Daily readings from the Acts of the apostles, notes prepared by Iain Macdonald.
These notes logically follow from ones Donald MacVicar did last month, when we looked at the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. I recommend reading a chapter a day of Acts to get a better overview, but understand if this is not suitable. A chapter takes, on average, about five minutes to read. Or you could watch, on YouTube, the “Acts of the Apostles” Movie (1994) (International Bible Society.) It could be watched in 4 sittings, around 50 minutes each.
Saturday 1st May
Acts 1: 1-2(NLT)
In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit.
Luke speaks of his first book which told Theophilus about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven. Remarkably the life, death, resurrection and teaching of Jesus is described in Luke’s gospel as only the beginning. Before his ascension, we read of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples who, like us, had doubts and fears, telling them that all authority, in heaven and earth, had been given to Him and to go and make disciples of all nations. He promised to be with them, even to the very end of the age. In the light of the magnitude of this great commission, and the inability of the church to do anything without Christ, we can see how the unique life, death and resurrection of Christ WAS only the beginning. The essential, wonderful beginning of a kingdom that would never end. C.S. Lewis, in the Chronicles of Narnia, describes it well, “Now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the great story no one on earth has ever read, which goes on forever: In which every chapter is better than the one before.” In Acts, Luke now describes the beginning of the church.
Lord Jesus, thank you that you died on a cross to pay the price for our sins and bring us back to God and give us a new beginning and are willing to forgive all who come to you for mercy. Help us, through your Holy Spirit, to do what you teach and to be sensitive to what you want. Thank you that you, having begun a good work in us, will also finish it, through the power of your Holy Spirit.
Sunday 2nd May
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God .On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave this command:” Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Last month we read of the “many convincing proofs” Jesus gave to the apostles. Are we, like Thomas, needing convincing proof before we believe? Jesus gave Thomas proof. Jesus first appeared, not to these men, but to a woman, Mary Magdalene, who believed. She then went to the disciples, saying “I have seen the Lord.” They thought it was nonsense. Whether we doubt, like Thomas, or believe, like Mary, can we accept Jesus’ words to Thomas,” Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29 Only believe. Sometimes we have to trust Jesus now, like these disciples in Jerusalem, and wait for His help to come, as He promises.
Lord, we confess that there are many things that we cannot understand or explain. Help us to have faith. Forgive our doubts and fears. We pray for the churches in Inverness, Scotland and throughout the world today, as we gather to worship you. Bless Fraser Turner’s preaching to us. May we all know your risen presence with us, bringing new hope in the midst of all the troubles of this world. Help us, too, to be bold and confident, through your Holy Spirit.
Monday 3rd May
So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed,” Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. Many things in the bible we cannot explain. Judas’ role and tragic end had been foretold in Scripture.” Judas left to go to where he belongs.” He had been one of the disciples, shared in the work and yet betrayed Christ with thirty pieces of silver .Replacement was sought. They could not decide between Joseph and Matthias, so prayed, asking to be shown, then cast lots. The lot fell to Matthias. When, very occasionally, we cannot decide, we may apply this method, after prayerful consideration. God, though, has given us minds to use, wise experienced counsellors and His word to consult. Life is not a lottery. We have the freedom to make good or bad decisions, like Judas.
We pray for wisdom for the decision makers in this month’s General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the local presbytery, as it works out the Local Plan, our Session and Deacons’ Court, and for decision makers in all churches. We pray for the nominating committee as we seek a minister, and for other vacant churches deliberating locally.
Lord you know all hearts, show us the way.
Tuesday 4th May
Acts 2:1- 4
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
We too, like bystanders in Jerusalem, can be perplexed, bewildered and utterly amazed by the supernatural workings of God. Rational minds cannot understand and explain the power of God. As the Holy Spirit was unleashed on the day of Pentecost, to empower the church, as Christ promised, many were amazed and perplexed. After Jesus ascended into heaven they had waited, as he had told them to, in Jerusalem until the promised Holy Spirit came. If we listen to what He says and do what He says we too will always find Jesus keeps his word.
Lord, we believe, help our unbelief. Forgive us when we cannot, or will not, believe that you are able to do miracles today. Help us not to seek miracles more than we seek You. We thank you for the great miracle of salvation and pray that your gospel will speak to the nations of this world, especially Scotland, to our family and friends.
Wednesday 5th May
Acts 2:14 – 17
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:’ In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’”
The crowd was perplexed and tried to explain it, thinking people were drunk. Even today people outside, and within, the church have difficulty in accepting the supernatural as being from God. Naturally we prefer an explanation we can understand and things we can control. God cannot and will not be controlled. Wicked and unbelieving people tried to control Jesus but He rose from the dead, ascending into heaven, having told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit, as described here.
Thank you, Lord, for Pentecost and for your Holy Spirit setting folk free, sometimes from the addictions of alcohol and drugs. Bless the work of Crossreach, particularly Beechwood in our parish, and Road to Recovery. By your own Holy Spirit, Lord, we pray, give wisdom tomorrow to UK voters, and in days ahead to all elected to govern.
Thursday 6th May
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
Not everyone who comes out of Raigmore Hospital, cured, will praise God for it, like this man. Some who know God can praise Him even when they are not cured. Few ever are cured so dramatically or display their thankfulness so exuberantly. Some are thankful but do not know or praise God, or know Jesus and that he is God. This man knew he was healed in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and was very thankful and showed it.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you still heal miraculously, and yet sometimes tell us that your grace is sufficient. We come to praise you for the vaccines, medicine, for our NHS, our own Raigmore Hospital, New Craig’s and the RNI. We bring before you those of our friends and family with long term, terminal or serious illness asking that you would comfort and strengthen them, praying for staff and patients at the Highland Hospice.
Friday 7th May
Acts 4: 10-12
“It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Peter and John were asked to explain by what power or in whose name they had done this. Peter gave the above, straightforward, answer. The council were amazed at Peter and John’s boldness and the fact that they were ordinary men with no specialist training in the scriptures. They were recognised as having been with Jesus. Commanded to be silent by the council, Peter and John asked them if they thought God wanted them to obey Him or the council. Who should we obey? God or laws that defy Him.
Thank you, Lord, that you still use ordinary people who are not learned in the scriptures and are ready to do what you want. Help us to share with others that you are the ONLY way to be saved. We pray for your power for teachers in churches and universities, who are learned in the scriptures, like Hector Morrison at the Highland Theological College and Professor Andrew McGowan at the Rutherford Centre for Reformed Theology.
Saturday 8th May
Acts 5: 3-4
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received from the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”
Lying is wrong. We may use words carelessly, with no real sense of accountability. Some of us used to sing, “God is always near me, Hearing what I say, Knowing all my thoughts and deeds, All my work and play.” We must guard against being like Ananias and trying to appear more generous or good than we are by lying to God and our fellow man. God’s Holy Spirit sometimes comes to convict us of sin, God’s righteousness and judgement. Great fear came over the church and that community. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
Lord Jesus, you said you were the way, THE TRUTH, and the life and that no one came to the Father but by you. Forgive our exaggeration or distortion of the truth and help us always to be honest. We pray for churches, government and our society to have transparency and honesty. When, like Ananias, we have plenty, help us to share resources with the poor and not withhold. Help us to give fittingly to Christian Aid next week.
Sunday 9th May
Acts 6: 2-4
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give out attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
As in the human body, where every part is important, so it is in the church, the body of Christ. (1Corinthians 12) Organisation, administration and financial stewardship are vital parts. As the church grew, there was a need to distribute food to the poor and for these gifts. Overwhelmed, these early leaders needed to focus on preaching and called on others to fulfil this role. It is noteworthy that these responsible positions called for people who were full of the Spirit and wisdom.
We pray for George Campbell and all the Deacon’s Court, Duncan Fraser and the Finance Committee and Calum Campbell and the Fabric Committee and thank you for them. We pray for the food distribution at Ness Bank Church, the food bank at Blythswood Care and for the Christian Aid Week collection. We pray for our Interim Moderator, Hugh Watt, our Session Clerk, Donald MacVicar and for ministers and elders and all who attend to spiritual needs, thanking you for them. We offer particular thanks for the dedicated service of Douglas Horne, during and prior to lockdown, as he steps back after today’s service having given much appreciated regular help and pray for him, his wife Chris and their family.
Monday 10th May
Acts 7: 57-60
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 clothes 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.
As well as endowing people with gifts, such as administration, or helping us to believe, God’s Spirit comes to persuade us of our need of a Saviour, or to convict us. We can resist the Holy Spirit. Stephen gives a long, clear outline of Jewish history and the characters of faith, (Abraham, Moses, Jacob, David, Solomon,) when he is brought before the Jewish leaders to explain himself. So far, so good. But then, speaking of their forefathers, he says,” they even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One.”And when he says, “now you have betrayed and murdered him,” they are furious. They stone Stephen to death.
Forgive us Lord when we find the truth difficult to accept and get angry with those we love when they tell us when we have gone wrong. Help those in government to tell the truth, however difficult, and those who challenge governments to do likewise. Give courage and wisdom to teachers and parents dealing with children who won’t listen and who may not understand and are affected by the pandemic. Help the children to listen.
Tuesday 11th May
Acts 8: 29-31
The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I?” he said, “unless someone explains it to me.” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
Philip was led out into the desert to speak to the Ethiopian eunuch who had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was reading Isaiah in his chariot. But he did not understand what it meant and Philip helped him to understand that it was about Jesus. He believed, asked if he could be baptised, and was at the first opportunity.
We pray for children who have been baptised in church that they will come to faith. Help us to continue praying for them. We pray for the children and teachers of the Sunday school, the youth and the Girls’ Brigade that they would all want to seek, serve and follow you, Lord Jesus. Help any children and adults who believe in You to take communion at the first opportunity, witnessing to their faith, like this Ethiopian, when the church opens up for that.
Wednesday 12th May
Acts 9: 3 – 6
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,” he replied.”Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
This is an amazing account of the grace of God and his power to change those who are directly opposed to him. God can, and does, turn enemies, like Paul who was at the stoning of Stephen, into His greatest followers. And He gives hope in the darkest hour. And in apparently unpromising and hopeless situations he renews vision, hope and courage. He can make the coward strong and turn apathy into enthusiasm and stir us for the fight, whatever that might be. His voice still speaks to us today”, over the tumult of life’s wild, restless sea; day by day his sweet voice soundeth, saying “Christian, follow me.” Lord, help us, your people, to get up and go into the city and be told what we must do, like Saul.
Lord, we thank you for the internet and for being able to use it for the prayer meeting tonight and for other church business. We thank you for those who make it possible. We also thank you for more intimate smaller prayer meetings. We pray for those confined to their homes and old folks homes that they would know themselves loved by You and us. Bless the work of the Pastoral Support Team and all of us in this role, and carers, visiting or in homes. Thank you for the scriptures that one of the Sunday School children gives out to encourage people. Help us all to drop a note or phone people.
Thursday 13th May
Acts 10: 27 – 29
27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
Peter explains his actions which were counter Jewish practice. Peter had found freedom to go beyond the constraints of Jewish law and practices because God has spoken through a vision and, in his opening, he affirms the freedom he now has. He comes to share the gospel with Gentiles. Christ breaks down barriers and being a Christian is not a set of rules but following Christ and being led by the Spirit. God still prompts and guides his children today, sometimes against our traditions or former habits.
Help us, Lord, not to be bound by tradition or a culture, nor to be attracted by novelty and gimmick. Thank you for the familiar. Help us, Lord, not to make gods out of these things though. When necessary, help us adapt, even when this is hard and requires mental and physical adjustment, either personally or as a church. Help all involved in the local presbytery plan, and particularly the presbytery clerk, Trevor Hunt. Help us to consider, prayerfully, whether we should stay in the heart of the city. Enable us to be like Peter, sensitive to your leading. Guide, we pray, the nominating committee tonight.
Friday 14th May
Acts 11: 15 – 18
15. As I begin to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them, as he had come on us at the beginning. 16. Then I remembered what the Lord had said,” John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 17. So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ ,who was I think to think that I could oppose God.18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying,” So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.
In the church everything should be done properly and in order. We are told to live at peace, as much as possible. Peter had departed radically from Jewish practice. This could have caused great discord if he had no good reason to justify himself to the others. He told them of his vision and how this gave him liberty to visit the Gentiles where he witnessed God’s Holy Spirit at work in the Gentile household. They believed him and they too were now confident that the gospel was for the Gentiles too.
Lord help us to tell of your love for all people…… in our church, in our parish, in our homes and in our neighborhoods, to our family, to our friends and to strangers. May our words and actions tell of your great love. Forgive our frequent failure. Bless the planning of the baby bank to help families in particular need during lockdown. Help Ann MacDonald, as she co-ordinates it.
We pray for Crossreach and the work done in Inverness at Cameron House, Cale House, Beechwood and in Nairn at the Whinnieknowe home and for folks we know and work there.
Saturday 15th May
Acts 12: 15 – 17
15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.
Why have a prayer meeting if you don’t believe God can answer prayer? They were praying for Peter and yet, when Rhoda said he was at the door of the prayer meeting, they did not believe her, just like the disciples did not believe Mary Magdalene had seen the risen Christ. Craig Groeschel, a Christian pastor who was discontented with his lack of real faith, wrote a disturbing book, “The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but living as if he doesn’t exist.” We may relate to him and those who lacked faith.
Lord, we ask for your forgiveness that we don’t have faith as we should. We believe, help our unbelief. We pray for those imprisoned throughout the world for their faith in You, and for all unjustly imprisoned. Give them courage, strength, support and a sense of your living presence and power to witness, and help us to support those persecuted and imprisoned Christians, through Barnabas, Feba Radio and Open Doors.
Sunday 16th May
Acts 13: 28 – 31
28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had travelled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
In The Life Application Bible we read, “Paul began where his listeners were and then introduced them to Christ.” Whether Paul was speaking to devout Jews or to Greek philosophers “he centred the sermon around Christ and emphasised the resurrection. When you share the gospel news, begin where your audience is – then tell them about Christ.”
Lord, help us to do so sensitively, if we are sharing the gospel. Help Fraser Turner and others as we share more formally in worship in Inverness today. We pray for young people and those who share the good news with them, particularly our Sunday School, Youth and Girls’ Brigade. Bless, we pray, Scripture Union, our own Girl’s Brigade leaders, Boys’ Brigade, Elevate, Youth for Christ, Free Church Camps and Ben Kerr at the Christian Youth Centre on Bank Street.
Monday 17th May
Acts 14: 14 – 15
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.
Paul was used to heal a man crippled from birth and as a result the crowd decided Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and Paul was Hermes, as he was the main spokesman. They brought bulls and wreaths of flowers to the town gates and were about to offer sacrifices to them. Paul did not want to rob God of his glory. We may be pleased when we can do good but as with Paul’s conversion or this miracle God more clearly shows us sometimes that without him we can do nothing. We should be thankful for anything he enables us to do and give Him the honour.
Lord, we thank you for all means of healing. We thank you for doctors, nurses and all who work in the NHS, praying for those we know, and particularly remembering those who are ill with serious or terminal conditions, who are undergoing dialysis or awaiting transplants. We pray for those distressed in mind and for the work of New Craig’s and counsellors. We pray, too, for those working to help social ills, New Start, Blythswood Care, the Salvation Army Madras Street, Manna House, Street Pastors and united work done by Paul Haringman and others to help the needy during the pandemic.
Tuesday 18th May
Acts 15: 8 – 11
8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
We do not need to do anything in the way of works to earn our salvation. By grace we are saved. But in Jerusalem some of the Jews were trying to say that the Gentiles who had become Christians had also to be circumcised, like the Jews were. Peter rebuked those who tried to tell any this. It is by grace we are saved, and not the works of religion ,and through faith in the death of Jesus on the cross for us.
Lord, we pray for Hartley and his fellow soldiers serving in Afghanistan along with their chaplain, praying that you will deliver them from evil, encourage them and bring peace to the people of that land. We pray for his wife, Sarah, and their children and all who support them at home. We pray for the work of E.M.M.S. in Malawi and John and Tina Bruce as they inform and help the congregation support the medical work financially and prayerfully amongst the poorest there.
Wednesday 19th May
Acts 16: 13 – 14
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.
Throughout the world today people are restricted from worshipping Jesus. Inscribed on the arches outside Philippi was a ban on bringing unrecognised religions into the city; so this prayer meeting was held outside the city by the river. Lydia, who was a worshipper of God, opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. All over the world, even in places of great opposition, there are people like Lydia. May we be like Lydia and be found in the place of prayer and have our hearts open to God.
Lord, encourage us at our prayer meeting tonight, and in others throughout the city. Bless those who read the bible and pray at home, or in homes or in hospital. Thank you, Lord, that you tell us that those that pray in secret will be rewarded openly. We pray for the Queen and her family and for the many others who have lost loved ones recently, some because of the pandemic. We pray for those who have not been able to see loved ones, or to mourn as normal. Draw close to them, dear Jesus, and to us in all in our weakness and need. Be with those who govern and give them wisdom. Help, especially, leaders and peoples in areas of the world with war, conflict, poverty and stress due to the pandemic.
Thursday 20th May
Acts 17 : 10 -12
10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women.
The Bereans received the message with great eagerness, examining the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many believed. Iron sharpens iron. Before lockdown a number of active house groups and a ladies Bible study met, with interactive examination of the Bible. The Bereans had a great eagerness and examined the scriptures. There are local online Bible study groups, some interdenominational. Those elders encouraged and helped by Andrew McGowan, and recently by Douglas Horne, in preaching, have found great benefit in examining the Scriptures, while preparing for preaching. Aonghas Ian Macdonald once led an interactive Investigating Christianity course when many examined the scriptures. Let us continue, like the Bereans, examining the scriptures, every day.
We pray for the woman’s bible study group, the house groups and thank you for books and those ministers who have helped us understand the Bible. We pray for an eagerness to resume gathering to examine the scriptures. We pray for ministers and those training to teach the scriptures. We pray for a venue to replace the CLC bookshop where people could get a coffee, chat and books to help study the bible.
Friday 21st May
Acts 18 : 5 – 6
5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.
Every Sabbath Paul had reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade the Jews, and Greeks, who eventually became abusive. He said that it was on their heads. He would go to the Gentiles. He left the synagogue and went next door, to the house of Titius Justus, where Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his whole household, believed in the Lord! Although Paul had decided to go to the Gentiles, having met strong Jewish opposition, clearly he was still reaching out to any Jews who were interested in the Gospel of Grace. We need wisdom in our parish, where we have sometimes met with persistent apathy and indifference, to know when to be like Paul, and pray, and carry on doggedly against all odds, or walk away. His courage, persistence and determination to share the gospel is a rebuke to our apathy and indifference.
We thank you for the work that was done in Raigmore Estate…… the Shack, the summer holiday clubs, the lunches, the Sunday services, the Ark Sunday School, Youth Work and outreach work done by Derek Morrison. We ask You would revive your work O Lord. We pray for the pupils and staff of Raigmore School. We also remember the Longman Estate and the people who work there, facing pandemic consequences, and the industrial chaplain there, as well as the army chaplain, Raigmore Hospital chaplain and the prison chaplain. Help them to bring your comfort, Lord.
Saturday 22nd May
Acts 19: 26 – 27
26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made are no gods. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world will be robbed of her divine majesty.
The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. We cannot serve God and money. Demetrius made a good living from making silver shrines for the goddess Artemis. His appeal to his fellow tradesman in Ephesus was that, not only will the trade be spoiled, the goddess would be robbed of her divine majesty. When they heard this they were furious. Paul rightly had said “man-made gods are no gods at all.” When we oppose false gods there will be opposition.
Help us, Lord, to have no other gods before you. Help us to see when we are making idols out of things, ideas or people. Help us to know that we cannot serve god and money. Forgive us when we have indulged ourselves and allowed your work and Kingdom to be neglected. Save us from the idols of this world and our age, Lord. We pray for young people finding their way in education and work during the pandemic that You would help them and keep them from being blinded by the god of this world.
Sunday 23rd May
Acts 20 : 8 – 10
8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!”
Paul intended to leave the next day so the meeting went on late. During very special occasions and revival, church gatherings can sometimes last a long time, and nobody notices time passing. When God is in it, it is not only the speaker folks are listening to and folks also have an appetite they cannot explain. Normally those of us learning to preach don’t want to talk too long and we also have to learn to cope with interruptions, albeit not as dramatic as this! We don’t want to put people to sleep at midnight either! Certainly God was in the revival of this young man who fell to his death. But was he bored with the long talking of Paul before he fell asleep or just past his bedtime? The commonplace and the supernatural coexist sometimes.
We thank you Lord for our visiting preacher and all who will preach the gospel in the city and throughout Scotland today. We thank you for Sheila Murray and all she has done to help with these services, but also for keeping the church running and for administration, along with Marlene MacRae. Thank you for Robert Taylor and Ann MacDonald as they help to relay the gospel and bring it into homes and for the prospect of live streaming. We thank you for T.V., internet and radio, giving services in English and Gaelic.
Monday 24th May
Acts 21: 12- 14
12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”
Christians are not to provoke reaction or walk, unnecessarily, into danger. Only at the appointed time did Jesus go to the cross. Following Christ, though, will mean facing some form of opposition. The servant is not greater than the master. We are not to be pigheaded or unwise, yet sometimes missionaries face opposition from their own family, as they go from safety to unknown lands on a calling from God that carries danger.
We pray for missionaries in dangerous parts of the world and thank you for their courage and selfless dedication to the cause of Christ. Help us to take a greater specific knowledgeable interest in supporting them more. We thank you, too, for the selfless dedication of staff in the NHS, care homes and other services during the pandemic. Thank you for those who gave their lives in the service of others.
Tuesday 25th May
Acts 22: 6 – 8
6 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ 8 “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. “‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
This is not the only time Paul will tell of his conversion. Often witnessing and telling others can be a means of helping others, provided we don’t repeatedly bore people or remain stuck in the past. But in the retelling of the story he says that his companions saw the light but did not hear the voice. We can listen to a sermon and God can speak to us when others fall asleep and vice versa. Paul was blinded, but believed. Blind belief. Yet Paul was not weak minded, unthinking or needing a crutch. This prosecutor of Christians met Christ and in his sovereign grace He opened his spiritual eyes, blinding him physically, temporarily.
Thank you Lord, that in your sovereign grace you change people from your enemies to your friends. Forgive us that we are such poor friends. Help us to care enough about friends and family, our city and parish to share the good news. We pray for our Open Doors and our outreach to the city passers by. We ask Lord that you would bless the work of Leprosy Mission and help us to support the work through the coin phials distributed by Georgia and Ernie Collison.
Wednesday 26th May
Acts 23: 11
11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
All of us need courage. So often, Paul, faced with great challenges, was upheld personally by the Lord. Christians who have faced health problems, bereavement death and persecution, so often, testify that God has met them at their hour of greatest need. May it be our own experience too, and may we find the Lord speaking words of encouragement to our souls.
Thank you for dying for us and for having courage like no other, Lord Jesus. Please give the same courage to missionaries, evangelists, and Christians in extreme situations. And to our East Church and other city churches as we too testify to your great love. Give courage to those known to us who are terminally ill, sick or bereaved, and to those affected by the pandemic. Speak your words of encouragement to us all, dear Lord Jesus. Thank you for those who served courageously during the pandemic, in everyday jobs. Give courage to young people as they face current assessments and an uncertain future, and help parents and teachers in the middle of this unusual educational situation.
Thursday 27th May
Acts 24: 24 – 26
24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.
Paul is charged with being a troublemaker, a sect ring leader and with desecrating the temple before the Roman governor Felix, through a lawyer representing Jewish authorities. Paul presents his case clearly. Felix said that when Lysias, the commander came he would decide, and he kept Paul under guard, allowing friends to care for his needs. Felix and Drusilla, his Jewish wife, came and listened to Paul speak about his faith in Jesus Christ. But when Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgement to come Felix was afraid, saying that that was enough for now and that Paul may leave, and when it was convenient he would send for him. Felix was an adulterer and was convicted by talk of the judgement. Felix frequently did talk with Paul again, but may have been more interested in receiving a bribe, by holding Paul, than in receiving the gospel.
We pray for those who fight injustice, oppression and corruption. We pray for lands where bribery is common, against corruption in our Parliament, for those imprisoned in China, for the imprisoned Russian opposition leader and those in jail in Hong Kong and Myanmar.
Friday 28th May
Acts 25: 10 – 11
10 Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”
Paul is making an appeal against his condemnation by the Jewish authorities for preaching the gospel. They plan to kill him and Paul had been protected by Roman soldiers (Acts 23: 23,24)He appealed to the Roman authority that he was a Roman citizen and was thereby giving protection by law. Here, he appeals to Caesar and,”To Caesar you will go,” Festus, Felix’s successor, says. Christians in our day can use the law to appeal against injustice and we must ensure that our laws comply with God’s law.
We ask your forgiveness, Lord, that laws in our land do not always reflect your laws. Yet we do thank you for the great measure of good law and order we have and pray for the legal system, the police and those who uphold it. We pray for the Christian Institute as it fights injustice and Franklin Graham as he contests the banning of his gospel campaign in UK stadia.
Saturday 29th May
Acts 26: 15 – 18
15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’”
We may be able to give a reason for the hope that is within us and how we came to faith. But Paul’s conversion is extraordinary. Persecuting Christians he is blinded by the Light on the Damascus Road and asks who the Lord is, to be told it is Jesus, who he is persecuting Amazingly he is then immediately appointed by the Lord to open eyes, turn people from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. We, in our turn, are also called to share this amazing gospel of grace once we have” seen the light,” sometimes very simply, when we believed and followed Jesus. Let us do so.
Help us, Lord, also to turn people from darkness to light as you give us opportunity. We praise you that you are the Light of the world. We long that we can gather again and praise your name in song and worship. We thank you for the prayers and praise of the “Easties,” joining hearts together. Help us to pray to you, alone, in private or in small groups and families, as your early church did, believing that you will send your Holy Spirit to revive your church and this land, which so greatly needs your light and your love in the midst of the darkness. Draw close to us all in our need, we pray. We thank you for all choirs, praise bands, organists , arrangers of beautiful flowers and for all who orchestrate services of worship in our church, and in all churches.
Sunday 30th May
Acts 27: 30 – 31
30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.
While I worked under an experienced skipper, an ex lifeboat man, the crew was advised about abandoning the boat to go onto a liferaft. He said that it should only be done as an absolute necessity. Paul did not know the sea or ships as a mariner would, like that skipper would, but he did know the Lord and was in touch with Him. He was not the ship captain but he spoke with authority and the centurion listened, took heed to the advice, and they were all saved, as Paul said would happen. God still speaks to people and through people.
Help us, Lord, to listen to you and to do what you say, sometimes through others. We pray for Angus Macdonald as he speaks for you today and for your Word to be blessed to us. We pray for seafarers, plying the oceans, some known to us. Bless them, Lord. We pray for the RNLI and the Fishermen’s Mission and those helping stranded liner crews, far from home during the pandemic.
Monday 31st May
Acts 28 : 28 – 31
28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”  [b] 30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! Throughout the book of Acts we have seen the growth of the church as the Holy Spirit moved, enabling Peter, Paul, Philip and the other apostles to help build the church, sometimes under extreme persecution. Paul is under house arrest in Rome. But, typically, he just carries on, from morning till evening, explaining and declaring to them the kingdom of God, trying to convince them about Jesus from the scriptures of the Old Testament. But, again, the Jews don’t believe and so we have the above authoritative statement, stating that the gospel” has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen.” As on the shipwreck on the way to Rome, Paul seems to KNOW the Gentiles would listen. Without hindrance, he preached, wrote letters to the Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, and to Philemon.
We come to praise your Holy Name and to worship you for your goodness and mercy in dying for us, Lord Jesus. Help us to bring honour to your name. Forgive us when we have dishonoured you by our disobedience and lack of faith. Help us to bring hope and to show love to people, discouraged and in need because of lockdown, and to serve, along with other churches, the people of our city with boldness and without hindrance. Lord, help us to be like Paul and not give up, even writing encouraging letters to others.