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MAY/JUN

Lucas on

2011

Every Day Summer road trip Jeff Lucas Copyright Š CWR 2011 Published 2011 by CWR, Waverley Abbey House, Waverley Lane, Farnham, Surrey GU9 8EP, UK Tel: 01252 784700 Email: mail@cwr.org.uk Registered Charity No. 294387 Registered Limited Company No. 1990308 Front cover image: Getty Images/Stone/Martin Barraud Concept development, editing, design and production by CWR. Printed in England by Linney Print. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission in writing of CWR. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from the Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV), copyright Š 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society.

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how to get the best out of Lucas on life every day

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01 MAY 1 Corinthians 3:1–23 // Galatians 5:13–15

The way they were When you go on a trip, one disappointment may be that the place doens’t look as good as it did in the brochure. The sea is less blue and the hotel room smaller. As we begin our tour, we can be grateful that the Bible is not a holiday brochure. It tells the often ugly truth about the people of God. And that’s important for us. I often hear Christians sigh and say that they’d like to get back to the first days of the Early Church – days of anointing, blessing, miracles, healings and incredible effectiveness. There was a wonderful Holy Spirit dynamic at work in those heady days. But the Early Church also had its fair share of factions and fights; they divided over personalities and were troubled by false teaching. They struggled to work out what Christian discipleship looked like in a hedonistic culture. Some of their leaders even became bullies.

… they were flawed human beings, just like us

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In short, they were flawed human beings, just like us. Despite living in a different culture, they faced many of the same problems we do. Yet they worked together to find ways to overcome them. Let’s learn from our forefathers as we take a trip back in time … To ponder: What problems does your church face today that the Early Church also faced?

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MON 02 MAY

The golden city

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Acts 11:20 Colossians 1:9–14 Focus

‘Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.’ (Acts 11:20)

They called it the ‘Golden City’ – and what a beautiful city it was. Known as the ‘Paris of the Ancient World’ and ‘The Queen of the East’, Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, teeming with half a million people. Its main street was stunning – four miles long, paved with marble, and flanked by a double colonnade with trees and fountains. It was progressive too: the streets were lit at night; it was one of the first cities to enjoy such an innovation. But this busy port was also an intimidating place when it came to spirituality. The goddess Daphne was worshipped there. How would you set about the huge task of getting the Christian message to such a huge, bustling city? Here’s a proposed solution: have a group of Christians arrive in the city. They have suffered much but are still living faithfully. Let them tell their stories of how they have lost their homes and some of them their loved ones, in a terrible persecution. And then see the remarkable effectiveness of these faithful refugees, as one of the most significant churches in history is planted. As we watch and wonder, we realise what the world is looking for: an army of ordinary people, who have to live through the trials and tribulations of life just like everyone else, but who do so with faithful love and service for Jesus. They will be living a life ‘worthy of the Lord’ – to borrow Paul’s encouragement to the Colossians. May that be us today: good news people living and sharing the good news gospel. Prayer: Lord, help me to understand the power of a life well lived, so wherever I find myself today, I might live worthily for You. Amen.

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As we read that ‘the Lord’s hand’ was with the believers in Antioch, we see tremendous things were happening for the gospel there. Twice Luke mentions the multiplying growth – first, as the faithful refugees arrive, and then as a result of Barnabas’s visit. But there was much more to come. This church became critical to the history of Christianity. It was the first great church among the Gentiles; and the first with a vision for world apostolic mission. God’s hand with them meant God’s blessing upon them. Sometimes we can think, perhaps subconsciously, that trouble means God has deserted us, or even that we are experiencing judgment. But these fleeing followers of Christ nevertheless had ‘the hand of the Lord’ with them. This Old Testament language (Exod. 9:3) is a favourite term of Luke’s, and he uses it negatively and positively. He speaks of God’s hand being with John the Baptist (Luke 1:66), with the apostles in providing miracles (Acts 4:30) and against Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:11). There are times when trouble comes simply because we are fully living in God’s purposes. Persecution or spiritual attacks occur because we are effective and obedient, not as a result of rebellion. Not only that but, as we’ve seen, God can use our troubled circumstances for ultimate blessing. God is not the architect of suffering, but the redeemer of it. Perhaps, if we’re struggling, we should ask Him to ‘show His hand’. The knowledge that the hand of the Lord was with him sustained the psalmist in his toughest times (Psa. 18:35). Prayer: Lord, may I know the wonder of Your hand being with me today. Amen.

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TUES 03 MAY

The Lord’s hand

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Acts 11:21 Acts 4:23–30 Focus

‘The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.’ (Acts 11:21)

… God can use our troubled circumstances for ultimate blessing

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WED 04 MAY

Strategy?

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Acts 11:22 Acts 10:44–48 Focus

‘News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.’ (Acts 11:22)

God is often at work when we

There’s a subtle temptation that passionate Christians can be snared by – and that’s the notion that without their efforts God won’t get His work done. They’ve rightly embraced a sense of responsibility, and know God works through His people, in partnership with them. As we pray, work, give, serve, God uses our hands and feet. But, that said, let’s also realise that there are times when God’s hand is at work (as we saw yesterday), and what He does is not on our ‘radar’ at all, and doesn’t involve us. In circumstances we might least expect, suddenly we discover He is involved. So it was in Antioch. The ‘mother’ church in Jerusalem hadn’t planned a church plant there; but as some willing apprentices of Jesus were scattered by fierce persecution so, in the midst of chaos and confusion, the Holy Spirit was touching lives. Helpfully, the Jerusalem church was willing to bless what they hadn’t initiated. Don’t think God is only working when He advises us He is working, or when He includes us in His planning. Failure to see that could mean we end up opposing a genuine move of God, because we didn’t initiate it. Like the Pharisees, who seemed to think they had the franchise on the kingdom, we mistrust what we don’t understand or did not plan. Or we wear ourselves out, trying to make things happen that God might not be in. Just as the Holy Spirit unexpectedly arrived during Peter’s sermon so, like the wind, He can blow where He pleases. God is often at work when we least expect it. Prayer: Lord, grant me grace to trust in Your working, when I cannot see Your hand clearly. Amen.

least expect it

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Evidence is a vital part of any inquiry or court case. Exhibits are carefully stored in secure premises to ensure they are free from tampering. An entire case can succeed or fail because of the integrity (or fraudulence) of the evidence presented. And DNA testing has been an amazing development, often absolutely proving guilt or innocence. God wants to provide the world with conclusive evidence that He is gracious – and the evidence is us. What was it that convinced Barnabas, the visiting delegate from Jerusalem, that God was at work in Antioch and the fingerprints of grace were there? It was the changed lives of the new followers of Christ in that city. ‘A trophy of grace’ is an old-fashioned term which we don’t hear too often these days, but the truth remains. God wants the world to discover His character as it discovers our characters. God often communicates through events that demand an explanation. So the Day of Pentecost was a dynamic event that stirred curiosity and prompted the question: what does this mean? Our lives are intended to be question-igniting events too, so those who don’t know Jesus ask us for the reason for the hope we have. Too often the Church is shouting that Jesus is the answer, but the world has not seen sufficient evidence to even want to ask any questions. God is gracious, and the only way to get such news out is through gracious lives and gracious words of explanation. May we be excellent ‘exhibits’ for Christ today.

THURS 05 MAY

Grace evidence

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Acts 11:23 Acts 2:1–12 Focus

‘When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad …’ (Acts 11:23)

Prayer: God, create Christlikeness in me, so that when people meet me they will want to meet You. Amen.

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FRI 06 MAY

Hold tight

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Acts 11:23 James 4:13–17 Focus

‘…and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.’ (Acts 11:23)

Hold on tight

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It was a moment I will never forget as long as I live. I was speaking to a large group of young people about the power of the Holy Spirit and had enlisted the help of my then toddler son, Richard, to communicate that we are safe in God’s hands – He does want to empower us, but not terrify us. The idea was that Richard would walk across the platform to me, I would pick him up and hold him, while describing how I would never do anything to harm him. And then he’d wander back to Kay, waiting in the wings. That was the plan. But Richard thought differently; not wanting to be put down, he threw his head upon my neck and held on tight. And at that moment the Holy Spirit fell on the crowd in a way I have never witnessed before or since. There’s no space to describe what happened but, suffice it to say, the simple portrait of his safety in my arms, and his determination to stay close, triggered an ignition of God’s power. As Barnabas encourages the church to ‘remain true’ to the Lord, Luke uses a word which means ‘cleave to’ or ‘cling to’. Just as there was nothing casual about Richard’s vice-like embrace – he was clinging on – so God invites us to a similar determination in pursuing Him, listening for His voice and relying on His help. How easily I wander away, drifting into a life that becomes gradually independent of God. How easy it is to dash into decisions without seeking Him, with terrible results, as James warns. As Barnabas’s encouragement makes clear, Christianity is a wholehearted business. Hold on tight. Prayer: Jesus, simply to You, and to Your cross, I cling today. Amen.

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