A night in prayer

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

March/April 2014 Issue – ‘The Great Legacy’

Today’s text for reading and meditation is:

Luke 6:12-16 (NIV):One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”

One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading Scripture are the times when we read something that we have read before (perhaps many times), and an element comes into sharper focus. In general, I had merged the selection of the apostles and the disciples into a single process. The verses above highlight for me, that Jesus had called a number of people to be His disciples; but it was a separate, and special occasion when He selected His twelve leaders (apostles).

Selwyn discusses this issue, as follows: “Today we focus on yet another of Jesus’ legacies – the men whom He chose to found His Church. … At a national level, the choice of twelve apostles was significant and symbolic. He was reassigning His leadership of the twelve tribes of Israel to men of His choosing.

This was a socially provocative gesture, demonstrating that He had the goal and authority to rebuild the life of the people of God under His lordship. (At some point). the apostles must have been spiritually nourished  to know they had been handpicked by Jesus after prayerful consultation with His heavenly Father.

Our sense of privilege need be no less than theirs. ‘In Christ’ we too have been chosen. [Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 1:3-5a, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In lovehe predestined us for adoption … “]

Our mission, like the apostles, flows out of His love.”

It’s truly remarkable, somewhat overwhelming, to know that we have been ‘hand-picked’ by Jesus. As Selwyn says in today’s prayer: ‘You sought me, bought me, and now I am Yours forever. How wonderful.’

Yet, knowing that God has ‘picked’ us, do we completely live our lives to produce fruit for His kingdom (or, are we committed for just a short time on a Sunday)? Aware, that we have a short, and very limited time, to freely employ our will, in proclaiming to this world, the amazing love of our Lord?

After death, it will be too late – when faced with the glory of God in all His reality – to say, “I’ll shout it on the mountain tops just how magnificent You are”; everyone with you, will know. Now, is the time, to tell others about the love of Christ.

Any comments?

Productive persecution

In today’s study, Selwyn mentions the stoning of Stephen, and the scattering of people from Jerusalem – Acts 7:51-60, 8:1-8 (NIV), I’ve included these verses covering Stephen’s death, because I think they are inspirational: ‘ … “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him – you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

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.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

And Saul approved of their killing him.

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city. … “

A number of points – the ordinary Christian left Jerusalem, but they were not silent – they preached the word wherever they went; the apostles, stayed in the city probably because their work for God had not been completed. Secondly, this account clearly says that people (Stephen) who were not apostles performed miracles (Acts 6:8) – those whom God enables through His Spirit can drive out demons and heal the sick, even today!

Stephen died because he spoke out, the truth – he was saying that what the religious leaders believed in – was no longer important. There was no holy land on earth – there was no longer a holy nation – there was no longer a need for a temple, that is, a building. The promised holy land is to be found in heaven – the temple is Jesus and He lives in the hearts of His people – the holy race, is His flock; and, anyone who believes in Jesus and follows Him – is part of His holy nation. 1 Peter 2:9-10:But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

As Selwyn says in his conclusion: “Ordinary believers started the church, maintained it; and their activity led to the launch of the first Christian mission and the spread of the gospel around the world. The ordinary believer in New Testament times took the initiative. It should be the same today.”

We are God’s special possession – perhaps it’s time that we start to live this truth and preach the word to those who do not know Jesus – our family, friends, neighbours and to the community in which we live. Jesus is coming back – what will you be doing when He arrives?