Acts 4:23 – 5:11

Readings for this week June 8 – 12
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Calling On The Name of the Lord

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:23-31

This initial prayer of the community of Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem has one central focus that is unmissable: that God himself is working out his plans. He is in charge. He is their Lord, and they look to him because he is moving, he is working to bring about his purposes in the world – just as he has always been doing. The church’s prayer is founded on the conviction that the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus were ordained and intended by God himself. The fact that God is continuing to work out his purposes for his people and his creation informs everything that they pray for. They prayer for God’s will to be done, and that their actions, their lives – their attempts to live out the new life they have in Christ – will align with God’s purposes.

Their main concern is for the spread of the gospel, and when they call upon the name of the Lord to act in power in their lives, it is so that Jesus may be revealed to others through their message. Concerns for their own safety and comfort while spreading this message do not get a mention. Their focus is on being obedient to God and spreading his gospel message and their prayers are that this might happen through their witness. And God answers their prayers: ‘And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness’ (verse 31). This should be the focus of our prayers also.

Questions to Consider
How are God’s promises working themselves out through your prayers? How have you seen this happening lately?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for your presence, for always being with us, even closer than our nearest breath away. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Generous Lifestyle

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:32-37

Haven’t we been before? These verses seem very familiar, possibly even downright repetitious, being very similar to the little summary of the inner life of ‘the church’ we read near the end of Acts chapter 2. Yet immediately following this second summary we are given two contrasting examples of attitudes towards community life and in particular the practice of sharing property for the sake of the poor and marginalised. Although the (soon to be covered) story of Ananias and Sapphira is longer and, perhaps, more memorable, we shouldn’t let it distract us from the more important story of Barnabas and his generosity. In verses 23-35 we see the pattern of the church’s life described and laid out; then we see two illustrations, one positive and one negative, of what actually happened in reality.

This description of the church’s communal life follows on immediately from verse 31, from yesterday’s reading, in which they are all filled with the Holy Spirit. This highlights the fact that the giving of the Spirit led not only to highly impactful, powerful preaching, but was also the catalyst for the generosity of the early believers towards others and their love for one another. The Spirit fostered fellowship and generosity, the two hallmarks of the early church that spoke most powerfully to the surrounding culture. They did things differently, they lived a different way. They were generous to anyone in need, not to those they were honour-bound to or clients of, and not to those who would (or could) one day reciprocate. Generosity was based on God’s love for all, not the worthiness of the recipient.

Questions to Consider
What would it be like if the church lived this out today?

Prayer
Lord God, help me be a continual encouragement to others in all I do. Help me see the ways in which I can support others in what they do and who they are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – A Bump in the Road

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 5:1-6

Here’s where everything suddenly screeches to a halt, the first big bump in the road. Luke does not shy away from recording the difficulties the early church experienced. It isn’t all sunshine and light, laughter and love. Sometimes things went horribly wrong, and in a very public way. The newly minted community of believers didn’t always get things right. The generosity of the believers that we have seen up to this point (especially in chapters 2 and 4) is now contrasted by the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Now, Peter makes it very clear that selling possessions and donating the profits was not mandatory. It was not compulsory; Ananias and Sapphira freely chose to sell their property. Unfortunately they also freely chose not to be truthful about it. Their sin was primarily not greed – but this played a big part in what they did. They lied. They were hypocrites. They wanted the honour and prestige of being sacrificially generous without the inconvenience of actually being sacrificially generous!

God hates hypocrisy. Peter recognised that allowing such falsehood to creep into the church would ultimately ruin fellowship and dishonour God. The ultimate reason for truthfulness is that we serve a God who is truthful. The East African Revival tradition has an expression, ‘to live in a house without ceiling or walls’. Transparent living, before God and before others, calls us to be real about who we are, how we live, and how we treat people. The alternative is to be one ‘mask’ relating to another ‘mask’. God invites us to real encounters with him and with each other.

Question to Consider
What are the benefits to being in a community of people who are known for being real and upfront with each other?

Prayer
Father God, help me recognise how much you value truthfulness. Help me always be honest in the way I represent myself to others. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – A Very Different World

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 5:7-11

We have certainly entered a different world of thought in this story, one very different from today. The world of the early church was a world that took sin incredibly seriously, a world in which the unfaithfulness, hypocrisy and selfishness that resulted in someone sinning against God might very well see them literally struck down. The possibility of serious consequences for our sin against God and against the community of his people was a reality for the early followers of Jesus. Promises matter. Faithfulness to the community of God’s people – and to God himself  – were important, and financial matters were included in this, especially when serving and supporting the poor was involved. They took such things very seriously. So did God. We should too.

Our promises to God matter and the financial commitments we make are included in this. The promises we have made to God we need to honour. God sees us honoring these gifts or not honoring them, just like Barnabas on the one hand and Ananias and Sapphira on the other. There is power in keeping or not keeping our financial promises. Yes, God absolutely understands when our circumstances change, and he is right there with us in the midst of those changes, but he also calls us to trust in him above all else, not the cultural mores and touchstones enticing us with their promises of wealth and security. Here we show who is lord in our lives.

Questions to Consider
What has God been saying to you about your finances lately? How have you responded to this?

Prayer
Heavenly Lord, show me how to be a good, faithful steward of all you have given me. Teach me to trust in you more than the advice of the latest guru. May I be guided by your Spirit, and not the market. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Faithfulness of God – No Matter What

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 89

The Hebrew word for faithfulness or trustworthiness, especially with regards to being depended upon to uphold and fulfil obligations, appears seven times in this psalm, and that is not including the times when it is used in an adjectival form. This psalm is about God’s covenant with the House of David and the psalmist’s belief in the faithfulness of God to the House of David and to the promises he has made to his people, and was composed during a time when the fortunes of the nation had taken a disastrous turn, and when Israel’s enemies had been victorious over her and were now in the ascendency. Yet the psalmist remains confident in God’s promises in the midst of the current tribulation, and upholds belief in God’s faithfulness in the face of disaster.

The psalm proclaims God’s cosmic power and the ease with which he could vanquish Israel’s enemies at any moment, should he choose to do so. The belief in God’s covenant with Israel and his selection of this nation as his chosen people is reiterated – Israel’s straitened circumstances, fruit of her disobedience and covenant unfaithfulness, in no way negates the agreement between God and his people – and the psalmist calls on God to remember his covenant with his people, cease directing his anger at them and restore them to their former position. The psalmist sees God as someone who is known for being faithful and keeping his promises, and who will do so.

Questions to Consider
How has God shown his faithfulness to you? How has he rescued you at times when you were beginning to think he had forgotten you?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, you are the great promise keeper, the one above all who can be trusted to remain faithful, to be true to your promises and to always be there for your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)