Let us carry on where we ended reading last month and still using excerpts from the late Selwyn Hughes booklet, ‘Every Day with Jesus’ and his comments on the Book of Acts and how the modern day church has lost the eagerness in studying the Gospel which was so evident in the emerging early church.
Thursday August 1st
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas and asked, ‘What must I do to be saved?’, and they replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved’. Acts 16: 29, 31.
Let us look at what was abundantly clear with the new converts of the early church, they were introduced at once to the truth that Jesus was Lord and Saviour – there was no division of belief that Jesus was the Son of God and then some time later, state that Jesus was Lord. When Paul and Silas were imprisoned for driving an evil spirit of clairvoyance from a slave girl, thus depriving her owners of their earnings, the Lord caused an earthquake to open their chains and when the jailer viewed what had happened, he saw that his prisoners had a power which he desired and asked the question so many have sought the answer to, ‘what must I do to be saved’ and we must follow God’s word, and by belief, receive the saving grace wrought for us in agony, by our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Give thanks for authors and teachers who have given clear interpretation of Scripture and allowed us to grow in faith. Pray today for the Toddler group, that a time of fellowship and relaxation in each other’s company would be a real blessing for busy mothers. Ask that more would hear of this facility and be encouraged to come along.
Friday August 2nd
I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles and they will listen. For two years Paul stayed and welcomed all who came, as boldly he preached the ways of the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 28: 28-31.
Today we reflect again on one distinctive of the early church which was the way they stressed on the Lordship of Christ Jesus. It is interesting that the final words of the book of Acts are Lord Jesus and Christ, for they bring to a conclusion, all that this book tells so eloquently of what His life and sacrificial death brought to our worship and praise of God. When we are asked the reason why Jesus died and rose again, we rightly say – to be our Saviour – but Paul takes it further when he states that – for this very reason, Christ died and returned to life, so that He might be Lord of both the living and the dead. The real issue is our commitment to our living God and because of that, we will receive forgiveness of our sins.
Give thanks for those saints in the Bible who faithfully proclaimed and recorded the Gospel of Christ for all to believe. Today we must be willing to give an account of our faith to anyone who is seeking and we pray especially for the East Open Doors team that they would show a welcome to all who pass the Church and that they would be given what to say when they are faced with difficult questions.
Saturday August 3rd
Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say’, I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When the flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it because it was built on a sound foundation. Luke 6: 46-48. Today we look at how we would answer the question, ‘Do you believe in the Lordship of Christ.’
We must be prepared to reply, having considered both our faith and how we live throughout our daily lives. I believe in God’s ways, but do I always carry them out? When we look at how people in high authority behave in their private lives and hear how they speak and act in ways that seek to draw us away from following God’s laws, and encourage others to change their beliefs, we must cast these people as servants of Satan. Give us your strength, dear Lord, to oppose their evil thoughts and pray that revival will arise, when men and women will insist that your laws will prevail, and days of blessings will return. There will be no return until, instead of trying to sort out these problems by ourselves, we call on our Lord for His guidance. Can I say that if we do not crown Him Lord of all, we do not crown Him Lord at all.
Give thanks for all who attended the recent Youth weekend and for those who in any way helped to organise and contribute. Pray that everyone who attended, and perhaps their friends would be talking about the event and the Word shared. Pray that young hearts would be secured by Christ so that despite the rigors of life they would be sustained by a personal Saviour.
Sunday August 4th
All the believers were one in heart and mind, and no one claimed any of his possessions was his own, for they shared everything that they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and much Grace was upon them all. Acts 4: 32-33.
As we continue to look at more of the distinct features of the early church, let us be reminded that it was established by God alone and therefore it is necessary that we understand it’s makeup. There is no value in trying to compare the cultural difference between our church today and the church of the early years. We must look at the spiritual, which stressed the presence of God as the early Christians were being led. When the apostle, John, in vision, saw the glorified Christ, he fell at His feet, and when Daniel became aware of God’s presence or the feeling of Numinous, for He said ‘I had no strength left and my face turned deathly pale’, Such was the Godly fear the early disciples experienced and which we miss out on – is it because we don’t enquire often or are eager enough? Numinous is not a well-known word but can be defined as a feeling of holy presence or of divine power or awe of God.
Give thanks again that we have been so blessed during this period of vacancy by sound preaching and teaching and that our own Elders have had the courage to take some services and prayer meetings. Pray for Rev Douglas Horne as he leads both services today. Continue to pray for all members of the Nominating committee that they would be spiritually aware of God’s guidance in their search for our Minister and not become blinkered by traditions in the church.
Monday August 5th
Now a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property but kept some of the money and gave the rest to the disciples with his wife’s full knowledge. Great fear seized the whole church when they heard of these events. Acts 5: 1,2 and 11.
The incident before us today, occurred during the time after Pentecost when there were many converts into the church and many contributed to the funds by handing in from their wealth or goods to fund the needs of the apostle’s work. This couple sold a piece of property with the full intention of giving all the money to fund the disciples work, but they were tempted to keep some for their own use. When Ananias stated in front of Peter that what they laid down was the total sum, Peter challenged his honesty by telling that him that the lie that he had stated was against God. Ananias fell down dead at hearing that and was buried and when Sapphira came in 3 hours later and repeated the same untruth, she also died and was buried beside her husband. This severe punishment so shocked the community that saw how their sense of koinonia (togetherness or community) had been shattered, that great fear, gripped the whole church.
Give thanks for Tina and John Bruce and others who have taken part in the EMMS cycle in Zambia raising funds to help provide palliative care in that region. Pray for all such charities as they seek to alleviate suffering in so many areas of the world. Ask that we would continue to have generous hearts to give all we can to help those much worse off than we can even imagine.
Tuesday August 6th
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that he had touched and were sent to the sick, and so their illnesses were cured, or their evil spirits departed, and the Name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honour. Acts 19: 11 and 17.
Due to Paul’s great ability to work miracles, news of his healings spread throughout the believers and had a profound effect on non-believers. Some of those were exorcists and began to pronounce their spells in the Name of Christ, without His authority. Paul instructed the demon to come out of the sorcerer and when the evil spirit did so, it proceeded to beat those who were trying to do evil matters in Christ’s Name. Thus, great fear spread over the community at the harsh punishment which had been administered and many turned to belief in Jesus. Those who were practicing magic, confessed their sins and in this way much evidence of God’s power and works arose in the early church. In this way Paul was indicating God’s ability to overcome all evil set against Him. How we need that same strong power to be at work in our churches in these days.
Give thanks today for all who serve or have served in the East over many years either in Ministry, teaching Sunday School, Youth fellowship, and other such tasks. Pray that Gospel seeds sown would flourish in hearts and minds, and that someone would remember a Word taught many years ago and be enlightened to change direction, giving their lives to the Lord.
Wednesday August 7th
The God who made the world and everything in it, is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, and does not need to live in temples made by human hands, and He is not served by humans as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. Acts 17: 24, 25.
The first Christians were in awe of God and experienced His continuous Holy presence, but when we lose that same sense of reverence for God, we will find it won’t be long before it will find us adopting alteration to the Word of God and the laws of our Lord as acceptable. We pray that we will not be drawn to ignore the fear of the Lord which we spoke of a few days ago – numinous. If we do, it will lead to irreverence when speaking of God, and this is deplored when we are talking of God Who is all powerful but yet would be our Friend. How it saddens our hearts when we hear God been spoken about in ‘chummy’ manners. We must consider how unacceptable this must be viewed when compared with those in early church times who treated God with great reverence.
Give thanks for the beautiful creation round about us, from the beauty of our city with the river Ness flowing through it, to the grandeur or the lochs and mountains in our Highland home. Pray for visitors to the area, that they would be refreshed by their holiday, or be invigorated by walks, cycles and tours of Inverness. Ask that we would be welcoming to any who visit the East. Pray especially for Donald MacVicar leading the prayer meetings today that those present, and those unable to attend would be fervent in prayer for each other and the world we live in.
Thursday August 8th
Therefore, since we are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for ‘our God is a consuming fire.’ Hebrews 12: 28.
How deep or widespread is the sense of awe for God, (numinous) which we experience in our churches today? Are we viewing God as one who can only help us when we have problems? If we are doing so, we view Him as far too small and we do not appreciate that He is all powerful and ever present, or that He has created the whole world and all that it contains. We must honour Him for Who He is, treat Him with reverence and without terror. We must develop a feeling of indescribable love for our God, for He is love. Why should we be afraid of coming to someone whom we love and who we know loves us. Let us come in Godly fear and in healthy reverence and holy respect for the authority and power of our Lord and Redeemer.
Give thanks for the work of the Hospice, the Maggie Centre and MacMillan nurses as they care for all those who have been affected by cancer. Pray today for those who have been fighting this condition often for many years and those who have recently received a diagnosis and are struggling to come to terms with the effect this will have on their life.
Friday August 9th
When the Day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Acts 2: 1.
Today we celebrate Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit was given to all who believed in the finished work of Jesus on the cross of Calvary and His resurrection to Heaven. The 120 disciples who were gathered in that room and received that blessing were those who were the catalyst for all that followed, in what was recorded in the book of the Acts of the Apostles and down through history to this very day. What was the result of Pentecost? The church came into being and a new society was formed and developed to become the only society of ultimate consequence. Dear Lord, we pray that you will breathe your Holy Spirit into our lives again, so that we may confess our unworthiness before You and be assured of Your forgiveness.
Give thanks for Christian teachers in our schools and even in this rule bound secular society we should pray that their pupils would see something different in them and their attitudes and be able to see that having Jesus in your life is of greater importance than any worldly wisdom. Pray that all on holiday from school,would enjoy their time off. Pray too for any who come into the East during Open Doors that they would find peace in the sanctuary and someone to pray with and for them if they desire.
Saturday August 10th
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. Acts 6: 1.
Another distinctive feature of the early church was their ability to reconcile minor differences which arose and one of these is shown in today’s reading. As the number of disciples increased and obviously different peoples would gather in separate communities, some objected to the amount of food they were given and it is interesting to see that the problem was resolved by actions. New people were recruited to ensure equal distribution, and this allowed those who did the preaching, to continue doing so, while important other duties were successfully dealt with. How often we hear with sadness of fellowships being torn apart, through lack of action to deal with petty problems.
Give thanks for many of the young folk from our number who have taken part in practical and mission work abroad, giving special thanks for the funds raised here to enable them to go and for the benefit and experience gained in helping people in other countries who have so little in comparison. Pray especially today for the work carried out in Romania by the group from Blythswood and ask that our hearts would be open to aid these causes financially but also to give solid prayer support.
Sunday August 11th
Then I remembered what the Lord had said, ‘John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ So, if God gave them the same gift as He gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think I could oppose God. Acts 11: 16,17.
We now look at how the early church reconciled matters as they arose, so we are shown how the Jewish strict insistence, that to be converted new converts had to be circumcised, was overcome when Peter was introduced to Gentiles, while he was in Joppa and was called to meet the centurion, Cornelius. When Peter got back to Jerusalem, news of his visit to the house of Cornelius, who was not a Jew, had been circulated and he was reprimanded for breaking Jewish law. Peter told them of the vision he had received from God, of a sheet being lowered from heaven containing animals, with orders to kill and eat, which he obeyed when told never to call unclean, what God had created. Thus, the problem was resolved as Peter had obeyed God’s commands to treat Jews and Gentiles alike.
Give continued thanks that we are free to worship God in this country without fear of persecution yet. Help us to always remember as we take part in worship, that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ will be meeting in different circumstances of fear and ask that we would never take our situation for granted, and always be asking for courage and protection for any meeting in dangerous places. Pray and give thanks for Rev Douglas Horne leading services today that we would have attentive hearts to hear what he has been given to preach to us and that we would worship with joy and thanksgiving.
Monday August 12th
Sometime later Paul said to Barnabas ‘let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the Word of God. Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark with them, but Paul did not agree as he had deserted them before. They resolved the argument by going their separate ways, Paul took Silas and Barnabas took John Mark. Acts 15: 36,37.
The message which is before us today deals with men who held strong and different opinions. Paul and Barnabas had been on a missionary visit to Asia and wanted to go back to the towns where they had established churches but disagreed on who to take with them. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, but Paul did not trust him as he had abandoned the missionary project at Pamphylia. Both held on to their opinions and the disagreement got so heated that they decided to go separate ways. Now do you see what could have occurred there, two strong men, with differing views – ‘Let’s break apart and we’ll form 2 different denominations.’ Isn’t that how our modern churches act. They do not ask the Lord for guidance before setting off on their own ideas. We have much to learn from the ways of the Early Church.
Give thanks for young people we know who have achieved good results in their exams and are assured of the next stage in their education or career. Pray that they will always be aware of God’s presence with them as they take each new step in life. Pray too for those who have been disappointed with their marks, that they would be given courage and hope to try again or plan a different direction for their futures. May we all remember that no matter what, God has a plan for each one of us and we need to seek His will all through life.
Tuesday August 13th
Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 2 Timothy 4: 1.
Following on from the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas, we can report that good came out of it. If they had agreed to travel together, they would have spent all their energy doing so. Instead two sections of work were done and John Mark under the guidance of Barnabas, was reclaimed to do the work for Christ. Paul records his indebtedness for John Mark’s help in the latter stages of his ministry and he also gave thanks for Barnabas’s work in reconciling their dispute. It is good to view these times of reconciliation in the same way as we would consider those apostles at the time of the Cross, for they were done with a zeal to restore broken relationships. Why do we seldom see times of healing when disputes arise in church matters in our days?
Give thanks for the work of the Bethany Trust as it seeks to support over 7000 people a year to prevent, and end homelessness. Pray for their fundraising Kilt Walk on 15th September that many would take part in raising funds for the charity and raising awareness of the need for affordable housing and support for vulnerable people. Ask that we would be considerate in what we need in our homes, and not what we want and ensure that we recycle useful items through Blythswood and New Start for example.
Wednesday August 14th
God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them, and has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We implore you on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.’ 2 Corinthians 5: 19, 20.
When we consider those disciples of the early church, read of their disagreements and how they were resolved, it is obvious that the closeness of Jesus meant that they were very aware of the spirit of reconciliation. In today’s churches, we seem unable to resolve our differences in the same way and so huge divisions split congregations. Why do we now consider the Church of Scotland as 2 divisions, the evangelical and the liberal? Is it not because there are those who take the view that they must adopt ways to follow God’s Word as it is written, and those who interpret that same word to make it more suitable to the times we live in. These differences arise due to men’s unwillingness to come to amicable decisions while adhering to God’s inspired Word.
Give thanks that the true and undiluted Word of God has been preached in the East for so many years and pray that this would be at the forefront of the minds of the Nominating Committee as they seek our new teaching Elder. Pray for the work of the church website and social media that it would be a way to inform people about our fellowship and the work which is ongoing in the church. Pray for, and give thanks for Iain Macdonald in all that he does in telling people about Jesus and ask for God’s presence to be with him as he takes the prayer meetings today.
Thursday August 15th
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord do not hold this sin against them.’ Acts 7: 59, 60.
We come again to Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He was one of those selected to carry out the distribution of food and therefore would be identified as being of the laity, that is, he belonged to the ranks of common people, but he was full of faith and the power of God. Some members of the synagogue decided to debate with him but found he knew too much, so they roped in evil people to spread lies about what Stephen had said. The mob’s anger led to them stoning Stephen to death, but it is recorded that one of those present was Saul of Tarsus, who was to become the great apostle Paul. I wonder did Stephen’s prayer as he was being murdered, have a distinct effect on the future life of Paul. There are many instances of the power of God affecting the ways of people outwith the clergy, – you don’t need to be a minister.
Today it would be good if every one of us could make a focussed prayer for somebody we know who is hurting. Perhaps they have lost a family member and are having difficulty understanding why their loved one is no longer with them. Maybe we know someone who has been badly hurt of let down by someone, either by what was said or done. We can all think of someone who is in that place where they are so sad that they cannot pray for themselves. Today let us use our prayer time to lift these folks to the God of all comfort in prayer asking that He would make Himself known to all who are struggling, for He promised never to leave us or forsake us.
Friday August 16th
Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, there was great joy in that city. Aug 8: 4-6.
Today we look at the work of Philip, another member of the laity, who like Stephen was called to wait on tables, but who wanted to distribute the Gospel as well as food. He was among those who were forced to flee from Jerusalem and from the mob who had stoned Stephen, and it is recorded that he preached Christ there. Many people were converted, and great joy spread in that city. Philip then received a Holy calling to go out into the desert to meet a man who needed to be told the truths of the Gospel, and he set off until he met an Ethiopian eunuch reading his bible, while riding home in his chariot. Philip opened the Word to him, and the eunuch was converted. Imagine leaving a city of thousands to go to minister to one single traveller, but that was the obedience displayed by God’s workers in these early days.
Give thanks for Youth for Christ as it seeks to help young people raise their self-awareness and confidence via a God based ministry so that they are led to make good choices in life. Pray again for the East Open Doors venture that the work would be blessed, and many would be encouraged to engage with the team. Especially pray for the Youth groups who will be attending a showing of Breakthrough in Eden Court, that the portrayal of long-term faith would affect all who watch.
Saturday August 17th
When Paul came to Jerusalem and tried to join the disciples, they were afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him to the apostles and told them how Paul had been converted on the road to Damascus. Acts 9: 26,27.
Another great layman is introduced to us, Barnabas who first appeared in chapter 4 under the name of Joseph, when he sold a field and gave the money to the apostles. He then was seen in chapter 11 seeking to become Paul’s fellow worker, and now in chapter 9 he is there to accompany Paul to meet the apostles and explain that Paul had experienced a conversion while he was travelling to Damascus and was now a true disciple of the Lord. It is no wonder that Barnabas became known as ‘The Son of Encouragement’ for he helped win folk for the Lord. He welcomed anyone who found it hard to make progress in their journey of belief in the new way of acceptance in Jesus and His redeeming salvation. How we need more of his kind today.
Give thanks for the weekend break in the working week and seek that we would be able to take the rest and relaxation which our bodies and minds so badly need. Pray for the work of Family Mediation who meet regularly in the church that the work in keeping estranged families in touch would be successful and that reconciliation and repair to broken relationships might be the outcome. Pray too for those whose employment means that they have to work unsocial hours that they would be able to rest after shifts, especially night shifts.
Sunday August 18th
Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is part of it. In the church, God has appointed all to be units in accordance with their ability. 1 Corinthians 12: 27.
Over the past few days, we have been observing that Jesus, who is Head of His church, has a purpose for everyone to do in the work to the success of winning more and more for His Kingdom. What we are to understand is that we must all work for Christ, for He has laboured hard for all of us and died to win salvation and forgiveness of our sins. When Jesus said to the disciples ‘As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you’ He meant, all who would believe in Him, then, and right on till now and on into the future. Some folk disagree with this view and expect all the church work to be the minister’s responsibility, but may we all try to contribute to carry out God’s work as we are able.
In the passage today we see that all believers have a role to play in the work of the Gospel and in winning hearts for Jesus. Give thanks for those who are willing to step up to the mark, often in fear and trepidation to ensure that they are doing our best for Christ, and help us all to ask God what task, big or small, He has for us to do. Pray for those who will lead worship today in the East and pray especially for those unable to attend but who join in worship via the website sermons or CD.
Monday August 19th
Then Peter, filled with the Holy spirit said to the high priest and his followers, ‘Rulers and elders of the people, if we are being called to account for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, it is by the Name of Jesus Christ, whom you crucified, that this man is healed. Acts 4: 8 – 10.
We are brought now, to look once more how truly distinct were the happenings during the beginnings of the early Church. We can say that it was a growing church, as Peter, on the day of Pentecost, opened the new church doors using the keys he got from Christ, and 5000 men streamed in. It says they were men, so it can be assumed that an equal number of women also joined. We know that before Jesus ascended, He appeared to a crowd of 500 followers and in the days following Pentecost, souls were added daily to the new Church, Yes, we can be sure that it was a growing church and more growth was to follow. This growth does not compare favourably with our churches today. So, let us pray to the Lord to bring our growth back to like measures again.
Give thanks for times or spiritual revival in the past, where like the early Church, many were convicted of sin and gave their lives to the Lord. Let us all be in earnest prayer for these times to come again because our society is roaming around lost, seeking sufficiency in wealth, addictive behaviours, and placing their trust in corrupt organisations and governments. Imagine if all were aware that ‘none but Christ can satisfy’ all the needs and longings of their hearts!
Tuesday August 20th
Lord, enable your servants to speak your Word with great boldness. Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and great wonders through the Name of Your holy servant Jesus. After they had prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 4: 29 -31.
We can now consider what roused the early church people to continue the growth of converts. It is sure that the empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit had much to do with it, but it is also clear that the effect of miracles occurring, kept the minds of those who sought the ways of Jesus occupied. Think of the amazing events of Pentecost, people speaking in strange languages, outstanding healings, buildings being shaken, prison doors being opened and so on. That same power is available in the church today and God does not have an energy crisis. His Spirit still works when we bring our prayers to our all-powerful God, believing that He will answer. Perhaps, if we brought our prayers relying on God’s power, rather than our own ideas of how to solve the problem, we would experience better results.
Give thanks for so many we know who have been very ill over recent years but for whom a measure of healing has occurred. Since we know that we have an almighty God on our side, help us to bring our prayers for healing, comfort and forgiveness truly believing that God has the power to do all things but trusting that He will allow what is best and not what we think is best. Pray for staff working in all areas of health provision that despite financial constraints they would be able to provide a service fit for purpose.
Wednesday August 21st
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14: 12.
Let us continue to consider the contentious issue of miracles as they occur in churches all over the world. Many so-called miracle meetings are held to raise funds, using psychologists to influence the thoughts of those who attend, but the power of God is left out of modern-day gatherings. God never intended that miraculous powers were only for the early church and once they had done the work of encouraging people to become Christians, thereafter we had to rely on Faith to believe in God. No, the power of God in all its elements remains for our use. We should pray for these holy powers to be at work in His church today but also pray that when matters which are spurious arise, they must be set aside.
Give thanks for CrossReach who have been working for a long time in Christs Name to provide support and social care. This allows people at varying stages of life to live a purposeful and meaningful life in residential and supported care. Pray for any who are struggling to live in the home that has been theirs for many years and are facing the decision to relocate nearer family or move to a more suitable home. Pray that they would be at peace knowing that God will always be with them and goes before them. Pray for the prayer meetings and Ian Challinor in his preparation and leading.
Thursday August 22nd
It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables, so choose 7 men from among you who are full of the Spirit and wisdom. Acts 6: 2 – 3.
Another factor that contributed to the growth of the early church was that as numbers increased the work of caring for the everyday needs of the community became more than the apostles could handle, so they recruited 7 men from the brothers to take care of this aspect of the work, and the apostles returned to prayer and preparing the Word of God in an effective way. This change resulted in an increase in the number of the community becoming more obedient to the faith. One of the devil’s schemes is to get a church to use time doing things that are second best, thus robbing the ministry away from the task of spreading the word of God. Let us take care when we are allocating the division of labour in our church family.
Give thanks for the talents we have in our church family, especially for the Praise Band and the dedication and practice they put into learning to play and sing to enable us to ‘sing a new song to the Lord’ as the Psalmist requested. Pray for unity in all changes to church life so that we would all worship in faith with hymns we have sung since childhood and new songs which make us think anew about the marvellous redemption we have been offered in Christ Jesus.
Friday August 23rd
They called the apostles in and had them flogged, then ordered them not to speak in the Name of Jesus and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for His Name. Day after day, in the temple and in houses, they preached the good news that Jesus is the Christ. Acts 5: 40 – 42.
Another factor that helped in the phenomenal growth of the early church, was how they shared in teaching the Scriptures wherever they met, in the temple as a large congregation, at Solomon’s Colonnade or in houses teaching to a few, but the result was evident as more people came to belief because the Word of God was constantly being talked about. How sad it is to see so many church doors closed to evening services of worship on Sundays and notice how few folk attend house group meetings. At these informal meetings topics can be discussed which can inspire people to seek further into the Word of God and the blessing of knowing the Salvation that is available to all who love the Lord.
Give thanks again for the East Open Doors teams and the opportunity which they have to be able to reach folk passing our church. Pray for those who lead the Children’s Church during the various Holiday periods and for those who make up duty rotas for all the activities which go on. Pray for planning proposals which will change the structure of the streets around the church that we would be able to accept, and work with alterations to traffic flow and parking.
Saturday August 24th
Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went. Philip went to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds saw the miraculous healings he did, there was great joy in that city. Acts 8: 4 – 8.
We return to one of the recruits who helped the apostles and became sound preachers of the Word of God, whom we mentioned back on the 16th of August – Philip who we hear, went down to Samaria to preach to the people there, on the instruction of the Holy Spirit because the folk in that region needed to hear the message. The early church expanded for 3 reasons, first was the presence of the Holy Spirit, second the powerful preaching of the apostles and those who followed after them and third the daily witness of those who became believers as they worshipped in their own homes. The result was that a feeling of complete unity developed among them and the Lord imparted His blessing, as Psalm 133 confirms.
Give thanks for the fellowship groups meeting and studying in homes throughout the city. Pray that the study and prayer times would be a real blessing to those attending and that more would be encouraged to join in these informal worship occasions. Pray tonight for the crowds who will gather in the city clubs and bars seeking satisfaction for empty lives, ask that eyes would be opened to where real fulfilment can be found and that churches would be ready to receive all who seek.
Sunday August 25th
‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this Man’s name, yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this Man’s blood’. Peter and the other apostles replied, ‘We must obey God rather than men’. Acts 5: 28 – 29.
Now we come to the last of our list of the distinct features of the early church which is their unswerving allegiance to Christ and His Kingdom, for they sought only to live their lives in harmony with the truths being taught by the apostles. The passage we have read today shows that the apostles did not follow such Scriptures as Romans chapter 13: 1, which says we must submit to governing authorities, while Peter preferred to obey the higher authority of God. This is the exact same ruling we must follow in modern days, we must be good citizens of this world, but live firstly close to the ways which Jesus brought into prominence, when He established the new Covenant with His blood.
Give thanks for those who will lead worship today, for the preachers, the musicians, those who will read the scriptures and make intercessory prayers and for the multimedia team. Pray that all will be done to God’s glory and that regular worshippers and visitors would be aware of a Spirit of unity as we meet. Pray for anyone in hospital or being cared for at home at this time that the presence of God would be closest when it is needed most.
Monday August 26th
Those who were standing near Paul said, ‘You dare to insult God’s High Priest’. Paul replied ‘Brothers, I did not realise that he was the High Priest, for it is written ‘Do not speak evil against the ruler of your people’. Acts 23: 4 – 5.
Today we continue to think how the early Christians gave themselves first of all to Jesus and His will, while showing respect to the old systems of Authority and Government. This whole chapter shows us how Paul was able to transform a situation when everybody was against him, by telling all the people that Jesus died and was then resurrected, knowing that both Pharisees and Sadducees were part of the crowd. Since the Sadducees denied that resurrection ever took place, the riot that ensued caused the commander to rescue Paul and take him to the safety of the barracks. To indicate that Jesus had full control over what was going on, we are told that the Lord spoke to Paul and said, ‘Take courage, as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome’. The new church was been guided from above.
Give thanks for those who today are returning to work after the weekend, and pray for Christians who find that standing up for Christ in their workplace is becoming increasingly difficult. Pray too for those who cannot find work and can become depressed and disillusioned by their situation. Ask that those who plan the future of our city would be granted wisdom in balancing housing, population, amenities and employment, to satisfy the needs of the people.
Tuesday August 27th
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12: 2.
It is clear that the believers of that early days followed rules and laws of the society in which they lived, but ultimately the principles of God’s Kingdom. They were listening to the beat of a different drum, a drum whose beat was directed by God from above, while we often prefer to listen to the noise from today’s world. How different things would be, if we were better able to be led to appreciate the awe of knowing God and the joy of becoming a Christian. These early converts were willing to suffer because of their staunch beliefs. We pray that as we live in this world, which is becoming more and more against following God’s Word, we will stay steadfast to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit.
Give thanks for all the labour-saving equipment we have in our homes and lives nowadays and ask that we would be mindful of how we use this advance in technology to proper use and not create worldwide pollution problems for the generations to come. Pray for those who have been bereaved lately, and even many years ago. Pray that God’s everlasting arms would be around the broken hearted to dry tears of sorrow and be a presence to fill the empty space in lives and homes.
Wednesday August 28th
We are witnesses of everything He did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed Him by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him from the dead on the third day. He was seen by witnesses whom God had already chosen and He commanded us to preach to the people. Acts 10: 39 – 42.
We are now told how Peter spoke the Good News of the salvation which God had planned when Jesus ended His life on Calvary’s cruel cross, so that sin could be done away with. He declared it to Cornelius who was a Gentile and thus Jews and Gentiles obtained this good news, which spread to all the world. What a blessing that these early converts had such eagerness to ensure that these great words of wisdom were not allowed to die. May we too, be keen to project these same wonderful thoughts throughout our land. We pray that the day will soon come, when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God.
Give thanks for the spread of God’s Word throughout this world and ask that those who have newly accepted Christ as their Saviour would be encouraged and kept safe in lands where becoming a Christian is far from easy. Pray that the same revival would sweep over our land so that once again we would be called ‘The land of the Book’. Pray for Bill Flett in his preparation and leading of the prayer meetings.
Thursday August 29th
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, be self- controlled, set your hope fully on the Grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed, but just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do. 1 Peter 1: 13 – 15.
We must now ask ourselves this searching question – who are we, the church in the 21st century in step with? The world we live in, or the world that has no end. Society today mostly disregards the church, and few understand its purpose. It is sad that we may miss the great evangelistic impact highlighted for us when Jesus declared in John 13, ‘Let me give you a new command – Love one another, – as I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ This is how we stand out and people recognise that we are different because we care for each other, and when we gather to meet, we do so in an atmosphere of kindness and understanding. May we be proud to meet in the same way that the early Church was known for.
Give thanks for all church meetings where the true and whole Gospel of Christ is proclaimed. Ask that this would continue and that those who have fallen away from this practice to fit in with worldly opinions would be given the courage to repent, showing that they serve God and not the gods of society. Pray for young families who attend the East and bring their children to creche, Sunday School and Girls’ brigade. Ask that they would be encouraged and that we would always welcome young and old to join our church family.
Friday August 30th
Jesus gave them this command, ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water but in a few days, you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit’, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1: 4,5 and 8.
As we come near the end of this opportunity of looking through the facts of the opening of Christ’s church following the day of Pentecost, we see that the apostles were commanded to spread the Good News of the salvation, which had been won for all who would believe on Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross of Calvary, and despite much opposition, that is what they did, and from that firm foundation, we have inherited the church of today. But our commitment to maintaining all of the fundamentals which had been laid down for us, have permitted changes of interpretation, which have diluted the power of the Gospel. This has permitted false prophets to gradually nullify some of the essential parts of true belief. Dear Lord, we pray that you would send a time of true revival to all areas of our fallen world, to bring us nearer to you.
Give thanks again for those who have been in the church family for many years as congregation or as Deacons and Elders but who as now constrained by ill health or old age. Pray that they will still feel part of the East family and that we would endeavour to visit or call to share news so they never feel forgotten. Pray for medical staff, Street Pastors, security and Police who will be on the streets tonight and over the weekend that they would be kept safe as they try to help inebriated party goers.
Saturday August 31st
From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain, prophets and priests alike all practise deceit. This is what the Lord says, ‘Stand at the crossroads and look, ask where the ancient paths lie and walk in them and you will find rest for your souls.’ Jeremiah 6: 13 – 16.
On this last day of our meditations on the formation of the church and its decline, to how it is today, we have to sorrow at the backward steps which have taken place, especially in the 21st century. Here we are more and more aware that our church has lost its way, and instead of being known as – The land of the Book, we have become known as a minority, surrounded by an arrogant militant paganism. We have fallen far from how the ancient church was born and we must ever be eager for it to rise again. We need to seek the ancient paths of sincerity and enthusiasm of the spiritual ways which were so evident in the growing of the church. Are we trying to form our fellowships into living illustrations of how community life in Jesus is like? Lord, bless all our endeavours to awaken our sleepy church fellowships.
Give thanks for the work Reach4Reality helping people with conditions like autism through various platforms aiming to promote healthy physical, mental and spiritual lives despite limitations. Let us be impassioned in our prayers for the governing bodies of our land, that sense would prevail in decisions made. That leaders would be selected who have integrity, ability to govern fairly and that all who serve in Westminster and Holyrood would be encouraged to act in the interests of everyone and not for their own self glory.
Bible Readings and Prayer Points submitted by Sam and Ann MacDonald