All for Jesus – Acts 6. RBT Notes, 7th March

Growth is painful, and complicated. When growth happens in church, especially rapid growth, some people feel overlooked, and, sometimes, they actually are. Take this situation in Acts 6. Some of the widows who looked to the church for their needed financial support, we’re getting left out (vv.1-2). A storm was brewing.

Storms are never far from even the best led churches. The danger, in these fraught times, is that the church’s mission slows down in order to deal with its crises. Here we learn the power of appropriate delegation, in order that the whole church might be committed to Gospel care, whilst not distracted from Gospel mission.

So the right people are identified and set apart, and needs are met (vv.3-6). That means that the right people are freed up to continue the church’s task of sharing the Gospel. “And the word of God spread” (v.7). It spread, because Spirit-led men have the diaries and energies to commit to Word and prayer ministry, as the churches ministries are shared around.

Whether we’re called to lead or to follow our leaders, we must always be vigilant about the church’s work. Are we failing to serve the needy? Are our leaders being distracted from their core tasks? Are we taking our eyes off mission? This episode is brilliantly practical, and a superb example of delegation and prioritisation in church life. May God give us grace to see how we are to serve together in our situations.

And then we learn that Spirit-led servants are often led straight into trouble as they serve. One of the men set aside for practical service is Stephen. His insight into the Scriptures and courage are matchless (v.10). He is, therefore, Satan’s number one target. Tomorrow we will see how Stephen stands in the face of opposition.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Father, thankyou that You want Your church to be a place of tender, humble care, as well as  of Gospel-sharing courage. Please make me aware of the needs of others, and humble to serve them. Make me also brave, that when You call me to risk myself for Your Kingdom, I will not hold back, but offer myself. For Your Son’s sake, amen.

 

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Faithful, and Fearless – Acts 4. RBT Notes, 4th March

The life of the authentic church is marked by four things: preaching, persecution, prayer and practical generosity. Our chapter today is a snapshot of  life in the Spirit, with lessons for all believers.

FearlessJesus is a controversy. If we think otherwise, we’re either not thinking about the real Jesus, or we’re not living the real Christian life; or probably both. The Book of Acts plunges us back into the controversy which is Jesus, and urges us to live for Him with a wise boldness.

Peter and John must have known that healing and preaching in Jesus’ name would mean persecution for them for the sake of Jesus’ name. So when the crowds came running, they must have known that trouble was racing to meet them, too. And it did. They were put in jail for their troubles – though five thousand men know the loosening of the chains of sin (vv.1-4).

The religious leaders know exactly what the Apostles were doing, so more fool them when they have to listen to Peter’s Spirit-filled proclamation of Jesus (vv.5-7). He tells them what they must have been dreading to hear, that the power of Jesus Christ healed this man, and that He, though rejected by them, is God’s only appointed Saviour (vv.8-12).

Just think about the courage of Peter and John. In a city which idolised religious learning, these “unschooled, ordinary men” (v.13) spoke up, and spoke into the faces of men who had crucified their Lord, and who hated their message. The facts, though, silenced them (v.14). And no threats or commands can silence the church and her message: “we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (v.20).

After the Gospel is preached, the believers now pray: they are joyfully convinced that their Jesus is Lord, and realistic that the world will rage against Him – and none of that without the Sovereign will of God (vv.24-28). Now they pray for God’s power, for their ministry to be emboldened, and for grace to save lost people in Jesus’ Name (vv.29-30). And where prayers like that are prayed, God will be at work (v.31).

God will be at work within the true church, too. As the Gospel brings more converts, so the Gospel unlocks believing hearts in acts of incredible generosity (vv.32-37). As Christians, we want to lay our lives before the cross, to share all that we are and all that we have in true service of the Gospel. He only is worthy of all.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Search me, O God, and know my heart. Give me that thrilled, captivated joy in knowing that Jesus is Lord. Give me boldness, boldness to speak, to pray, to risk and to sacrifice. Shake what I hold dear, that I may hold Jesus most dearly of all. Amen.

All God’s Enemies – Revelation 13. RBT Notes, 17th February

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Ah, the thirteenth chapter of Revelation. Hunting-ground for conspiracy-theorists, doomsday prophets, anti-capitalists/communists/European Unionists/Catholics, and on and on. And on. With so much mishandling of this chapter, it’s no wonder that the rest of us want to shrink back from the details, and just try to content ourselves with general meanings.

That would be fine, if John wanted us to do that. But in v.18 he tells us he has a different intention. He tells us the “number” of the Beast. This number is the total of the numerical value of the letters which spell a person’s name. In this case, 666 is the value of the letters of the name Nero Caesar, the then-current Emperor. Coincidence, wild guess, or John’s exact purpose?

Rome is the ultimate beast. She comes from over the seas, and is represented with the symbols of her provinces and rulers (v.1). She has her power from Satan (v.2). And, because all people want power – if only the power to be able to enjoy a quiet life – they prostrate themselves to her demands (vv.3-.4). Change the name of the empire – your favourite sports or technology brand, a sports team, a bank, or an ideology, and this chapter reminds us that, wherever there is power, there are slavish followers (vv.4,8). We are all worshippers. Only the Last Day will truly show if we worship the beast, or the One who has power over the beast.

Tyrants come and go. And come again. We’ll leave the details (they all have their explanations), but we take hold of the lessons: “anyone who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3.12-13). There is no life in running scared, or bowing down to the beast of power and popularity. Life is found as we follow the Lamb. The price for loyalty may be the loss of freedom, or even life, but the rewards are multiplied through eternity.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, I am a coward. I’ll fight for my rights, but You call me to lay them down, and to fight the good fight of faith. Rescue me from myself, and my fears, and fill me with courage to follow the Lord Jesus. Amen.