I believe the Lord has been guiding me to study the book of Acts this last week and I came across a YouTube video that enables you to watch a stunning dramatization of this most inspiring book, whilst following along with your NIV bible. I encourage anyone who learns in a more visual way and may struggle with reading the bible to watch it. The other books of the New Testament are also available but it is acts I wanted to focus on at the moment. I will put the video at the end of this post.
It was quite late already by the time I started watching but I had my Women’s Devotional Bible in front of me to read along, and so I started my journey into Acts. Unfortunately half way through the film (and the book) I fell asleep!
Skipping a couple of days I opened my bible on the study on page 1293 entitled “A Mother’s Prayer” (Read Acts 1:1-14). The study sets the scene by talking about a woman called Monica and her constant prayer for her son Augustine, who didn’t follow his mother’s faith and led a sinful life. He did however eventually wake up to Christ and became, of course, a very famous fourth century Bishop. All his life his mother prayed for him, confident that God would step in and wake her son from his sinful slumber.
In the bible reading we see how Mary must have struggled when her younger sons didn’t have faith in their older brother Jesus and they must have been constantly foremost in her prayers. And we see how after Jesus ascends into heaven, his mother is among those in the upper room praying along with Jesus’ brothers. In fact his brother James is one of the first people Jesus appears to.
I really took hold of this lesson as a mother myself, praying for my children daily that they will be woken up to God’s glory. But as a mother who has faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and saviour, I am very conscious of the need to be gently encouraging – because children don’t always listen to their parents with an open heart, let’s face it – and I don’t want the opposite to happen and push them further from God.
Now every Sunday I get up and go to church and I wake my children up and tell them I am going to church and if they want to come they have an hour or half an hour (depending on when I wake them) to get up, dressed and with it and come with me. I am a single mother and the girl’s father has them every other weekend (he doesn’t go to church) so as my children keep telling me: “This is your thing Mum not ours!” I try not to nag but give them the option of coming with me. Usually I get a few groans of “No Thanks!” and they turn over and go back to sleep! However Last Sunday I suddenly had the urge to change tactics (just the once. I wasn’t planning on doing it every week, but I felt the Holy Spirit stirring in the house making me bold and spurring me on.) So I shouted up the stairs: “GET UP! We’re ALL going out to church this morning!” The usual moans and groans of teenage angst drifted back down the stairs at me: “Muuuum I’m tired. I really don’t want to go – it’s your thing not mine!” Then I shouted back up the stairs: “It’s not a thing – it’s an opportunity – now GET UP! You don’t have to come every week but today we’re ALL going. As it turned out the morning was really amazing and I was so happy that my children (well 2 of them anyway) had come with me and had actually enjoyed the morning too.
Saturday I opened my devotional bible again to Acts and was quite surprised to find the next study on pg 1304 was entitled “Get up!” (Read Acts 9:1-43) Obviously this immediately made me think of my struggles to get my children up out of bed on a Sunday morning, so I read on with interest. The study actually started speaking about parents trying to get teenagers out of bed! I had to have a little giggle at (what I thought) was God’s sense of humour as a father relating to me as a mother. Then I read on and the bible study asks you to look at the different ways people were told to “Get up!” in Acts 9.
First in (Acts 9:5-6) Saul is knocked to the ground by the light of Jesus’ presence and blinded on the road to Damascus:
“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.”
Later on in (Acts 9:34-35) Peter comes across a paralyzed man:
“Aeneas,” Peter said to him,
“Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.”
Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.”
Then lastly, in (Acts 9:40) Peter is led to the body of Tabitha (a faithful disciple who always helped the poor and had died):
Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed.
Turning towards the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha get up.”
She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.”
Well as you can imagine the story spread and many people became believers.
I have really been inspired and encouraged this week by all these examples in the book of Acts and it spoke to me of just how different all our journeys are. As it points out in the bible study, we are all on different journeys, you may need God to knock you off your horse, heal you or resurrect you depending on where you are spiritually. Which brings me to the end of the week. Friday I had a lovely catch up with a very dear friend of mine, who has been with me on my journey and who I know has been constantly praying for me. Somehow she had double booked her morning and another friend of hers also turned up, and the 3 of us had a wonderful morning chatting, eating a lovely lunch prepared by my friend and sharing our testimonies. It was then that I told my new friend about the day I met our mutual friend and how amazing my encounter with God was that day. In a way it reminded me of Saul’s encounter (although obviously not as dramatic!) But i was literally stopped in my tracks as I hurried to pass the church and the rather exuberant pastor sitting outside happily inviting people in to join in with a family event taking place. I was offended by his intrusion into my day and I politely declined with some excuse and hurried across the road. My eldest daughter, just 4 years old at the time, cried and carried on and on about how she wanted her face painted. I tried to take her into the local corner shop, thinking to bribe her with sweets to stop her winging. Well – it was at that point, standing in the middle of a very quiet coastal village, with nobody around me, that “someone” whispered quite calmly, gently but in a demanding way in my ear:
“Turn around!” – which I did. I turned around in the street to see who it was whispering in my ear and there was nobody there! My little heart started pounding, I can tell you, at the sudden realization that it had been God! God had just caught me trying to bribe my 4 year old with sweets NOT to go to church. I was so stunned and ashamed that I immediately went back to the church, where I met, amongst others, the dear friend I was visiting on Friday.
I would love to tell you that after that amazing encounter with God in the very quiet coastal village of Pevensey Bay, I was a loyal and faithful Christian – I’d be lying! That was just one small step on my journey to being woken up by God and thankfully he never gave up on me, throughout all my backsliding, and neither did those who continued to pray for me through darker times. Now I know Jesus was always with me, gently shaking me until I woke up, opened my heart and heard him again. It’s funny how children have ‘selective hearing’ isn’t it? Sometimes it isn’t until the circumstances and context of the situation are just right that they suddenly hear what you are trying to say, don’t you think? It is the same when God is trying to talk to us.
I am happy to report that one of my daughters was given a little shake last Sunday and yesterday (This Sunday) I had no problem getting her up – it seems she wants to be more involved with the church and was very excited to talk to the young visiting preacher who spoke about being a “lighthouse”.