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Archive for tag Devos

Salvation and the county Jail

Read Acts 16:25-40

The jailer's conversion is as sudden as it is unexpected: and yet the result is the same. His heart, now open to the gospel, leads him immediately to be concerned for Paul and his companions (he washes their wounds) and immediately gets baptised. Not only do all his household follow suit, but they rejoice with him at the good news that is now theirs.

Paul experienced the joy of seeing his jailer become his brother because he was ready to praise God and preach the gospel (singing songs while shackled?! Inmate preaching to a prison governor?!).

Are there places you go, or situations you find yourself in where you don't feel as though the gospel is relevant? Or people that you're hesitant to share the gospel with because you don't know how they'll react?

Consider how you would have reacted, had you been in Paul's situation: beaten unjustly, chained in the most secure cell in the prison – and all of it an illegal violation of your rights as a citizen! Maybe your vision of God is too small? Maybe your expectations of God are too low?

Ask God to fill you with the confidence and boldness to trust Him in every place and with everyone.

A dangerous deliverance

Read Acts 16:16-24

The slave girl is at the bottom of the pile. She is enslaved by men who use her for profit, enslaved by an evil spirit who enables her to know things that she shouldn't be able to know. And the spirit in her is not happy – because followers of Jesus have just turned up in their city. Paul takes his time before intervening – it's not safe to mess with people's profit margins. Not then, not now. (Like missionary William Carey, who went to preach the gospel in India and was unable to preach it in the parts of India controlled by Britain at the time because they feared that it might cause trouble and adversely affect the economy).

The bible says that Christ came to bring us freedom – but we would be wise to remember that this world profits from people being enslaved. Liberating people often threatens existing financial interests and results in serious opposition.

From slander to murder, we should not be surprised by the opposition that the liberating truth of the gospel brings.

God opened her heart

Read Acts 16:11-15

Lydia has all the hallmarks of a seeker: she was already interested in spiritual things, she had some knowledge of God, was a worshipper of God, presumably had (at least) some knowledge of the bible and was looking for more. But the bible does not say “she opened her heart” - rather it declares that “God opened” it.

If Lydia can't make it on her own, who can? The answer is no-one. No-one will ever become a Christian without the intervention of God. We simply don't have the power to open people's hearts – only God does.

Think of the non-Christians you know: how often do you pray for them? After all – prayer is how we call on God to act and to save.

But what means does God use to open her heart? He could have used a vision, or a dream or writing in the sky. But it didn't: God chose the moment that Paul was sharing the gospel with her. Having prayed – and trusting God to come through – get ready to be bold, step out in faith. Because God's top choice for opening people's hearts to the gospel is the point in time that someone is telling them about Jesus.

When God changes your plans

Read Acts 16:6-10

The plan was to go with Barnabas, but he's gone to Cyprus. The plan was to encourage existing churches, but he's being called to an unreached city. The plan was to cover familiar ground, but he's travelling to a new continent. God just changed the plan.

  1. How do you imagine Paul felt – leaving the security of having a guy like Barnabas around to encourage him and back him up – out on a mission that is no longer viable?
  2. How differently do you think he felt when he looked back with the benefit of hindsight?

Thank God that he is in control. And that he loves you more than you love yourself – and chooses what is better for you than you would choose yourself.

Building tomorrow's church

Read Acts 16:1-5

Paul started off as Barnabas's protégé and learns from him. As soon as he gets the opportunity, he calls Timothy to join his group and starts to mentor him.

If you've followed Jesus for any period of time, there will be people who can benefit from your help, encouragement and experience. Jesus discipled and trained men to succeed him in ministry. As did the apostles after them. As Paul encouraged Timothy himself to do in 2 Timothy 2:2.

The church should continue to grow. If you want you ministry to have an impact, you need to invest time in training and encouraging and discipling other Christians. All Christians should be both disciples (following Jesus) and discipling (making followers of Jesus) – Matthew 28:18-20.

Pray for the younger members of the church and those who have not been Christians for so long. And ask God for opportunities to get alongside them to help them grow and mature in their faith.

Sin and the sovereignty of God

Read Acts 15:36-41

Despite having made plans to go on a trip to help build up/consolidate the churches they've already worked with, Paul and Barnabas have a “sharp disagreement” about whether Barnabas's cousin, John Mark, should accompany them on their planned trip. So they split.

But they both go on living lives that are totally committed to God.

  1. What impact does it have when godly people fall out with each other?
  2. Are God's plans held back by their disagreement?
  3. What failures have you had or seen that God has used to further his kingdom?

Joseph, whose brother's sold him into slavery, experienced God's power this way: He says to them in Genesis 50:20 “ As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. ” Praise the God who can use even our most spectacular sins, grievous mistakes and abject failures for good: to the point of using the murder of his Son to save the species that killed him.