A shock to the system

One point that came to my attention from today’s verse, (Acts 22:8 – ‘”Who are you Lord?” I asked. “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.’) is that Jesus takes on Himself the persecution of His followers – how amazing is that?

Another point which Selwyn makes which builds upon yesterday’s study concerning the Lordship of Jesus, is: “The thing, so I believe, that had such a profund effect upon Saul of Tarsus (Paul) was not the blinding light but the illumination that came to his soul concerning Jesus of Nazareth; now he saw that he was none other than Lord of the universe. It was a shock to both his spiritual and physical systems.”

Saul, a man who knew a lot about God in terms of what was revealed in the Old Testament was ‘blind’ to the reality of Jesus (and ‘deaf’, as he most likely heard Stephen’s address to the Sanhedrin) – in a very real sense his old sight needed to be extinguished  so that he could clearly see Jesus, as Saviour and Lord. It’s also important to note that Jesus choose Paul – Paul was not seeking a relationship with Jesus at that time – but was actively persecuting His followers – how great it is, that it’s not left to us alone to seek a relationship with God – else, who would be saved?

The key doctrine

Selwyn introduces another distinctive of the Early Church: ‘the emphasis which the believers placed on the Lordship of Christ‘, that is, Jesus is the one and only God. God of all creation - He created time and all that is.

I really don’t understand how any ‘true’ Christian could be confused about this issue; in regard to, ‘there are some who claim that it is possible for us to take Jesus as Saviour at the moment of our conversion and then receive Him as Lord at a later stage … ‘. Those who hold to this type of belief, obviously don’t have a relationship with the Holy Spirit – that is, they have not been baptised!

As Selwyn states: ‘The recognition that Jesus Christ is God (and therefore Lord of all) is the one and only door into salvation. We could never have been saved by the intervention of a created being, such as an angel (or a very good man, my inclusion). It took God to save us. And without this admission – that Jesus is the Lord – there is simply no way into the kingdom of God.’

It is the mark of the Anti-Christ to attack this key doctrine. That’s why books like the Da Vinci code are so popular in our time – it’s what many itching ears want to hear – do you agree?

Power breaks through

Selwyn makes a very important point, and one which I entirely agree with, is that we don’t pray enough!

This point is emphasised in the following sentences taken from today’s study: “It might sound a simplistic diagnosis to some, but in my opinion the main reason why the Church of today does not experience the same degree of power at work in its midst as did the Early Church is because it does not give the same amount of time to prayer. … When we pray a little then a little of God’s power breaks through; when we pray a lot then a lot of His power breaks through. It is as simple as that.”

The prayer is also excellent and worth repeating here: “O God, show me again that the reason why You want Your Church to pray is not to bring Your purposes in line with ours, but to bring our purposes in line with Yours. Forgive us that we so easily forget that. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Our prayer is often, neither hot nor cold – it reflects the type of relationship that we, in general, have with Jesus, Our Lord: much of the prayers in Church are just mindless repetition of what has been printed many years ago – and other prayers just follow a standard recipe/structure – is it any wonder that many of our prayers appear to blow around like autumn leaves – a bit of a rustle but not much more. Thankfully, we have a God overflowing with compassion and He patiently leads us in the right direction – do you agree?

The Church goes ‘catholic’

This is another great study - as is, the central verse (Acts 13:3) for meditation: ‘So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.’

Selwyn writes the following: “As they did so (fasted and prayed) , the Holy Spirit spoke to them, indicating that He had a special work to do through Barnabas and Saul (Paul) … once the Spirit had made known His will, they continued to fast and pray. How committed these early disciples were to waiting before God in believing prayer. If this same situation occurred in today’s Church, upon hearing the Spirit’s voice we would no doubt rise to take immediate action. These believers, however, sensed that Baranabas and Saul were about to enter an historic moment, and they needed to be sure everything they did was in tune with the will of God. We should be aware that sometimes hasty action is worse than no action.”

I must admit that this is one of my main faults – as soon as I sense the will of God for a particular area of my life, I’m often off and running – the hardest lesson for me is to be patient and with believing prayer, wait for ‘the right time’ .

So, the prayer for today as far as I’m concerned – is right on target: “O Father, teach me how to take every step in the atmosphere of believing prayer. And save me from doing anything in a rush. Slow me down, dear Lord, that I might keep pace with Your purposes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

An additional point from today’s study, is that whenever there is something of importance to pray for, that ‘fasting’, goes hand in hand with believing prayer – do you agree that fasting is not often practised in today’s Church?

Locked in and locked out

Today, Selwyn continues on the great topic of prayer and refers to Peter’s release from prison, Acts 12:1-19.

“When some of the Christians in Jerusalem heard that Peter had been imprisoned, they immediately went to the house of Mary, the mother of Mark, and began to pray. They prayed with great fervour and concern – so much so that God sent an angel into the prison to expedite Peter’s escape.”

Upon his escape – he goes to Mary’s house – the reception is probably not what he expected – in her excitement, the servant girl leaves Peter on the wrong side of the locked door and runs to tell the others & they respond: ‘You’re out of your mind,’ (Acts 12:15).

Selwyn, summarises the reaction of those ‘who were earnestly praying to God for him (Peter)’ Acts 12, verse 5, as follows: ‘How strange that those who had gathered to pray found it hard to believe that God had actually answered their prayers. Strange, but yet quite normal for saints! I’m extremely glad God hears and answers those prayers that so often are mixed with unexpectancy and doubt.’

Today, another great prayer: ‘Father, I am so grateful; that You answer my prayers even when You foresee that I am going to react with incredulity and surprise when the answer comes. Thank You for Your steadfast love and faithfulness. Where would I be without it? Amen.’

Paul learns to pray

As I’m in total agreement with Selwyn on the subject of prayer – there’s not much to add.

I really like the following: ‘(The apostle) Paul, who without doubt became one of the greatest prayer warriors of all time, learned to pray from the first moments of his conversion. Granted, his conversion was powerful and dramatic, but the point need to be made nevertheless that the very first thing a new convert must do following his or her conversion is to learn to pray. Where and how we learn to pray is not important; what is important is that we do it, for without prayer there can be no onward march of progress in the Christian life.”

Our Christian life is measured by the type of relationship we have with Jesus – and, all good relationships must have at their core – communication – based on love and trust. If, we don’t pray, then we don’t have a relationship with God – simple!

There are some people who pray with a shopping list in their hand; others, pray as if God is some sort of genie who will spoil them by delivering what they want – especially if they are good; these attitudes demonstrate the type of relationship they want from God.  Perhaps not a relationship which lasts – what do you think?

Again, the prayer for today is great: “My Father and my God, let this note go ringing through my soul today: my prayer moments are my greatest moments. Help me to empty my hands of all those things that are unessential so that I might take a stronger grip on prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Praying and shaking

Selwyn now moves on to look at ‘another distinctive of the Early Church: the practice of persevering prayer.’

‘ … praying for the sheer joy of communicating with heaven – is, I believe, what is being conveyed in Acts 2:42; “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”‘

I entirely agree with Selwyn on this point that prayer is sheer joy. When I first wake in the morning I start to pray for those who are close to my heart and I know many who are sick and need the comfort of a loving God. Sometimes, I wake during the night, and often someone’s name comes to mind and I now automatically start to pray for that person – as I’ve often found out later that they were undergoing some sort of crises at the time. It is for me, the most joyous activity, to pray to Jesus knowing that my imperfect prayers are being heard and He is responding to them in His most perfect way.

The prayer for today – is so, so relevant: “O God, wake us up to the power that is available to us through fervent believing prayer. We know this in theory, but we are so loathe to give ourselves unreservedly to such prayer. Forgive us and help us. In Jesus’ name we ask it. Amen.”