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Sarah Hands

Acts Chapter 3

Whose Success?

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16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

Act 3:16

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Michael spoke last week about this chapter, with particular focus on the miracle. I would encourage you to go back and listen to that podcast if you want to explore what it looks like to experience the miraculous in your life. However, today I want to explore how we react when we experience success in our lives.

Peter walks into the temple with a man walking beside him who has been a paralytic for 40 years! The people who see this are rightly amazed, in awe and wonder, at the miracle that has taken place. However, Peter does not take any of the glory, he does not even take credit for the faith that he exercised, the faith that comes through him. He points on lookers to Jesus, in the name of Jesusthis man whom you see and know was made strong.

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As Christians, there is a notion that we live with excellence (Colossians 3:23).

This chapter makes me look at times in my life where I have achieved with excellence and been recognised by others. It may be as simple as achieving a personal goal, work goal, etc. Although I know that God has given me the gifts I have to work with, I have often taken the credit for my success.

My brother got a new job last year and within a short period became the top employee in terms of sales. Other staff members asked him “what is your secret”. He simply replied, “to be honest, I believe in God and that he has helped me to achieve this”.

This is not something I do well; today’s chapter has really challenged me to do this better in my life. Whether it is a miracle or success in our person lives, we be using every opportunity we have to point people to God.

It is so important we read the bible. I often read chapters that show how broken I am, but at the same time I have hope that even on days like today I am learning how to point people to God more throughout my life.

Pray//

God, thank you for your word that challenges me on how I am living for you. Thank you for the gifts you have given me and help me to use them to glorify you.

Acts Chapter 2

The Holy Spirit

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…I will pour out my Spirit…

Acts 2:18

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If you have not already noticed I read a lot of David Guzik commentary to make sure I am accurately exploring the text. I would highly recommend an app called Blue Letter Bible, which has this commentary along with many others. If you are not tech savvy, you can always do a google search for the chapter you want along with David Guzik’s name and you will find his commentary for free.

The entire chapter today is epic, but I love this small line within verse 18. David Guzik helps to identify that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit meant that God now offered salvation in a way previously unknown – to whoever calls on the name of the Lord, whether they are Jew or Gentile.

“That is to say, that great covenant promise, ‘Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved’, is meant for you, is meant for your children, is meant for Hottentots, is meant for Hindoos, is meant for Greenlanders, is meant for everybody to whom the Lord’s call is addressed.” – Spurgeon

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The Holy Spirit is God living inside of us; now available for all who call on the name of the Lord, as opposed to before the new covenant where certain people were filled for specific purposes.

I never want to take for granted the fact that I live in a time under the new covenant, with an incredible advocate to help me on my journey (John 14:16-18). Personally, the Holy Spirit often plays a role in my life. Every time I get a revelation from reading God’s word, every time a verse speaks wisdom into a situation I am facing, every time I witness the beauty of God through nature and every time I feel a small whisper in my heart encouraging me or challenging me to do something.

However, there are times when I am too busy thinking about everything else that I cannot hear from the Holy Spirit. I am still on the journey of making space and time to allow the Holy Spirit space to move. Likewise, I would encourage you to consider how you are making space in your life for a Holy Spirit moment.

Pray//

God, help me today to turn down the distractions in my life for a moment and listen to what the Holy Spirit might want to say to me.

Acts Chapter 1

Being Present

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7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8

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Here the disciples ask Jesus if this is the moment where the kingdom of God will be restored.  But Jesus does not give them a timeframe. He simply says that it is for the Father, who has the authority, to know the exact date and time.

If they had found out immediately, “it might overly discourage them in the work they had to do right then, and might make them think less of the aspect of the Kingdom of God that was present with them.”

– David Guzik

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How often do I think in the present? Moreover, do I think in the present when it comes to the Kingdom of God and sharing His love to the ends of the earth?

It is now officially the winter of 2018. If the start of the year was not busy, it is now! If I am not careful, I can find myself caught up in the motions of life: waking up, fulfilling my to-do list, worrying about tomorrow and going to sleep. At times, I think “to the end of the earth” can wait until tomorrow. Alternatively, tomorrow’s tomorrow.

The problem is, when this happens, I need to be thinking more about my day-to-day, my present. How am I loving God today, how am I living every step as a follower of Christ? How am I loving people and sharing God’s love with them today.

Because none of us know when the Kingdom of God will come. And when it does, I pray I do not have to make excuses that even resemble that of being, “to busy worrying about tomorrows to-do list”.

Pray//

God, help me to be in the present, praising you throughout moments of my present day and loving people here and now.

Luke Chapter 24

Don’t Stop Believing

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19-24 …Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

25-27 Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

Luke 24:22-27 MSG

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Here Jesus is talking to two Emmaus disciples he has run into after his resurrection. The scripture tells us he kept them from recognising him during this journey. Once again, David Guzik helps us to explore these verses when he articulates that Jesus wanted to know from them what He wants to know from us today: can we believe without seeing with our own eyes? In verse 25, Jesus says that their lack of belief was less to do with their head and more to do with their hearts. So often we can think that obstacles standing between us and belief are in the head, but they are actually in the heart.

These two disciples were practically saying to Jesus “well we had our hopes up and it’s now the third day and we personally haven’t seen Jesus with our eyes. So yeah, that’s what’s up, random guy we just met, who has obviously been under a rock for three days” (pun intended).

Jesus responds, making sure to let them know how thick headed they are; why couldn’t they simply believe what scripture said?

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:29

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I am young and have had a blessed life. However, over the past year Michael and I have definitely been through harder times. This chapter has reminded me of the importance of understanding that I do not have to see it in my own life to believe it. I see it in others stories – again another reason we need to be vulnerable with one another (if you read my past posts). Personally…

Ø  I believe God is good, even when life doesn’t seem good.

Ø  I believe God is just, even when my circumstance seems unfair.

Ø  I believe God is loving, even when I experience loneliness and loss.

Just because there may be moments in time where we do not see it (because we live in a broken world), does not mean we stop believing it to be true.

Pray//

God, may I always remember who you are and what your word says to be true, believing without having to see firsthand.

Luke Chapter 23

Death of Jesus

NOTE: How we approach scripture is important. I was so frustrated with this chapter when I first read it. I have heard it read more times than I can count in church and I remember thinking, ‘no revelation… of course, I know all there is to this’. Boy was I wrong. The Holy Spirit challenged me big time on how I approach the word of God. May I never again approach it with human familiarity. Once my heart changed and I read it again the Holy Spirit revealed new revelations to me in beautiful ways.

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44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. – Luke 23:44-46

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The She Reads Truth in-text devotionals (in my bible) talk about the importance of us refusing to look away in this chapter. This can be hard as we think we either are too familiar or skim over the parts that are too gruesome for us.

“As Christ followers we need to circle up at the base of the cross often” – She Reads Truth

We need to remember the price that was paid. Jesus paid in full debt the sin we owed, it was finished, the eternal purpose of the cross. The veil was torn and we now have free access to grace by the cross. May we always remember the price paid.

“…God’s grace and forgiveness, while free to the recipient, are always costly for the giver…” – Timothy Keller

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As a Christian I need to come to this chapter often, I need to come to the foot of the cross often. It’s important I remember what was done for me. If I simply gloss over what Jesus endured then I miss something huge; that there was no cost He was unwilling to pay to rescue me.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. – John 3:16-17

Through Jesus death on the cross, the veil was torn and we now have free access to grace by the cross. So let’s never forget the cost; the price we could not pay. The price that means we now get to spend eternity with our creator.

Pray//

Jesus, teach me not to look away, but to recognise what you did for me, so that I can spend eternity with you.

Luke Chapter 22

Return to Him

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31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” – Luke 22:31-32

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I love this verse and the reminder that we serve a powerful God. David Guzik emphasizes that Satan had to ask permission to sift Peter. Satan wanted to destroy Peter. What prevents this from happening is not Peter himself, but the fact that Jesus prays on his behalf. This is awesome! Jesus intercedes on our behalf.

“Peter’s faith would falter, but not fail. Jesus did not see the temporary lapse that was to come as a failure of faith, because He knew that Peter would return to Him.” – David Guzik

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As a Christian, I love Jesus and want to live a life that demonstrations this. Unfortunately, the occupational hazard of being human is sin. My denial may not be as verbal as Peter’s, but choosing to not give into the desires of my flesh is a daily battle (hence we are called to take up our cross daily, not weekly or annually).

In saying this, we can draw immense hope from this passage; we will falter, but we must never fail. Peter faltered but he knew the importance of returning immediately.

Once we have returned we need to strengthen others. This is something God has been challenging me with, to be more vulnerable in sharing times when I have faltered and returned.

Joyce Meyer says, “Satan wishes to trouble you and toss you about… in order to bring your faithfulness to me [God] to decay”.

So to conclude I am encouraged knowing that:

Trouble will come but I will take heart knowing that I may falter but I will not fail because Jesus is interceding for me. Being tossed about sucks but I will remember, “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)

Therefore, I will not fall into a spiral of guilt but I will return to Him who loves me immeasurably more than I can imagine. And I will strengthen others on their journey through my vulnerability as “…iron sharpens iron…” (Proverbs 27:17)

Pray//

God, strengthen me through times of sifting, and make me vulnerable, so others will be encouraged on their journey.

Luke Chapter 21

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5 Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6 “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” – Luke 21:5-6 NIV

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David Guzik talks about how the temple was the centre of life for the Jews, speaking against the temple could even be considered blasphemy. It radiated magnificence, covered in gold plates that were blinding to look at when the sun shone on them. However, as great as it was, Jesus never hesitated to claim that He was greater.

Admiring the temple in itself was not wrong, but the Jews had begun to idolise the temple; it meant more to them than God Himself did.

“Good things can become the worst idols” – David Guzik

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The past four years I have been the Film and Television Coordinator at a prominent Anglican College on the Gold Coast. Recently I have made the decision to resign, as I believe God is calling me into a different season of my life. If I am being completely honest, God has been calling me out of this position for a little longer than I would like to admit. I can only put my extensive delay down to the fact that I put so much of my identity and worth into my employment.

I still have a few weeks left before I leave and there are days I wonder if I am making the right decision. Nevertheless, those feelings come from a place of letting my job mean more to me than God Himself. What I am accomplishing in this position is good, but it has become an idol in my life and maybe part of what God wants to teach me in this new season is the renewing of my identity in Him.

Pray//

God, show me areas in my life where I have put other idols above you.