An Apostolic Fellowship – Part One

With zeal 3,000 new believers turned towards their new opportunity to live out their faith. The first Christians hungered for the apostles’ teaching, prayed with tenacity, and worshipped wholeheartedly. They were not passive or neutral about it. They “continued steadfastly” in their commitment to God and to the apostolic fellowship. They had a passionate commitment.

Luke describes the believers’ zeal with a Greek word that is fairly rare in the New Testament. The word communicates an intense, consistent dedication. It means to persist in adhering to something, to be intently engaged, or to attend constantly. A verb in the imperfect tense, it signifies continuous action: ‘They kept on continuing steadfastly” in day-to-day commitment. These believers possessed wholehearted devotion.

Luke used this powerful word several other times. The 120 disciples who gathered in the upper room “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14). The first church members were “continuing daily with one accord in the temple” (Acts 2:46). After the congregation grew into a so-called ‘megachurch,’ the apostles declared their intention to “give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4)

As a result of Peter’s preaching, many present on the Day of Pentecost declared themselves to a whole new way of life. The Amplified Bible translates verse 42 as: “And they steadfastly persevered, devotion themselves constantly to the instruction and fellowship of the apostles.”

Believers’ lives were marked by:

      • The apostles’ doctrine
      • Fellowship
      • The breaking of bread
      • Prayers

There was a priority of doctrine …

First, the new congregation dedicated itself to the apostles’ doctrine. Daily reading and teaching built strong foundations in believers’ lives. The sought the Word of God for guidance and did not think it was optional as many do today. They found answers to their questions in the Scriptures. They did not rely only on their experiences as many do today. All 3,120 members studied the ways of God. No wonder they preached the Gospel of the Kingdom with clarity in the whole world, beginning in Jerusalem, and gave reasons for the hope that was within them. 

One commentary states: “This work went on continuously, and all these people not only attended the meetings faithfully but also earnestly adhered to what was taught.” In other words, they applied what they were taught to their daily lives and lived it out in practical and realistic ways.

To enjoy the same experience today, Christians must believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word. It not only contains God’s Word; it is God’s Word. The very words and phrases of the Bible are inspired by God.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

The word “inspired” means God-breathed. The Lord breathed out by His Spirit and gave specific, written revelation of Himself. This sacred writing is the only objective, authoritative revelation God has given and is the absolute truth of God.

John 17:17 “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth.”

Man’s search for truth starts at the Word of God. Objective, absolute truth is found only in God’s written Word. Man cannot begin with his own experience, interpret it to make sense to him, then search the Scripture for support of his interpretation – finding a “proof text” to back up his subjective experience. Instead he must interpret his experience in light of the Word. This pattern works for studies in philosophy, psychology, and theology.

More and more people in western culture do not believe absolute truth exists. They think every individual has the luxury of defining truth for themselves. That would be true if God had not revealed truth in the Bible.

Principles found in the Bible build maturity and stability into Christi’s disciples. They stand on the unchangeable Word of God and do not live by impulse and feelings. They have the only authoritative source of truth and principles for faith and morals.

Any church that accomplishes great things in the Kingdom of God must have a firm foundation in the Scriptures. Member must know the ways of God, the mind of God, and the eternal purpose of God. They must center ministries around biblical priorities — like the first church — and not around man’s charisma. 

Acts 8:35 “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”

Acts 17:2 “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures…”

Acts 18:24, 28 “Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures … for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”

Paul gave the Bereans a very high complement.

Acts 17:11 “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

More next time….

SOMETIMES THE FIRE DIES

Sometimes The Fire Dies

 

The Scriptures frequently comment on living the Christian faith with passion

It is very clear that as believers we cannot be passive

We must embrace the truth and engage with the world for that truth

Jude 3b “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” 

TPT “(I) felt the need … to challenge you to vigorously defend and contend for the beliefs that we cherish. For God, through the apostles, has once for all entrusted these truths to his holy believers.”

“vigorously defend and contend…”

My personal favourite Scripture regarding living the faith with passion – serving Jesus with my heart and soul 

God spoke it to me … planted it deeply in my heart in July of 2007

Romans 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” Read more

Because God Loves Us – Part Six

Because God loves us, we can love our enemies

Matthew 5:43-45, 48 “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust … You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

So far we have seen the circle of love expand step-by-step. First we love God, then ourselves, then our fellow believers, and then our neighbours. Now Jesus tells us to take one more step and love our enemies. This is where it gets interesting. For many, it is a step too far.

Knowing the difficulty in loving our enemies, Jesus gives us an excellent rationale for the command. He says that if we love only our friends and family, we are no different from unbelievers who don’t know Jesus or His commandments. What we can offer that they cannot is love for our enemies.

If I knew the name of your worst enemy and suggested that you go serve that person in some good way, you might say, “I just can’t!” But Jesus knows it can be done because He did it. He found a way to love that race of enemies known as humanity, and we must be eternally grateful that He did.

Christ could have said, “Those men are driving nails into My hands. They’ve beaten Me, gambled for My clothing, and deeply grieved those who love Me. I just can’t love them!” No one would have blamed Him — or remembered Him.

Instead, from the agony of the cross, Christ looked down on those who had brutalized Him and asked Good to forgive them (Luke 23:34). Stephen, the first Christian martyr, did the same (Acts 7:60). Peter points out that Jesus, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Because Jesus loved His enemies, we live forever. Because Jesus loved His enemies, we can love ours.

As Jesus pointed out, God sends sunshine and rain to both the good and the bad — to those who love Him and those who don’t (Matthew 5:45). It’s known as God’s common grace. He does not shut out people who might be deemed unworthy, so we don’t have that right either. We love people not for who they are, but for who they can become — not for the value of their behaviour, but for the value of their souls. That’s when the world knows we are serious.

Paul, who built friendships with his prison guards, wrote: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them … To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:14, 20). It may seem that Paul is urging us to be “passive-aggressive,” until we understand a certain custom of the day. As an act of public contrition, some Egyptians wore a pan of burning coals like a hat to express their shame and guilt. Paul is simply urging a bit of human psychology: Return gentleness for aggression, and your persecutor will be shamed into being contrite. It will be as if he is wearing such a hat.

Because God loves us, we can, we must, love our enemies.

Church as Usual Is Coming to an End (Revelation-Driven Churches)

The Church as we Know it is Coming to an End

 

Church as Usual Is Coming to an End (and Revelation-Driven Churches Must Emerge to Fill the Void) 

Around the world the Church, as we know it, is in trouble

Most church leaders are unaware that they are in trouble or have chosen to simply ignore the issues that the Church is facing

In some places it is seriously dying – growing smaller every year 

20% decline a year due to deaths, moves, and people leaving

So to remain steady at the same number of people annually need to grow 20%

In some places there is decreasing ‘life’ and a focus on format and ritual, tradition and religion

2 Timothy 3:5 “… having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” Read more

Sometimes I Don’t Walk By Faith

Sometimes I Dont Walk By Faith

 

In this series of teachings I have targeted a number of every day issues – spiritual and life issues – that we, as believers and disciples of Jesus, tend to encounter on a regular basis

Sometimes I Doubt God – Bout With Doubt

Sometimes I Worry – But What If…

Sometimes I Get Angry – Rage Rash

Sometimes I Feel Incredibly Lonely – Seclusion Conclusions

Today: Sometimes I Don’t Walk By Faith – “No More Beyond”

Subtitle: “Don’t Settle In Spain”

I don’t believe that disciples of Jesus – those of us who follow Jesus today – were ever suppose to end up as couch potatoes

Sitting in one spot can feel so comfortable – physically, emotionally, mentally, and relationally

Just coasting in life and accepting things as they are is simply not the call upon the believers today or any day

The early believers we read about in the New Testament did not just sit and accept what was because it was Read more

God’s Love – Part Ten

As we draw our study of John 3:16 to a close … a true story:

In 1912 the Titanic, the largest, most luxurious, and most advanced ship of its time, sank on its maiden voyage, taking the lives of 1,514 passengers. Though the disaster occurred over one hundred year ago, several movies, documentaries, and books have kept the horror of that night alive in our minds. We’ve all heard of passengers such as “the unsinkable” Molly Brown and the entrepreneur John Jacob Astor IV. But one of the most astonishing stories from the Titanic has received little press.

It’s the story of Pastor John Harper, a widower who was travelling with his six-year-old daughter at the invitation of the great Moody Church in Chicago. Not only was he to preach there, he intend to accept the church’s offer to become their next pastor. His hopes were high, and it seemed he had a brilliant future ahead. 

After the ship hit the iceberg and it became apparent that it would sink, Harper got his daughter safely aboard a lifeboat. It’s likely he could have joined her, being her only parent, but he chose to stay aboard the sinking ship because he knew that with this disaster, God had given him an urgent message.

Harper immediately began to go from one person to another, telling them about Christ’s love and urging them to accept Him. He shouted for Christians to let the unsaved fill the lifeboats so that would live to come to belief. When one angry man rejected the message, Harper removed his own life vest and gave it to him, saying, “You need this more than I do.”

Harper was still actively pressing his urgent evangelism when the ship tipped upward, wretched in half, and slipped beneath the frigid North Sea. Even then Harper did not stop. Seeing the many passengers struggling in the water with little chance of rescue, he swam to as many as he could, urging them to accept Christ’s loving offer until hypothermia finally overcame him.

Four years later, at a Titanic survivors meeting in Ontario, one survivor told the story of his own encounter with John Harper. He was clinging to a piece of flotsam when Harper swam to him and urged him to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The man rejected the offer and Harper swam away. But soon Harper came around again, and this time, knowing death to be only minutes away, the man gave his life to Christ. Moments afterwards, he watched the near-freezing waters finally take Harper’s life just as a returning lifeboat approached to rescue him. At the conclusion of his story, he said simply, “I am the last convert of John Harper.”

The titanic left England with three classes of passengers aboard. But when accounting for their fate, the White Star Line set up a board listing two classes: KNOWN TO BE SAVED and KNOWN TO BE LOST. These categories provided a fitting analogy for what John Harper already knew. There are only two classes of people in this world: those who have chosen to accept Christ and will spend eternity with God in heaven, and those who have not chosen Him and will not.

Which class are you in?

God’s Love – Part Eight

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

To review:

1> How John 3:16 came to be

2> That God’s love is extravagant

3> God’s love is extensive

4> God’s Love Is Expensive

5> God’s Love is Expansive

6> God’s love is Exclusive

7> God’s love is Exceptional

Today: God’s love is Eternal.

There is a gravestone for Les Moore in Tombstone, Arizona (an appropriate place to have an epitaph, I would think). Apparently his departure was not overly mourned, for his epitaph reads:

Here Lies Les Moore

No Les, No More

The humour rings true, but the theology falls flat. Somewhere, more or less, Les Moore abides. If Les found the love of God in the gift of Jesus Christ, then Les is more. In God’s eternity He is more alive, more himself, more abounding in every good blessing, and more fully in loving fellowship with his Lord. 

If Les Moore is experiencing the ecstasy of eternity, you can be sure that it began to happen before he was laid in the ground under that tombstone. Eternity is more than a someday promise to be fulfilled on the other side of a funeral. Eternal life is our present position. Eternal life is now. If this seems confusing, think of it this way: When we accept Christ and begin living in His love, heaven’s door opens to us, letting a pure light into our lives that we never had before. We receive the life of God’s Spirit and experience the joy of fellowship with Him (see John 17:3). In a real sense, we begin to live in heaven before we actually get there. This foretaste of heaven sweetens our lives now; and with life in heaven already in our grasp, “now” is suddenly a very good place to be. As Paul put it, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Either way, we win.

Someone told me about a little girl who misquoted John 3:16 as “whoever believes on Him should not perish but have internal life.” This time the theology is as sound as the humour. Indeed, we have new life internally even before we arrive in heaven because of what Christ has done for us. Jesus offers us more than a life insurance policy, more than a stamped ticket to heaven. He came that we might have life, and then we might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). That’s how much God loves you. 

John 3:16 tells an amazing love story, doesn’t it? It begins with God who has no beginning, and concludes with life that has no ending. That’s life with no limits, and it can begin now. Think of it, no limits to joy, no limits to kingdom service, and no limits to how much we will come to resemble His Son as we grow more like Him every day. 

Answer Questions – Ask Questions

Too often as the church we are answering questions instead of asking questions. Worse than that – we are answering questions no one is asking. We are that far out of touch with the society in which we live and work. And the church has fewer answers than it realizes, or it would demonstrate more impact. But I get ahead of myself.

The book of Acts is the story of Jesus working powerfully through frail and broken humanity to aggressively expand His Church. But Acts wasn’t written to show us how to do church. It was written to show us how to advance the Church in an unreached world. Talk about reaching the unreached! Nobody has had the challenge that the early church did. As the world’s first Christians, they were the only Christian in the world. All the vast unconverted pagan empires lay before that small pack of Jewish men and women that Jesus commissioned. If anybody should be counted experts at reaching the unreached, it was they. Because to them, everybody they came into contact with was unreached. 

But they took Acts 1:8 (see note) seriously, and lived that verse out to fulfillment. If we want to witness Kingdom expansion like the apostles did, it’s not enough to know what they did. We need to do what they did. Two thousand years later, we flatter ourselves over and above our first-century counterparts, imagining we have the advantage of superior knowledge. But knowledge does not get people saved. Nor does it expand the Kingdom. We know a lot about a lot of things and we certainly know how to make profound statements about current issues. However, now is not the time in Church history to wax lyrical. Ours is a day for living out, not sounding smart. Besides, the Church has fewer answers than it realizes, or it would demonstrate more impact than it has. We should be asking the right questions instead of providing wrong answers to questions no one is actually asking. 

As a rabbi, Jesus’s method of teaching involved asking searching questions. In the gospels, Jesus asks 307 questions but only answered two. Why? Because Jesus knew that when we start asking questions, we begin to experience breakthroughs and gain deeper insight into our situation. 

During the day of the Judges (Old Testament), bandits and enemies had the Israelites’ backs to the ropes, beating their self-dependency out of them. There are eerie parallels between the days when “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25) and our gimmicks, antics, and over-confidence today. Gideon may have been a coward, hiding in the bottom of a winepress against the onslaught of what was befalling his culture, but he turned the tide when he started asking the right questions.

“If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13).

“Where are all His wonders that our ancestors told us about?” (Judges 6:13)

I have a sneaking suspicion God’s been waiting quite a while for us to ask the right questions. But the important questions don’t sell books or make the writer or preacher popular. The right questions are seldom popular. Asking them often guarantees that you won’t be asked back to speak again. I don’t have the corner market on the right questions, but some of them might sound like:

      • Why does the Church seem to be losing when we’re on the winning team?
      • Why does the average Christian seem bored when Jesus is suppose to provide life more abundant?
      • Why do most of the stories we hear about God working powerfully, like He did in Acts, tend to come from those working in unreached areas of the world?
      • Has the dynamic faith we read about in Acts been tamed into an impotent ghost of its former self?
      • Have we replaced the power of the Holy Spirit with automation, processes, systems, money, and crowds?
      • Why have we stripped outreach of risk and faith, and opted for security instead of dependence upon God?
      • What’s the way back to becoming the dynamic force that Jesus unleashed on the world two thousand years ago? 
      • Does the Church even know it has lost its way, or is it like the Laodiceans, blind, poor, and wretched without realizing it? (Revelation 3:14-22)

So, I think it is time to ask questions and not continue to answer questions no one is even asking. Just a thought. 

Note: Acts 1:8 reads, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

First and Second Coming of Jesus

It is an historical fact that Jesus came and was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Galilee, ministered in Israel, died on a Roman cross, and rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit to be with us.

It is a prophetic fact that He will be coming again.

However, His second coming will look drastically different from His first…

      • The first time Jesus came to earth, He came as a baby. When He comes back, He will come as a full-grown king.
      • The first time Jesus came to earth, He came lying in a manger. When He comes back, He will come riding a white horse
      • The first time Jesus came to earth, He came in weakness and meekness. When He comes back, He will come in power and glory.
      • The first time Jesus came to earth, He came to pay for the sins of the world. When He comes back, He will do away with all sin.
      • The first time Jesus came to earth, He came as a suffering servant. When He comes back, He will come as a conquering master.
      • The first time Jesus came to earth, He came as a sacrificial lamb. When He comes back, He will come as a roaring lion.
      • The first time Jesus came to earth, He suffered momentarily on the cross. When He comes back, He will make sure that Satan will suffer for all eternity in hell.
      • The first time Jesus came to earth, very few people in a town called Bethlehem knew about it. When He comes back, everyone on earth will know who He is.
      • The first time Jesus came to earth, only a few wise men bowed down before Him. When He comes back, every knee will bow down before Him.

There will be a few similarities:

      • The first time Jesus came to earth, He came because He loves you. When He comes back, He will come because He loves you.
      • The first time Jesus came to earth, He came because He remembered you. When He comes back, He will come because He remembers you.

Yes, contrary to popular belief, Someone has come and is coming again. He cares. His Name is Jesus.

Assembling Together

Hebrews 12:25 states, “Do not forsake the assembling of ourselves together” batteries not included (sorry, couldn’t pass that one up). 

For the writer of Hebrews, attendance at a weekly meeting of believers isn’t an option for true believers. Take a look at the first generation of believers, and you’ll see how strongly they felt about it. According to Acts, the narrative of that era, those first Christians assembled as often as possible in their homes. The early church was truly a ‘house church movement.’ 

Regardless of the stern warning in Hebrews, many believers don’t take church attendance seriously. As a leader, I hear words such as, “Oh, I’m spiritual, but I don’t particularly need the church or ‘institutional religion.’” When someone tells me, “I’ve learned to worship God on the golf course,” I’m tempted to reply, “That’s a good trick, and just as easy as playing golf in the sanctuary.” Indeed I would love to see ordinary people approach sporting events with the same attitude they bring to Christian fellowship. An anonymous wit posted a tongue-in-cheek sampling of what that would be like. Here is his list of reasons for no longer attending professional sports games:

      • Every time I go, they ask me for money
      • The people I sit by aren’t very friendly
      • The seats are too hard and uncomfortable
      • The coach never comes to call on me
      • The referees make decisions I don’t agree with
      • Some games go into overtime, and I’m late getting home
      • My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up
      • My kids need to make their own decisions about which sports to follow

It’s true that some have legitimate reasons for not attending church and that is the reason we post teachings on line in a number of different formats. But, being a member of the church (1 Corinthians 12:28 states every believer is planted as a member of a church by God) is an up-close-and-personal thing. We should accept no substitutes. We must not forsake our assembling together. We need to be connected to a local church and engaged in the live of that church. This means attending the weekly meeting but so much more than that. 

Assembling Together