the future. I recall reading from later chapters of the book of Acts how Paul held to this undertaking and how the knowledge of it strengthened him in the ongoing journey.
If I could possibly imagine myself in Paul’s position before these words were spoken, I think I would certainly feel doubt and a measure of despair. I might be tempted to question the veracity of my mission, my calling, and even, perhaps, consider giving up on the whole business.
Then God’s words break through in clear affirmation and with a sense of direction – so timely and so very encouraging.
And are there such times in my own life when I need God to break in with reassurance? Most certainly!
I believe You spoke clearly to Paul in his time of need. My faith assures me that You will do likewise for me. I thank You. I know that I am not alone. You are my guide and my leader. You are my strength and my comfort. I trust You. I relax, and I rest in You.
You led Paul, maybe not directly – but positively, to Rome. I give myself to You to lead me to my own “Rome”. Lead on, in Jesus’ name I ask. Amen.
Tuesday, 26 April 2016
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put you hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God. Psalm 43.5
I am generally positive, trusting and living in faith with God. Yet there are those times when I veer slightly off course. I am aware of Jesus’ exhortation to not fear, and of God’s words through Paul to be anxious for nothing. Still there are occasions (much less now that previously) when I find myself worrying over a situation or getting perhaps a little anxious over what may or may not happen.
At such times I need to recall the words of the psalmist here, and ask myself the simple question, “Why?” Why might my soul be downcast? Why would I experience negative disturbance within me? Surely my hope is in God!
I feel myself addressing a further question to the inner me: “Well, is this true? Is your hope in God? Is your hope well and truly founded in our great God, in the One who made you, the One who cares for you with a love and an intensity that is beyond all human understanding? Do you indeed hope in Him, or do you not?”
The answer, of course, is: Yes, yes, I most certainly hope in God. I trust fully in Him and I look for His plans for me to come to fruition. Right now I see the foolishness of worry and anxiety in the face of the love, care, grace and blessing of an incredibly loving Father and the most powerful, awesome God.
I humbly come to You in grateful thanks for Your love and protection, Your leading and guidance, and the wonderful relationship You draw me into.
I am truly blessed. I thank You. Amen.
Saturday, 23 April 2016
…I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking “Quick!” he said to me, “leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.”
Paul was acutely aware of how people had seen him through his earlier oppressive behaviour toward the Christians, going from one synagogue to another, to imprison and beat believers. Also his obnoxious acts at the time of the martyrdom of Stephen when he stood by giving his full approval.
He had terrorised the Christians, and now he was preaching and ministering
to them. The situation was truly remarkable, but reasonably unbelievable!
Yet this is so indicative of God’s work. God can indeed do anything. Nothing is impossible to Him. He had turned Paul around, but now it was necessary to safeguard Paul and remove him from the threat he was exposed to from people who would simply not believe him.
God can certainly do anything – in us and with us. But will our fellow beings accept the change that God brings about in us?
God moved on Paul: Then the Lord said to me, “Go, I will send you far away to the Gentiles.” (V 21) And the rest, as they say, is history! Paul took the Gospel to the Gentiles, and to the world. But He had to flee Jerusalem.
There may be times when God will move me on. I need to be willing to go. In Paul’s case it was clear why he should leave. It may not always be so clear to me, but I have to be open to God, and allow Him to have His way with me. He truly does know best.
I thank You for this lesson from Paul. I release myself fully into Your will. May I ever be willing to go where You would have me go, and give myself to do whatever You might require of me. I ask for ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart that is ever open to obey. I live for You. Direct me and use me as You will, to the joy of the Gospel of Christ.
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Wednesday, 20 April 2016
…while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” Acts 1.4
Jesus is talking to the disciples and He is telling them to stay put, to remain where they are and wait. In waiting, they will then receive the gift promised by the Father. This gift is the Holy Spirit.
These words of waiting speak to me. So often I am wanting “to go”. Yet Jesus could well be telling me to wait. In waiting, I can let God do what He wants to, in me and with me. As I wait, I may receive gifts that He has for me and, further, by waiting I might realise more completely my receiving of those gifts and their purpose.
Waiting is no idle occupation, nor is it a waste of time. Waiting is spending time with God and, as I allow it and give time and space to Him, it will be rich and enriching time. I see it, not as waiting for God and impatiently wishing for time to pass and His gift to me to be declared. Rather I see a waiting on God, or waiting upon Him. This is a time of communion and communication with Him, a time of sharing and mutual enjoyment. It fosters intimacy. Indeed, without giving time and waiting on Him, I cannot grow in Him and into Him.
Waiting time is not wasted time. Waiting time is precious, God-filled moments of relating, and belonging.
I wait upon You. I rejoice in this time I have to sit at Your feet and simply be with You. I relish this time and give myself fully to it. How precious it is to know You. I thank You for Your gracious acts of drawing me to You and assuring me of Your presence at all times.
If You would speak to me, I am attentive. May I hear You clearly and be willing to follow in anything You may ask of me. Should You have any gifts for me, I will most happily receive them, and ask You to lead me in using and sharing them.
Let us sit together now as I wait upon You. I praise and thank You. Amen.