The Bible readings for July and August were written by Mr Dougie Wolf, Probationer Minister at Inverness East Church.
Monday 1st August
What a wonderful experience it was expecting to see Jesus who you thought had died, but find him alive, risen from the grave. How excited the women must have been, knowing they can spend time with him again! Not to be, Jesus explains there is much to do. Go! go! tell the disciples that you have met with me, and they went. Then Jesus came to them in the locked room, explaining ‘peace be with you.’ He told them to go to Jerusalem as He was sending them out to tell the good news that He is alive. They must go and receive the Holy Spirit and forgive anyone, they must forgive because if they don’t they won’t be forgiven neither. What a wonderful truth, and one of the hardest to fulfil. Just as Jesus, the Son of God, forgave all whilst on the cross after just being beaten, bruised and pierced, so must we, no matter what has been done to us.
Tuesday 2nd August
Thomas acquired the name ‘doubting Thomas’, a term still used today. We often doubt, especially when things are going wrong. Thomas was the one who hadn’t seen Jesus in the flesh after His resurrection, so it could be seen as natural that he wondered what had happened. In our own lives we see many Christians around us and wonder how can they have so much faith? This could be because we are going through a tough time, or circumstances.
James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Did Thomas go through a trial, or was this a scene set for us to see that by not having physically touched Jesus we would be blessed? We will never know the answer, but we will experience the blessing of Jesus’ promise by believing in the true Christ, the Son of God.
Wednesday 3rd August
Isn’t it remarkable that Jesus started with the miracle of catching fish at the beginning of the disciples’ calling? Luke 5:1-14 tells us of the time Jesus meet Simon and told him where to catch fish. Remember this story, and then Simon questioned Jesus, but finally listened. In the second miracle catch Simon Peter and the disciples never questioned Jesus. Although the Scriptures tell us they did not know it was Jesus, John (the disciple who loved Jesus) recognised it was Jesus. Did he see him, or remember the words Jesus used to bring about the miracle? The Word of God is a great and powerful director of our life, sometimes we need to recognise its importance in our life. We need to have it resonate in our lives through the constant reading of it daily. Like John, and finally Simon Peter, we will realise its greatness and run to him, the author of our salvation.
Thursday 4th August
Jesus speaks to Simon Peter after they have had breakfast. He asks him for an answer to a deep and powerful question, “do you love me?” three times. Each time He asked Simon Peter it was a level higher, or deeper! Jesus asked Peter so he would express his love for Jesus more than the things around him, the things of this world, the things that easily return love. The question Jesus asks us similarly; can you love me when things are tough? Can you love me when hurting people need help? Can you love me when only I will love you? The Life Application Bible explains well the passage we read: ‘This was a prediction of Peter’s death by crucifixion’. Tradition indicates that Peter was crucified for his faith—upside down because he did not feel worthy of dying as his Lord did. Despite what Peter’s future held, Jesus told him to follow him. We may be uncertain and fearful about our future, but if we know God is in control, we can confidently follow Christ.
Friday 5th August
As Jesus had shown himself to the disciples He taught them many other things concerning the Kingdom of God. He was preparing them for the job ahead, He was telling them of the wonders of God’s power through the Holy Spirit. Although Jesus told the disciples they had to wait for the Holy Spirit, He did in fact come to them whilst in Jerusalem. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit once we have put our trust in Christ, when He becomes our Saviour. The amazing truth the Book of Acts brings to us whilst the disciples were alive, two thousand years on still has the same revelation today for us. We are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, the same as the disciples. What Jesus promised through our God and Father is assured to you and me, all we have to do is trust in Jesus.
Saturday 6th August
Whilst the disciples had lost one of their number, Judas, who had chosen to betray Jesus rather than follow His teaching, he had hardened his heart and finally killed himself. The disciples wanted to bring one of the followers of Jesus into their group, so that the truth of what they had seen could be spread throughout the regions and the world. The great focus of this passage is found as they went about this procedure in coming together to pray. ‘They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers’ (v.14). Our example reminds us that to plan anything in our life, it is best and proper to first seek the Lord for His wisdom and direction. This should bring us to know the will of God for our future.
Sunday 7th August
Jesus had promised the disciples that if they went to Jerusalem the Holy Spirit would come upon them and fill them with the gifts of God. As they gathered together, probably to pray and talk of the wonder of Jesus, there is a sound that would have turned their focus to what Jesus had said, the sound came with a violence wind. Their meeting together was now to be affirmed as the church of Jesus Christ, where we also have the promise when we meet, Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” The disciples’ meeting was no ordinary meeting, this placed was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and He gave them all gifts of God’s power. The same is true of our salvation, and the promise of the Holy Spirit in each believing heart, confirmed as children of God, and adopted into His family.
Monday 8th August
Within this passage is the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is one of the clearest definitions of the way to salvation, and set before us in a few sentences; 27 verses. Peter addresses the crowd because they had made fun of the fact they were speaking in the spirit, after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem. He told them of the sadness of the crucifixion that brings new life through Jesus’ death. He explains how they can also have this same salvation through the forgiveness of sins, and many were saved; three thousand in total. The movement of the Holy Spirit is a crucial part of preaching salvation, and one we should not forget. Peter stood and declared the fullness of Christ’s story with the power of the Holy Spirit behind him and in him. We should call on the same power of the Holy Spirit for our own lives, aiding us in the telling of the gospel.
Tuesday 9th August
After such a story of so many people being saved, the Scriptures tell us of the importance of meeting together. We are told ‘everyday’ they meet together in the temple courts, in ‘their homes’ they ate together and they ‘were together’. This is the staggering fact, three thousand people and the families became believers and they continued meeting together in different places to worship God, and the Lord added to them. No matter what the problem, no matter what the task, we are to meet together. We should not let problems get in the way of fellowship and worship, and the Lord will add to the number, people will come and see that God is in control and seek Him for themselves.
Wednesday 10th August
As we see, on a certain day the Apostles, on their way to the temple meet a man who had been crippled since birth. His life would have been dependant on others to give him what he needed to live. As they passed by, he calls out for money. Both Peter and John gave reason for their lack of money, but gave a great response to the problem of the man’s disposition. Through the power of Jesus’ name the man came to walk, and started the thanksgiving by praising God. Many times in our culture we see people healed, some directly through prayer, and some through the aid of doctors. Very rarely do we see people praising God in thanks. At our prayer meetings we are always praying for the sick and hospitalised. Rarely do we give thanks for the things God has done and is doing. ‘They were filled with wonder and awe and amazement’ at what happened to the man.
Thursday 11th August
Many things were shown in the healing of the man that had an effect on those watching. They were ‘astonished’, and sought after the incredible understanding of how this happened. Peter, explaining, gave the great account of how Jesus was unjustly convicted to death whilst a criminal went free. The true facts that come through the passage is that Peter is telling the crowd they can receive forgiveness of sin, and have their sin wiped out. Believe in the mystery of the gospel and the power of resurrection as He described to the people. ‘He must stay in Heaven’ where He is seated at the right hand of the Father (2:32). Know that He is with God and trust in Him and you to will receive new life, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Friday 12th August
The man who was healed brought great revelation to the people of Jerusalem, they saw how the man over forty years old was now able to praise God through walking. The leaders of the Sanhedrin were perplexed by the miracle that Peter and John had performed, but really, as we read, the healing had come about through the name of Jesus. It was because of His power as the Son of God, Jesus, and because the Apostles had faith the to call for healing that the man walked. The people knew it, Peter and John knew it, and the Sanhedrin leaders knew it. The problem was this brought many people to believe in Christ. That meant the leaders would lose their power of control. Something that usually causes panic in the minds of people is losing control, handing everything over to God, make Him Lord of all.
Saturday 13th August
Within this short passage we see a prayer of passion and discernment. While it is very obvious to us because we know the whole story, the people gathered after hearing the facts about Peter and John’s arrest are drawn to ask God for direction and the power to enable them for the future task in hand. They did not know the full story, but now understood that many were against them on the road ahead. As we said in the last section, losing control of power can be a great blow, and can bring strife for the person who is challenging that controller. The Sanhedrin thought the uprising was a small group that would be deterred if told do so, but they did not realise it was God who controlled the small but growing group called Christians. We must remember we are only able to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, because of our belief in Jesus.
Sunday 14th August
One of the simplest ways to encourage is to give generously to the church, because of the work that is being done. This could be in many different ways; through time, possessions, money, and commitment. We see here the apostles were given money to aid the work ahead. The great story of Joseph of Cyprus, or Barnabas, as we will remember, is a wonderful challenge to our own giving. He gave so that the church could expand and grow; he gave so that the name of Jesus could be extended to beyond the imagination of many, even today. As the church of Christ expands elsewhere in the world today, we must ask who we are helping in the mission of the church.
Monday 15th August
The believers in Acts were in a battle of testimony for the truth; Satan wanted to distract the new Christians from the work ahead. As the numbers of the church were being added to there was need for honesty and justice. Ananias and Sapphira were not able to truthfully hand over their money; they were deceived by Satan that they would be alright. We are in a place where honesty and truth is paramount to the church. The fight is against us allowing lies to enter our hearts, if we know something is not true to the Word of God stand against it with the conviction of the Holy Spirit and in the power of God’s grace and mercy, He will carry us through the difficult times that come.
Tuesday 16th August
It is notable throughout the passage to see the movement of the Spirit brought a fear of the Lord to the gathering. People would not want to step into His presence for fear of conviction through the power of the Holy Spirit. The early church’s worship of the Lord meant that a notable presence was there in these times, and people would bring those who were unwell to the meeting. As we prepare for the meeting of God in our own churches we should seek not only God’s blessing on the gatherings, but also His presence, so we can come before Him in fear and awe of what He has done, is doing, and will do.
Wednesday 17th August
Once again we can see the fear of God is more powerful than that of man. The apostles had been given the Holy Spirit to preach the good news of the Gospel, they were about their task. What we see again is the fear of the Jewish leaders losing their power and status. Thankfully one of the wiser leaders persuades the elders to allow the apostles to go, rather than fight God over their stories in the hope their uprising will fall. For two thousand years the Gospel has been preached through the power of the Holy Spirit, neither has it fallen nor dwindled. The church of Christ still grows and God is still worshipped in many forms. We are to continue through the struggle against the gospel with the aid of the Holy Spirit like the apostles.
Thursday 18th August
The early church was growing at a rate that could not be controlled effectively. The church chose seven men to bring help to the Apostles; this allowed them to continue in the teaching of God’s word. Many of our churches have people who are able to give through their gifts given by the Holy Spirit, and we should continue to pray for such people to be raised up. Without such people the church becomes a task for one person, and things can become an overload. The practice of the early church gives us the hope that while the work is still needed in our churches and the word of God needs to be taught so God’s plan is still in place for our lives.
Friday 19th August
We have talked about Satan stirring up men and women to stop the Gospel, we also have to be aware of man’s lies and deceit. As we see with Stephen he has a measure of wisdom that came from the Lord. He was able to understand the ways of life and God, because of the Holy Spirit. This made the various men of the surrounding regions upset and wanted to do something to stop Stephen and the gospel expanding throughout the areas. The lies that they put together brought the accusation that Stephen was blaspheming the local tradition of religion, Moses and God. People can bring wrong and false statement against God’s people, sometimes for the simple reason we have only given Glory to God and not to them.
Saturday 20th August
One of the overriding points Stephen makes clear in this passage is that he did not defend himself to the leaders of Law. Like Jesus at His trial with Pontius Pilate he refused to be drawn into a dispute about what he had or hadn’t done. Stephen shows us the similar testimony; he explained what the gospel meant to him and them. We should be of the same spirit, not trying to defend what is right or wrong with this or that. Have you ever noticed when you or I want to talk about the Lord Jesus, the conversation mostly turns to what is wrong with the church, or the Christian down the road, and plenty of other things? Next time this happens try bringing the subject back to Jesus and what He has done for you.
Sunday 21st August
Many people have a great issue with forgiving people. We are told to forgive those who sin against us, or we will not be forgiven either. Strong words that often bring a powerful sense of conviction towards people who don’t forgive others. Stephen, once again, sets a very strong example that we must forgive those who have sinned against us, even if they brought great pain as in Stephens’s case. The Lord tells us that He will have the final judgement on this earth when He returns. Why then should we overrule His position and judge those who wrong us. Leave it to the Lord; He is able to do all things. Think of a situation when you have not let Jesus do His job and seek the Lord for the situation.
Monday 22nd August
After the stoning of Stephen, the persecution of the church became wide spread and many families were wrongly brought to justice because of their faith in Jesus. What was happening, happened because the religious leaders could not control the freedom and spread of the gospel. The people became concerned and dispersed from the problem, but the apostles stayed and confronted the problem by preaching the gospel at every opportunity. We need to ask when the circumstances around us are very uncomfortable, what has God got for me to do? As the ability of the church got more difficult around the early church, so when Philip then continued to preach did more people receive healing?
Tuesday 23rd August
As we can see through this passage the Holy Spirit is given to believers after they have accepted Christ. The great fact is that nothing we do to aid the gift from God of the Holy Spirit can be accomplished; we can neither buy Him, nor receive Him through good works. This is the grace of God that we are promised salvation through His love, not through any thing we do. We are given the Holy Spirit as a promise of our inheritance in the family of God. Simon’s intentions were right, in that he wanted to get the Holy Spirit and then give it away to others, but his method was wrong in not just receiving Him through God’s aid. His heart was not right with the ways of God; rather he still ruled with his mind, something God changes in a person when they draw close to Him.
Wednesday 24th August
Whilst Philip is travelling he comes across a man who is seeking God. A very important fact is raised; the man said “how can I…unless someone explains it to me?” v.31. Philip then goes on to describe to him the truth about the gospel and he is saved through the preaching of the word. Many seek to know the truth about Jesus without the gospel of Christ being explained to them. They think because they understand written text they will understand the gospel; even Paul called the gospel a mystery. We are to hear the word of God preached and explained as often as we can. Therefore, our ignorance will be removed and the way to Jesus Christ made clear. We read that after Philip had told him of the wonders the man was rejoicing.
Thursday 25th August
Saul is in a place of great sin against the Lord Jesus, he had been killing Christians throughout the region. As he was travelling a bright light surrounded him and made him blind, many think the Lord and all His glory surrounded Saul. As he received instruction from the Lord, his heart was changed to believe in him and all the Lord had done. The purpose of these instructions was to take the gospel to the Gentiles throughout the world. He was to take the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection to all people. The staggering change of heart in Saul is a wonderful reminder that the power of God is able to transform even the hardest of hearts.
Friday 26th August
Once again we see that Saul was a new person, he spoke about Jesus throughout the region. His speech became noticeable to all who heard the gospel. The power of his knowledge about Jesus was amazing; he was capable of astonishing the crowds gathered. The revelation of Jesus is truly only through God’s amazing grace, because nothing Saul had done could have merited God’s salvation. We must remember that this is the reason we have the joy of salvation in our lives, and that no matter what we do, He is the giver of our new life in Christ.
Saturday 27th August
As with Jesus the miracles brought many healings, the apostles brought many healings in the name of Jesus to the people in the surrounding areas. As we seek the power of the name of Jesus for every situation we face, His name brings power given by God. Bring before Him the many situations in our lives and He will bring healing, as the song tells us to ‘cast all your burdens at His feet’ so the Scriptures tell us: ‘Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation.’ Psalm 68:19.
Sunday 28th August
Many people have probably read this passage of Scripture and not realised the great significance of the story. Cornelius, as Acts tells us, was a Roman Centurion. Many think he was the first Gentile convert to Christ in that area and more so in the Roman Army. This would open the door to other people seeking God as he did, and from there the influx of those wanting to hear about Jesus Christ and His work. Have we seen men and women in families that once they have given their lives to Jesus the rest of the family avalanche into the church?
Monday 29th August
In our reading, the dreams that are occurring give direction to the current circumstance; they point the receiver of the dream to seek God’s answer through other means. Many times in our own walk we have had dream and visions, but we have never done anything about them. As we look at the story unfold we see the men involved ask what is the dream about, how do we resolve it? And the Lord very often sends them on a journey to find the answer. As with the men in Joppa we must seek out what God has in store for us.
Tuesday 30th August
The Gentiles have been denied the Gospel message until now. They have been sitting on the edge waiting for the outpouring of God’s grace and mercy. God, through Peter, brings the message of salvation and the house of Cornelius hears and responds to the call. Our response to the gospel message is to tell others of the free gift God has given us. We are to go sometimes in response to a dream, or even a sense of His direction. It might not be to preach a great sermon; it might only be to bless people with a word or gift of love.
Wednesday 31st August
Many people are upset that Peter has been associating with Gentiles and call him to respond. He brings understanding to what has happened through explanations of the situation. We very often jump to conclusions in our walk with God, things that other people do. As we draw on God’s grace and understanding, usually we will see a greater understanding, and even more love towards those in our fellowship. We should never judge those who may seem to have sinned, but seek God for understanding and forgiveness.