The Gospel Can’t Be Chained

24th & 25th June

Weekend Edition

““Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.”And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered… Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders has planned to do to me!””

Acts 12:7b-8, 11

As Peter was awaiting trial for disobeying the Jewish leaders and continuing to preach the Gospel, an angel woke him, ordered him to put on his clothes and led Peter out of jail to freedom. The remarkable thing, is that not only was Peter chained between two soldiers, his prison cell was also guarded by two sets of guards, plus the prison, was closed in by a huge Iron gate. There was no way Peter could have escaped, bar a supernatural miracle. Even the disciples couldn’t believe he had been led out by an angel, after Peter had revealed himself to them whilst praying for his release. “Rhoda….ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” “You’re out of your mind!” they said…(v13-15).

Herod and the Jewish leaders had plans to stop or even silence Peter’s voice once and for all, but God had other plans. Jesus commissioned Peter to share the Gospel of Salvation to all. He empowered him with the Holy Spirit, equipping him with boldness and courage. There was no prison cell, or no plan of man that was going to stop the message of Christ, spreading across the world.

The same is true today. The message of Christ lives on. It is like a train with no breaks, moving at full speed momentum. There is no stopping the Gospel. Yes we might be persecuted, sadly physically in some countries. Yes there are many ‘closed’ countries in the world, but the Gospel lives on. God always makes a way for people to hear about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Be encouraged. The Gospel can’t be chained. Just ask Peter.

She Gave Everything She Had

23rd June

Jesus sat down near the collection box in the temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. ..“I tell you the truth, this poor woman has given more than the others…. she, as poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.””

Mark 12:41-44

Jesus, upon visiting the temple, decided to sit down and watch how people gave their contributions. He noticed that many rich people came in and gave lots of money. Yet what caught His eye, was not the large amounts given by the rich people but the two small coins given by a poor widow who had nothing else. The rich people only gave out of their surplus of wealth, yet this poor widow gave everything she had.

However, what struck Jesus, wasn’t particularly what they gave financially but the condition of their hearts when they were giving. Jesus highlighted to His disciples a key area in Spiritual growth and discipleship. This poor widow demonstrated a genuine love and desire for God; by giving all she had, she completely put her trust in Jehovah Jireh (the God who provides). In Jesus’ time, a woman who had lost their husband, more often than not, lost their only source of income too. Widows would have have been very wise and astute with what they did have, so it would last longer. This further demonstrates the sacrificial giving of this poor widow as she gave all she had. Furthermore, Jesus comments that this poor woman, because of her sacrificial giving, had given more than all the wealth of the others.

It is so important for our lives to know firstly that God looks after our every need, but more importantly, God is interested in our heart condition above anything else. Jesus praised this poor widow’s giving because she exercised complete trust in God. God doesn’t want part of our hearts but all of it, even when it may seem a sacrifice to give your whole heart. We can be comforted that when we put our whole trust in God, He will always look after us and bless us even more.

Jesus’ Plan For Salvation For Cornelius

22nd June

He told me, “Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore. So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.””

Acts 10:31-34

Cornelius was a good and faithful man. He regularly prayed and supported the poor even though he was a centurion, a commander in the Roman army. He commanded great authority but when Peter entered his house, Peter was more worried that he was a Gentile, rather than a commander of an army. “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you…..”(v28)

BUT God in His grace, uses the most wonderful ways to bring about His will in people’s lives. By using Peter to bring the gospel to Cornelius, Jesus showed that, like we learned yesterday, no-one is exempt from hearing and receiving the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Moreover, Jesus, by saving a Roman army officer, the very same people group who crucified Him on the cross, to become the first Gentile Christian, shows us that His ultimate grace not only has the power to save but to restore and reconcile anyone to Him, regardless of their past.

Finally, by using Peter to share the Gospel message with Cornelius, Jesus demonstrated His personal love for every individual. He could have just used the angel that appeared to Cornelius, to share the Gospel with him, but He didn’t. He chose to make it personal. He chose to use Peter to show that His love knows no boundaries, is not subject or hindered by earthly authority, cultural or religious barrier, and is personal..

Today, Jesus wants to reach you too with His radical, cultural and boundary breaking love. His love knows no limits. You are included in His call to receive His love, and we, as receivers of His love, are also included to share the message of Jesus Christ to all too.

The Gospel Is For All

21st June

The Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favouritism. In every nation He accepts those who fear Him and do what is right.”

Acts 10:34-35

As Peter was resting, waiting for his lunch to be prepared in the home of Simon the tanner, God showed him a vision of a sheet hanging by its four corners, containing all kinds of meat and food that was prohibited to be eaten in Jewish law. God was showing Peter, through this vision, that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, all things were now made holy through Him. He showed Peter that there is nothing un-clean that He has made clean. In simpler terms, as spoken by the disciples after Peter shared his testimony with them, ‘We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.’

God was showing Peter, and the other Jewish Christians, that salvation, was freely available to all people; that it was not limited to a people group, a denomination, or language. Of course this caused great controversy in the early church, as they thought salvation was from the Jews and for the Jews, but through this vision, God was telling them, that He does not show partiality and salvation is a free gift available to all.

Friends, that same message is for us today. God shows no partiality, has no favourites and accepts all people into His family. Wherever you have been, whatever you have done, you are welcome to be called His child through the repentance of your sins and acceptance of His love. Even the most hardened criminals are welcome into His Kingdom. If God welcomes all, then so should we. Forgiveness is available for all. It is His love that changes us.

Get Up And Roll Up

20th June

Meanwhile, Peter traveled from place to place and he came down to visit the believers in the town of Lydda. There he met a man named Aeneas, who had been paralysed and bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up, and roll up your sleeping mat!” And he was healed instantly.”

Acts 9:32-34

Peter was a man filled with a passion for Jesus Christ, to share about His love and to show His mighty power across the world. Peter’s conviction was so great because he had met and had his life radically changed by Jesus. Earlier, in the book of Acts, we even read that people were healed by just being in Peter’s shadow (4:15). What a radical change from a humble fisherman’s beginnings.

Yet, throughout the miracles we see Peter do in the book of Acts, he always remembered that the power to heal, never came from his own resources, but was always from the power of Jesus Christ. Notice Peter doesn’t say to Aeneas, ‘I heal you’. He specifically says, that ‘Jesus Christ heals you!’

We too must remember that all power and authority, comes from God’s eternal resources. We can do nothing in our own strength. It is only through Jesus’ Name that the sick are healed, the lost are found, and the impossible made possible. No sickness is too great or no problem too big. We too, just like Peter, are carriers and vessels of this power. May we too bring the power of Jesus wherever we are to see lives saved and sicknesses healed. Amen.

Hope For The Most Hardened Criminal

19th June

As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?” “Who are you, Lord?” And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting.””

Acts 9:3-5

The Apostle Paul, who wrote so much of the beloved New Testament writings, had a horrific past. If you read his words of love and peace, there is no way you would believe that he actually hated “The Way”. In fact, verses 1 and 2 of chapter 9, tell us that every breath Saul breathed, were threatening promises to kill the Lord’s followers. He was there at Stephen’s death, giving his approval. He went from home to home in Jerusalem dragging out believers and throwing them into prison and going around destroying the churches. When he spoke, it was only words of hate. Yet Saul did not realise he was fighting against the Lord Jesus Christ by persecuting His children.

Saul, with the authority of the high priest, was en route to cause further damage by destroying the churches in Damascus and all who followed “The Way”. As he journeyed with some of his followers, a bright light from Heaven shone down, blinded Saul and through the confusion, Saul heard Jesus’ voice saying “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” As the story continues, Jesus showed His grace to Saul, forgave him and fully revealed Himself to the newly named Paul. Paul then went on to be one the founders of our faith in Jesus Christ and His words in the New Testament are a daily encouragement for believers around the world.

Even the most hardened criminals and the most hateful people have a chance to encounter the mighty presence of God. When we look at a world filled with hate and violence, do we see people the way God sees them or do we look at them wanting revenge or justice? Paul, before his encounter with Christ, seemed to be single handedly wiping out the believers by imprisoning them or even killing them off. Yet God had other plans for Paul. God saw in Paul, a zeal and enthusiasm to proclaim His message of love and grace. We should not be too quick to judge our enemies, but rather pray that they too may have a Damascus experience and meet Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

The Power Of Preaching God’s Word

17th-18th June

Weekend Edition

Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.”

Acts 8:30-31

How can I, unless someone instructs me?” This is not the cry of only one man, but this is a call from a world that is in need of Jesus. The world may not realise it, but they are hungry for truth, for peace and for love. All these only come from Jesus, and our role as ambassadors of Christ, is to tell them about it.

As Philip was heading to Gaza from Jerusalem, he was led by the Holy Spirit to meet an Ethiopian Eunuch, traveling to Jerusalem to worship. Again further prompted by the Holy Spirit, Philip went up closer to the carriage the Eunuch was riding in and overheard him reading from the book of Isaiah. Philip challenged the Eunuch asking him if he understood what he was reading. His response was, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” Philip answered the call to explain the scriptures with the Eunuch, and shortly after baptised him.

We too can learn from this story; the power and necessity of sharing God’s word with those who don’t understand it. We don’t need to use fancy ‘Christian’ words, to show off our Biblical and Theological intelligence, but rather simply and plainly make God’s word understandable and relevant to someone’s life, so that they too may have their eyes opened to God’s truth, His plan for them, and know His love for them too. Let us always be ready to give an answer to those who need it, for God’s word, the Gospel, ‘is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes’ (Romans 1:16).