We have reached chapter 8 in the whirlwind story of Acts and, accelerated by the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, the message of Jesus as the risen Lord of all has started to break new ground.
Often life can be like that can’t it? Unexpected and painful situations can often be our greatest means of growth. Perhaps this might be true for you during this current crisis.
‘Marching on’ by Rend Collective Experiment
And yet another banger from our Irish brethren! As we see the gospel break new ground in Acts chapter 8, we are reminded that, despite the attempts of the enemy to squash the gospel message, their persecution only served to advance the gospel further! The battle still belongs to the Lord and he uses us as his warriors!
Your unstoppable kingdom advances
As we take back the ground from the darkness
The battle belongs to the Lord and no one else
You’re the banner we raise in the chaos
No, the gates of Hell won’t stand against us
The battle belongs to the Lord and no one else, no one else
‘See a Victory’ by Elevation Worship
Some Christians accuse folks like those at Elevation Church of being too triumphalist and painting a false picture of following Jesus; namely that the life of faith is always easy and lived ‘in victory’. Whilst there may be some truth in this at times, what these guys do really well is remind the church of God’s promises and encourage us to trust them wholeheartedly. As hard as life can be, as much pain as we may experience, God can turn anything for good and, no matter what happens, we know how the story ends!
There’s power in the mighty name of Jesus
Every war He wages He will win
I’m not backing down from any giant
‘Cause I know how this story ends
Yes, I know how this story ends
‘God So Loved’ by We Are The Kingdom
When Philip was scattered to Samaria, he found himself amongst people who were regarded as enemies, disdained by both Jews and non-Jews; perhaps the most unlikely recipients of the message. However, Philip put Stephen’s message of God’s love for the whole world in to practice by preaching and healing there, drawing large crowds, and seeing many converts.
Amongst them was a strange character called Simon, a magician who had fooled many in to thinking he was someone great. A man who had a thirst for power and plaudits but who found himself awestruck by the love and power of God, at work through Phillip. He finally found what he had been looking for all of his life.
Come all you sinners, come find His mercy
Come to the table, He will satisfy
Taste of His goodness, find what you’re looking for
‘God of Miracles’ by Jesus Culture
The story of Philip going to Samaria reminded again that, despite my own lack of faith at times, God is still a God of miracles.
Unlike ‘Simon the Sorcerer’ in this part of Luke’s story, who performed ‘magic’ in order to attract crowds to himself, the amazing ‘signs’ that accompanied Phillp’s preaching pointed people away from himself to the only one who can heal and set people free – Jesus.
Oh, how this world still needs to know God’s miraculous power and how the church needs to believe and walk in it.
The One who does the impossible is reaching out to make me whole, reaching out to make me whole
The One who put death in its place: His life is flowing through my veins, His life is flowing through my veins
I believe in You, I believe in You – You’re the God of miracles
‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ by Ian Peacock
The apostles had just buried their close friend Stephen, causing them ‘great lamentation’ (Acts 8 v 2) but nothing would cause them to back down from the seeming giants of the religious establishment. While the tears were still fresh on their faces, they continued to sow the seeds of God’s kingdom.
I wrote this song a few years ago whilst teaching music at a local college. The drums were recorded during one of our Samba classes where we would dance and hit Brazilian percussion in time to infectious African-inspired rhythms.
This, alongside researching genres such as the Blues and early Gospel and American Folk music, often caused me to imagine the songs and rhythms of African slaves brought over to America that accompanied their back-breaking work.
One such ‘Negro Spiritual’ is the famous ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’. Like many other songs of that era, this is a song of defiance and hope in spite of great persecution and pain, sanctioned by the political establishment of the time.
I wonder what songs the first followers of Jesus sang as they continued their hard work of sowing and reaping…
Whatever opposition you may face this week and however tough the soil may be, may you continue to sow seeds of hope, faith and love wherever you can. May there ‘be joy in the city’ because of people seeing God at work through us.