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Brad Foote

Acts Chapter 17

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Acts 17:
11“And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message.  They searched the Scriptures day after day to check up on Paul and Silas, to see if they were really teaching the truth.  12 As a result, many Jews believed, as did some of the Prominent Greek women and many men.”

Explore //
This is another amazing chapter describing what’s happening on this second missionary journey of Paul with his sidekick’s and mentees, Silas and Timothy. You will notice that Paul always goes first to the Synagogue in each place – Thessalonica, Berea and Athens.  He does this for a number of reasons, but primarily to fulfil the covenantal promise in Genesis 12:2 – where God says to Abraham that ‘I’m going to bless you so that you will bless the rest’ (Brad Foote version). So, Paul wants the Jews and those who are God-fearing Gentiles or believers in the Jewish faith to hear this Good News about Jesus the Messiah first.  He wants to prove to them that the Torah, the Jewish scriptures and the prophecies have all been pointing to Jesus (17:3,11, 17).  A key component in Paul’s preaching is centred around the scriptural proof of the ‘prophecies about the sufferings of the Messiah and his rising from the dead’ (3).  When Paul gets to Athens, we find him expanding his evangelistic scope beyond the Synagogue and into the foray of the ‘public square’ (17).  There he engages in the social custom of public debate with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.  This is awesome and this practice demonstrates to us that Paul was extremely versatile and he was willing to preach the Gospel to not just the Jews and the God-fearers, but he’s on a mission to the world/ends of the earth.

Apply //

Paul’s modus operandi and evangelistic practices can teach us a lot at Newlife as we respond to the four building blocks or ‘Strategic Goals’ that we’ve identified in Pathways (p.10).

  1. Developing Leaders, 2. Healthy Growth, 3. Planting Churches/Campuses, 4. Becoming a Lighthouse Church

I’ll reflect on Becoming a Lighthouse Church: – The Thessalonian Church became a lighthouse church with a regional and cultural influence.  We find this in 1 Thessalonians 1:7-9.
Over the years, Newlife has grown in its influencing and lighthouse capacity.  Eighteen years ago, I went for an overseas trip to the US, to see growing and developing Churches in America such as Saddleback with Rick Warren, Willow Creek, the Crystal Cathedral and a number of other great churches in Alabama, Pensacola and Atlanta. I went with 20 other Uniting Churches leaders and Pastors.  The trip was led by Rev. Ken Anderson who was at that time the lead minister of Robina surfers Paradise Uniting Church, which now is called Newlife Uniting Church.  So, we (at Newlife) have always been blessed with the responsibility and privilege of being a Lighthouse Church.  I’m so thankful that Stu and the Elders of Newlife are taking seriously that calling/responsibility.  Stu often says, you need to pick, “your lane”.  Now I too, am part of that responsibility of being a leader in this Lighthouse Church where we are seeing ‘more people, more like Jesus’.  Luke says it this way in Acts 17:6 – “Paul and Silas have turned the rest of the world upside down, and now they are here disturbing our city” (v.6).  Maybe the city leaders of Brisbane will be saying that in 12 months’ time after Newlife Brisbane has commenced.  Let’s be praying for that response!
How are you leaning in passionately to these ‘building blocks’ or ‘strategic goals’?  Don’t waste the opportunities that God is giving you here at Newlife.  Pray that Holy Spirit reveals your gifts for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Pray//
God, you have created the world and everything in it. The nations have been created by you. You are a world changing, God.  You have redeemed the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Him, we live and move and have our being. By your Holy Spirit we have our breath and you satisfy every need.  We humbly submit ourselves as part of your church here at Newlife into your plans and purposes for the future.  Feed and lead us we pray. AMEN

Acts Chapter 16

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Acts 16:
 14“Lydia was a worshipper of God.  As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying.  15 She was baptised along with other members of her household, and she asked us to be her guests.  If you agree that I am faithful to the Lord, she said, come and stay at my home.  And she urged us until we did.”
30”Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with your entire household.” 32Then they shared the word of the Lord with them and all who lived in the household.  33That same hour the jailer washed their wounds, and he and everyone in his household were immediately baptised. 34 Then he brought them into his house and set a meal before them.  He and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.”  

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This is an amazing chapter which describes a multiplicity of experiences in the first part of Paul’s Second Missionary journey.  We’re introduced to a young disciple, Timothy whose parents were from a mixed marriage of Jew and Greek (1).  The Holy Spirit engages with Paul and Silas leading and guiding them in the missionary journey they should take (6-8).  Paul has a vision that leads them on a detour to Macedonia. They minister in the Roman colony of Philippi where they meet Lydia, who is a ‘worshipper of God’ and a merchant of expensive purple cloth.  The Lord opens her heart to the Gospel and she accepts Jesus.  Paul & Silas baptise Lydia and her family.  She extends hospitality to them.

They have a run in with a demon (18) that is possessing a slave girl (16).  A mob attack and beat Paul & Silas (22) and they are thrown into prison (23).  During the night as Paul & Silas are worshipping and praising God, there is an earthquake and the chains fall off and the prison doors are flung open.  Paul and Silas refuse to escape and the jailer is astounded.  “What must I do to be saved?” he calls out (30). “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with your entire household (31)”.  The response is significant.  The jailer and his entire household believe in the Lord Jesus and they are baptised (33).

Apply //

Newlife is a church that seems to be as diverse as the early church that Paul and Silas (and the other apostles) were pioneering.  We have a mix of cultural and racial backgrounds, old and young and every age in between.  Acts 16 shows that there are women and men and their families (obviously including children) who are coming to salvation in Christ as Paul, Silas, young Timothy and Luke were preaching and sharing the gospel.  We have our ‘Lydias’ and her household, our ‘jailer’ and his household, our ‘Cornelius’ and his family (Acts 10:24,11:14), who are also coming to faith in Christ at Newlife.

As the Families Minister at Newlife, I’m privileged to meet and engage with people and their families who are at many different stages along the faith journey.  Last Sunday I was privileged to minister alongside 3 very different families who had brought their children for Baptism.  Stu in 2006 shared a ‘Dream for Newlife’ in which he began with the words, “Every month we will baptize those who the Lord has added daily to our numbers,” and a little later, “children in our community will beg their parents to come to the church their friends are telling them all about”. I’m finding that this is happening all the time at Newlife.

When I meet with children, teenagers, young adults and adults for Baptism preparation, or those who seek preparation for Thanksgiving/Dedication, I’m grateful to God for the multiplicity of people and the different families that I meet on their faith journey.  Over the past decade, we have baptised, and reaffirmed the Baptism of hundreds of people of all ages.  As we REAP through the Book of Acts, I’m seeing a mirror reflecting back to me of these ‘God only’ stories and testimonies of Grace, salvation and redemption.  It’s humbling and magnificent to be part of this salvic work of God which is moving over, in and around this church as we are seeing ‘more people, more like Jesus’.

Pray//

Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us at Newlife with the joy and care of children:  May your Holy Spirit give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we raise our children, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Saviour Jesus Christ.  AMEN

Acts Chapter 15

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Acts 15: 36-41

38“But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them (Acts 13:13) in Pamphylia and had not shared in their work.  39Their disagreement over this was so sharp that they separated.  Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus.  40Paul chose Silas, and the believers sent them off, entrusting them to the Lord’s grace. So, they travelled throughout Syria and Cilicia to strengthen the churches there.

Explore //
Stu preached and amazing message on the first 36 verses of this chapter on Sunday (10th June 2018).  You may like to listen to his message either on the App or the website (www.church.nu).  If you haven’t heard the sermon, it’s a cracker as they say.  It’s highly instructional and inspirational and tackles the issue of conflict in the church and how the Apostles had to deal with conflict in the early church right from the beginning.

My reading of Acts 15 today stirred me to reflect on the way that Luke says that Paul and Barnabas had a ‘sharp disagreement’ (I think that Luke is softening this a bit).  I reckon that the disagreement was a real wing dinger.  I can’t imagine either of these two men having soft personalities.  It was Barnabas who actually brought Paul ‘out of the shadows after his conversion, into the light (Acts 9:27ff)’ and stood up for him when everyone was doubting Saul/Paul’s conversion.  Barnabas and Paul have evangelised the area beyond Samaria as recorded in their first missionary journey (Acts 13,14,15).  They’d experienced so much together, both good and bad, for the sake of the Good News of Jesus Christ and for the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles.  What I noted here was that this disagreement however didn’t end the Acts 1:8 mandate – as we call it at Newlife.

Apply //
I can learn a lot from this Chapter 15 – dealing with various conflicts as a church AND dealing with conflicts as an individual.  I love the response from the sending church in Antioch – they sent Paul and Silas AND Barnabas and John Mark off on their next missionary journey entrusting them to the Lord’s grace.  How awesome is that?  The conflict didn’t destroy the effectiveness of the Gospel.  In fact the effectiveness was multiplied and Barnabas now was moving into an area of ministry for himself.  The Holy Spirit and the Church entrusted them to the Lord’s grace.  I hope we can learn how to do this the next time we are in a conflict situation in the Church and in our relationships.

Pray//

Holy Spirit lead us to working towards healthy ways of dealing with conflict.  May we be ministers of your grace in every endeavour.  Instruct us through the Living Word, Jesus, with wisdom, love and forgiveness for the sake of your Gospel to offer life and salvation to all people, so they may come into relationship with Jesus our Shepherd and Lord.  God may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

AMEN

 

Acts Chapter 14

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Acts 13: 26  “Finally they returned to by ship to Antioch of Syria, where their journey had begun and where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work that they had completed.  Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported about their trip, telling all that God had done and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too.”

Explore //
What an incredible journey Paul and Barnabas have been on in this their first missionary journey.   They’d begun in Antioch of Syria, moved through Asia Minor visiting Iconium, Lystra, Derbe and Antioch of Pisidia and back where they started in Antioch of Syria. In some instances, they’ve been received with joy and they made many disciples (14:21) and in other situations, they were attacked and stoned (14:5, 19).  They were given power by God to ‘do miraculous signs and wonders (14:3, 9-10)’, which demonstrated that something greater than their own efforts were at work.  As they travelled ‘preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord’ (14:3), Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in every church and prayed for them with fasting, turning them over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had come to trust (14:23).  The missionary zeal displayed by Paul and Barnabas was very fruitful and was in direct keeping with the commission that Jesus had given in Matt 28:18-20. This is Acts 1:8 unfolding – “but when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.

Apply //
What a joy it is for me to be reading the Book of Acts chapter by chapter and holding the Gospel up as a lens to look through, against the vision and values of our Church at Newlife.  One of the Building Blocks of our Church is to plant other Churches, just as Paul and Barnabas are doing in this chapter.  We are in the prayerful and strategic process of doing that now as Mike and Sarah are calling their ‘Barnabas’s and other leaders’ to consider joining them in planting Newlife Brisbane later this year.  Another of our Values is to be a church that is Developing Leaders/Making Disciples.  Paul and Barnabas did this in every community where the Lord sent them to preach the Good News – “in Derbe and making many disciples” (14:21).  Brenden and Newlife College are doing this as more and more people respond to the opportunity to study the Bible and develop their understanding about theology and all that impacts our time, place and culture with regards to our faith and the world we live in.  Our Small Groups are also the little power pockets where ‘Discipleship and Disciple making’ should be occurring.  I love being in two Small Groups that regularly keep me accountable and growing in my faith.  Paul and Barnabas were in this together.  That’s such a wonderful example of the necessity of doing ministry together, rather than being a ‘lone ranger’.  We’re all part of the Body of Christ …. I guess that’s why we are called ‘Christians’ (little christs)

Pray//
Heavenly Father, through the power of your Holy Spirit, give us courage to be your witnesses in Jerusalem (in our personal settings/families and as a Church on the Gold Coast), in Judea (in our broader communities of work/social and political settings and as a Church in Brisbane/Qld), in Samaria (in every area of influence that we have personally and as a Christian Church in Australia and particularly within in the Uniting Church as we approach the upcoming Assembly in July)  and to the ends of the earth (in everything and every endeavour that you call me to do and for our church as we support our Mission Partners around the world.  In Jesus name, AMEN

Acts Chapter 13

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“One day as these men were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work I have for them.’  So, after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way”. Acts 13:2,3

Explore //

Chapter 13 is another pivotal chapter in this exciting, unfolding story of God working through the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

A few things that jumped out at me on my way through Chapter 13.

Firstly, I noticed that Barnabas has been a mentor and guide for Saul, up to this point.  Luke introduced Barnabas in Acts 4:36 as ‘the Son of Encouragement’, who was from the Tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.  He was generous, kind and caring (4:37).  Since Saul’s conversion in Chapter 9, Barnabas has been Saul’s constant companion and it was Barnabas who convinced the apostles in Jerusalem that Saul’s conversion was legit and he wasn’t trying to kill them (9:27,28).  Barnabas and Saul have spent a significant period of time together – in Antioch for a year (11:26), a short mission trip to Jerusalem (11:30, 12:25) and then back to Antioch of Syria for their Holy Spirit launch into their ‘First Missionary Journey’.

Secondly, what was happening in the Church in Antioch of Syria?  It’s worth noting that in the Antioch Church, the believers first were given the name, ‘Christians’ or “little Christ’s” (11:26).  It would seem to me that the Church in Antioch was experiencing an incredible time of transition and growth.  It was a nexus for people from many backgrounds (13:1).  It was focused on worshiping the Lord.  Fasting was practised (13:2).  The Holy Spirit was active in the form of a ‘person’.  ‘The Holy Spirit said…’ (13:2) and ‘Sent out by the Holy Spirit, Saul and Barnabas went…’ (13:4).

Thirdly, in verse 9, Luke identifies that Saul’s name has changed to Paul.  This is another of the (not so) subtle markers of God acting in transformation.  People’s names and natures are transformed and changed by God. The Holy Spirit has ‘commissioned’ Saul into mission and now he has a new name for his new role.  Also note that they are dedicated or commissioned by their ‘sending leaders’ (13:3) with prayer and the laying on of hands.

Fourthly, Barnabas & Paul arrive at another Antioch – Antioch of Pisidia (13:14).  Paul preaches his ‘first missionary sermon’ in the Synagogue to Jews and devout Gentiles (16-41).  It’s a cracker and has a powerful effect on those who hear the message. He finishes with this summary  –   “Brothers, listen!  In this man Jesus, there is forgiveness for your sins.  Everyone who believes in him is freed from all guilt and declared right with God – something the Jewish law could never do (13:38,39).

Finally, the last sentence in this chapter – ‘and the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (13:52).

Apply //
Apply – Who is your mentors and who are you mentoring?
Are you committed to regular worship? What spiritual disciplines do you practice? – regular quiet times, REAP, J35, Fasting, Small Group, prayer etc?  Do you know Holy Spirit as an active person in your life?
Can you identify or articulate your transformation, your change of name or nature?Are you filled with Joy and The Holy Spirit?  If not, pray to God and speak to someone who you trust will be able to lead you to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Pray//
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are amazing.  You transformed Saul from being a God hater and a murderer, into Paul, the man who loved you with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.  Please transform me too.  May others see me more like Jesus.   AMEN

Acts Chapter 12

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“When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish leaders, he arrested Peter during the Passover celebration and imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each.  Herod’s intention was to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover.  But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.”
Acts 12:3-5

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Peter finds himself in the midst of Passover, and he’s in prison.  His life is at risk. He’s not going anywhere and he’s under the regime of 16 guards.

He’s got some time to reflect back on the last Passover that he’d experienced, possibly 12 months earlier.  On that occasion, Peter was in an upper room with Jesus and the other 11 disciples. It was a time when Jesus broke the bread in a new way (this is my body, broken for you) and shared the cup after supper with renewed meaning and purpose (this is the cup of the new covenant, poured out for the sin of the world).  He’s witnessed Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane (Father if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me.  BUT not my will, may yours be done. Luke 22:42) and being handed over to the guards by Judas, who’d betrayed Jesus with a kiss.  Peter probably recounted with shame his own betrayal as he tried to be invisible around the fire in the High Priest’s courtyard as Jesus was being put on trial.  And now, Peter himself is about to be put on trial…. “BUT….. while Peter was in Prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him” (Acts 12:5).

Apply //

 

Pray//

 

APPLY//  Don’t you love a good BUT?  BUT while Peter was in Prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.  This verse jumped out at me because Newlife is a church that wants to be committed to the Value of Fervent Prayer.  We have some people who are committed to prayer morning, noon and night.  BUT we don’t have the whole church committed to fervent prayer, just yet.  I’m part of the BUT.  The BUT that has an excuse for almost everything!!  This is a challenge for me as I know the power of God in my head, BUT I’m often preoccupied with distractions and other ‘busy-ness/business’ that reduce my attention to the deeper connection and relationship that I could have with God through prayer.  Last week I was on a Presbytery Retreat where I experienced the benefit of a deeper, longer, consistent period of focused and concentrated time with God.  It was good for my body, mind and soul.  I’m experiencing a deeper desire for FERVENT PRAYER.

 

PRAYER//  Thank you Jesus that your life demonstrated a life of prayer and deep connection with your heavenly Father.  Abba, (Father) deepen my relationship with you.  Spirit, let me hear your invitation to join the dance of your Spirit each day. We pray that we can be a Church that is deeply committed to Fervent Prayer, so that the prison doors will be opened and people will be set free, through your power.  Thank you for an amazing night of prayer and worship last week at J35. You are an awesome God.

AMEN

Acts Chapter 11

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Acts 11:1-18

Explore //

Since the beginning of Acts, Peter has been on a huge learning curve.  The Holy Spirit has empowered Peter in ways that he couldn’t have imagined four (4) years earlier when he was an almost anonymous hot headed fisherman on the sea of Galilee, before he met Jesus.

Now, In Acts, he’s a fisherman of people, a witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ – first to the Jews (Acts 2) and now, in ever increasing impact, to the Gentiles (Acts 10:36-43).

Acts 11 finds Peter explaining himself to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem (11:2) about his actions in Caesarea where he baptised a Roman Officer (Cornelius) and his whole household (10:47).  Peter had a vision where God told him that Cornelius and his household would be saved (11:14).  It was a tangible sign that demonstrated God’s open invitation and acceptance of Gentiles (11:9) into God’s family.  The sign and seal of this truth was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (11:15,16) that was poured out on Cornelius and his family.  Peter remembers Jesus’ words, “John baptised with/in water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit” (11:16).  He continues to state his case that the Gentiles are being welcomed into God’s family in a way that they’d never recognised before.  His testimony is received by the Jerusalem believers with joyful praise and they say “God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of turning from sin and receiving eternal life” (11:18).

Apply //

Yesterday at Newlife, we were privileged to share in the baptisms of 3 beautiful babies, all who are precious gifts from God to the 3 families represented there, all who are part of our Church.  Much of the story that we’ve read in Acts chapters 8-11 is framed in the praxis of what we did in worship yesterday as we participated in those baptisms.

Some of the words that Stu and I used in the Baptismal service said, “Baptism is a sign of new life in Christ Jesus, by water and the Holy Spirit we are brought into union with Christ in His death and resurrection.  In baptism, we are touched by the Holy Spirit, made members of the body of Christ, and called into His ministry in the world.” (excerpt from the Uniting Church in Australia, baptismal service)

As I reflect on this precis phrase by phrase, I’m reminded of who I am and whose I am, as a Baptised child of God.  I’m reminded of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit that filled and empowered me as a 19-year-old, with zeal and passion for the gospel.  I’m reminded that I’m not alone – that I’m part of a universal family that is not constrained or limited by time, space, ethnicity or geography.  I’m reminded that I’m called into mission and God’s ministry in the world, so that we will see ‘more people, more like Jesus’.

Pray//

Heavenly Father, forgive me of my sin.  Jesus, thank you for your love for the world and your saving grace.  Holy Spirit, baptise me anew with your love and power. Equip me in service for the Gospel.   Amen