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24 September 2018 – Acts 28:17-19 (NIV)

Scripture

17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people.

Reflection

Paul loved his own people and he made every effort to reach them and to convince them that their fellow Jew, Jesus, was their promised Messiah. The results from this conversation in Rome were typical, a few believed, most were unconvinced. God has not rejected Jewish people although many have rejected Him by rejecting the Son Jesus. God will have the last word concerning this people group (Ps. Dale).

Thoughts for the day

  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • What does this passage tell you about, Jesus and humanity?
  • What is one way you can apply this truth to your life today?
  • Who can you encourage with this story/message?

Prayer

Stop and pray for someone who is near to you right now, someone you can see.

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By |2018-09-20T09:57:02+08:00September 24th, 2018|Week 4|0 Comments

21 September 2018 – Acts 28: 13-16 (NIV)

Scripture

13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.

Reflection

There were two places where Christians from Rome came to meet Paul. The place called the Forum of Appius was about forty-three miles from Rome and sat along a canal, the second place was a little closer to Rome, about thirty-three miles. Some had traveled longer distances to meet Paul, either way the friendship, expressed in their coming to meet him, encouraged him greatly. It had been a long, difficult journey in many ways and the sight of fellow Christians brought comfort and refreshed him as it should for us today (Ps. Dale).

Thoughts for the day

  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • What is one way you can apply this truth to your life today?
  • Who can you encourage with this story/message?

Prayer

Pray and give thanks for:
…the truth of these words, “God with us”
…the impact of the birth of Jesus,
…the reality that God is with us, now.

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By |2018-09-13T15:08:53+08:00September 21st, 2018|Week 3|0 Comments

20 September 2018 – Acts 28: 7-10 (NIV)

Scripture

There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.

Reflection

Welcoming strangers (well, not only strangers, but some of them, prisoners). Publius’ act of hospitality led not only to his father’s healing, but also to the rest of the sick on the island. Paul’s ministry didn’t stop because of the circumstances and/or his environment. Have you ever lived your Christian life with an “on” and an “off” button? When it comes to Church/ ministry the switch is “on”. However, for the rest of the week you function on the “off” mode. What would it look like if we live our lives in the light of God’s glory 24/7? (Su).

Thoughts for the day

  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • What is one way you can apply this truth to your life today?
  • Who can you encourage with this story/message?

Prayer

Pray for those who are in prison.

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By |2018-09-13T15:06:59+08:00September 20th, 2018|Week 3|0 Comments

19 September 2018 – Acts 28: 3-6 (NIV)

Scripture

Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

Reflection

How easily do we make assumptions about others? After the shipwreck we see Paul and other prisoners arriving in Malta. When Paul is bitten by the snake the islanders are quick to assume it must have been some sort of divine justice. The reality though is that bad things don’t only happen to bad people, neither good things only happen to good people. As believers we know that there is a judgment that is yet to come. Paul went through much affliction in order to continue to share the Gospel. In the midst of it all, God was present; miraculous signs happened and people believed. This reminds me of Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 16:33:  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”(Su).

Thoughts for the day

  • Are there any superstitions/assumtions that you believe in that isn’t in allignement with the Bible?
  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • What is one way you can apply this truth to your life today?
  • Who can you encourage with this story/message?

Prayer

Pray for somewhere in the world that needs God’s attention. Flick to a news app or website, and pick a news story to pray for.

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By |2018-09-13T15:00:03+08:00September 19th, 2018|Week 3|0 Comments

18 September 2018 – Acts 27:42-44 (NIV)

Scripture

42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

Reflection

In these verses, the plight of Paul and his companions went from bad to worse…but there was still hope. They were shipwrecked in an unfamiliar land, hungry, thirsty and probably in need of medical help. However, instead of being given safe refuge, they were almost executed by their captors. But dramatically, the Centurion interceded on their behalf and every single captive made it to shore safely – even the ones who couldn’t swim! So, why did the Centurion risk his status (and perhaps his life) by allowing these men to go to ashore? Did he see Paul as a man of integrity who would not attempt an escape when given the opportunity? Was he moved by seeing a group of starving captives still living out their faith with gratefulness and joy? Or was it simply that the Holy Spirit moved in the Centurion’s heart in inexplicable ways? No matter the reason, his decision spared Paul and his men from certain death. This passage once again shows God’s provisions and protection. Like the Hebrews wandering in the desert, Paul and his companions were given enough to keep going. They had nothing to rely on but God Himself. We all have times when life seems to be going from bad to worse. It is natural to let become disillusioned with God or pessimistic about the future. But for those who keep their eyes on Jesus, there are always reasons be hopeful, as God Himself will always provide what we need (Charlie Engelmann).

Thoughts for the day

  • Why do you think the Centurion protected Paul and his companions?
  • Did Paul’s Christ-like qualities inspire confidence? Or was it simply a work of the Spirit?
  • How has God sustained you during difficult chapters in your life?
  • As expats, sometimes we also feel ‘shipwrecked in an unfamiliar land.” As followers of Christ, how should our lives be different from those who do not share our faith?

Prayer

Pray the Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:9-13:

“OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN,
HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME,
YOUR KINGDOM COME,
YOUR WILL BE DONE,
ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.
GIVE US TODAY OUR DAILY BREAD.
AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS,
AS WE ALSO HAVE FORGIVEN OUR DEBTORS.
AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION,
BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE.”

And Think of someone who you know that seems to be on a metaphorical sinking ship. Pray that God leads him/her safely to shore and reveals His loving plans for their life.

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By |2018-09-13T15:10:39+08:00September 18th, 2018|Week 3|0 Comments

17 September 2018 – Acts 27:34-38 (NIV)

Scripture

34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

Reflection

Here we see a group that is, understandably, famished and afraid. Physically, they were starving and certainly ready to devour the sustenance put before them by Paul. But before eating, they still took time to pray and thank God for HIS provisions. Two important lessons are revealed in this passage. Firstly, we must always consider not only our physical health, but also our spiritual health. A full stomach is nothing if our spirits are malnourished. Secondly, we must ALWAYS be thankful. This was a group of castaways, likely lacking hope, physically at their breaking points, packed together in a tiny boat adrift at sea, and hungry. But while most would have given into their fear, anger or physical desires, they instead prayed a prayer of thanksgiving, led by Paul. This was the same Paul that wrote in Philippians 4:11 that he has “learned to be content in all circumstances,” and in I Thessalonians 5:18 urged others to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This attitude is echoed by missionary and Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom, who once said, “When Jesus is with you, the worst can happen and the best remains.” (Charlie Engelmann).

Thoughts for the day

  • Think back to a time when you were famished and/or afraid. How did you respond?
  • What lessons are you able to glean in hindsight?
  • Are you nourishing your spiritual health? What does that look like?
  • How can you be thankful in all circumstances?
  • Are you committed to gratitude or do you let the outside world dictate your emotional state?

Prayer

Spend time today specifically thanking God in your areas of anger, frustration and other areas in which you feel there is a lacking. Be grateful and let God replace your spiritual famine with joyful abundance. Also pray for the international church in Shanghai. All expressions but especially, ICS, SWIF, AGIF, German Fellowship, Korean Community Fellowship, Danish Fellowship and Cantonese Fellowship (SICF).

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By |2018-09-13T15:10:12+08:00September 17th, 2018|Week 3|0 Comments

14 September 2018 – Acts 27: 21-26 (NIV)

Scripture

21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

Reflection

Ahh…the classic sports locker room Pep talk. Or Sir William Wallace screaming in the movie Braveheart, “they can never take our FREEDOM!!!” There is power in a word. The ultimate display of the power of words is when God used His Word to form the material and spiritual universe. That’s the power of God, but what about us? Similarly, our words have power too; the power to help us to shape or reshape, form or reform situations. Simple example, when you’ve been wronged or have wronged someone, a genuine expression of the word “Sorry” has the power to restore, heal and forgive! When someone is discouraged, a simple encouragement may be all that they need to sustain them or spur them on. Remember, that no matter how you got to the situation you are in, you have to power to reshape and reform the situation, atmosphere, and attitudes with your words (Josh).

Thoughts for the day

  • Who is that one person who needs a word of encouragement from you?
  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • What is one way you can apply this truth to your life today?
  • Who can you encourage with this story/message?

Prayer

Pray for these organizations who are helping people in need: Home Sweet Home, Renewal Center and Sonflowers.

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By |2018-09-07T16:27:09+08:00September 14th, 2018|Week 2|0 Comments

13 September 2018 – Acts 27:9-12 (NIV)

Scripture

Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement. So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.

Reflection

What do you do when it seems there is no right answer? Wintering or sailing on, both had its perils and difficulties. Upon further review though, there was one thing they forgot to do…inquire from the Lord what to do. In life, we can find ourselves in situations where there cannot possibly be a good outcome. This story reminds us that it would be wise of us to lean on the Lord for advice, direction and peace. He may not reveal to us a clean solution. He may show us a way out we did not see. He may even require us to walk through those hardships. But if we bring things to the Lord, “even in the valley of the shadow of death we will fear no evil.” There is peace in the presence of the Lord, regardless of what hardships may come (Josh).

Thoughts for the day

  • Is there a situation or challenge in your life that you haven’t brought to the Lord yet?
  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • What is one way you can apply this truth to your life today?
  • Who can you encourage with this story/message?

Prayer

Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Shanghai Community Fellowship.

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By |2018-09-07T16:22:53+08:00September 13th, 2018|Week 2|0 Comments

12 September 2018 – Acts 26:27-29 (NIV)

Scripture

27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

Reflection

Paul’s passion was to lead others to Jesus. This moment with Agrippa was one of those “pregnant” moments where the possibility of a new birth was close at hand. It wasn’t contrived, Agrippa was not being coerced; Paul recognized the work of the Holy Spirit drawing this man to Jesus. Paul made himself available to encourage Agrippa to believe and trust in what he has heard concerning Jesus. If not this time, then another time, but always ready with the question, “Do you believe?” (Ps. Dale).

Thoughts for the day

  • Who needs to hear today the question ‘Do you believe?’
  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • What is one way you can apply this truth to your life today?
  • Who can you encourage with this story/message?

Prayer

Pray for the spiritually lost among the global community in Shanghai; pray that they will be drawn to God by the Holy Spirit.

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By |2018-09-07T16:18:14+08:00September 12th, 2018|Week 2|0 Comments

11 September 2018 – Acts 26:19 (NIV)

Scripture

19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.

Reflection

The first account of Jesus’ encounter with Paul is recorded in Acts 9. Paul would never forget what happened that day nor the commission he received from Jesus. Many years had passed and Paul remained faithful. Paul’s unique way of describing it was NOT to say, “I was obedient” but to say, “I was not disobedient”. Paul was a brilliant man with a brilliant career ahead of him when Jesus commissioned him, perhaps there were days when disobedience to the words of Jesus was tempting. After all, who wants to be told you are going to suffer many things for me (Ps. Dale).

Thoughts for the day

  • What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
  • What is one way you can apply this truth to your life today?
  • Who can you encourage with this story/message?

Prayer

Stop and ask God to place a nation on your mind and heart. Pray for the people to blessed by God, the church to shine brightly and for God to be present in that place.

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By |2018-09-07T16:15:02+08:00September 11th, 2018|Week 2|0 Comments