Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Our first glimpse will start in Acts 18:19. It appears at first Paul wastes no time getting to Ephesus, making a few acquaintances, making sure Aquila and Priscilla are settled, and off he goes into the sunset. It’s possible it was a rather quick stop in relation to past duty assignments, but we should not overlook his actions in verses 18-21. I appreciate the fact Paul remains consistent throughout Acts in regard to always entering the local synagogue, then teaching and reasoning with the Jews. I get a sense Paul understands these Jews who are faithful in the synagogues can also be just as diligent in the Lord’s church. He used to be just like them desiring to please God as he believed who God was. This is an important principle reminding us we should never forget who we once were and that there are many lost souls who need to be reached. I also see a principle in making sure that faithful, well grounded Christians are in place to be the constant the church needs during times of growth and maturity, just like Aquila and Priscilla were to the Ephesians. Aquila and Priscilla take Apollos aside and teach him the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26) which shows their competence in the Word and indicates Paul’s wise decision on who should remain in Ephesus.
Paul returns to Ephesus in Acts 19:1 and immediately another ministry principle is observed. He becomes acquainted with disciples who were baptized into John’ baptism. Paul, too, teaches them the way of God more accurately and baptizes them into the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:5). What I notice is Paul being the excellent protector of the faith by asking questions of those who say they are disciples of Christ. I believe he never beat around the bush and always got straight to the point in discussions with people regarding Christ. Paul continues his synagogue teaching and does so for three months. Verse 8 says that he continued reasoning and persuading them. This is a wonderful example of persistence and patience. These words “reasoning” and “persuading” imply gentleness and a genuine attitude that would be different from simply arguing with someone. It is taking the time and patience needed to figure out exactly what method would best teach and reach someone.
In Acts 19:8 it states Paul spoke out boldly. As a minister, I see I should never be timid in teaching in class, sermons, or whatever. Being bold does not equate to being harsh as some people would think. Boldness is a display of confidence in God’s will. Paul moves on to the school of Tyrannus when the hearts of the Jews become hardened. Paul has the presence of mind to realize there is no more growth and to continue in the synagogue would not benefit the Lord’s church (Acts 19:9-10). While the people were willing to be reasoned with, he stayed. When they “spoke evil of the Way” he realized that it was not time for patience any longer.
Within the two years at the school, all of Asia heard the word. I see an excellent principle that if any secular (school) or religious (synagogue) institution allows a Christian to teach in their building, do not hesitate!
In Acts 19:15, the evil spirit is well aware of who Paul is. This shows me Paul was respected and feared in Ephesus. Congregations and ministers must be diligent in spreading the gospel of Christ with accuracy everywhere possible in their community. Not all of the citizens will like the church but they will know of it and quite possibly have a healthy respect of her.
Acts 20:17-38 is rich with principles for ministers and their elders. Paul’s emotional departure clearly shows the bond he has with the eldership. Paul indicates that he disclosed all information to them (vs. 20). He honored their position as elders and God’s ordination of them. Paul also indicates this life is not about him but his ministry he received from the Lord (vs. 24). Paul charges the elders to be on guard for the sake of the flock and for themselves (vs. 31). These principles are of the upmost importance in having a relationship with the local congregation’s eldership. There are occasions where an eldership is not following God’s will and a minister must pray how to handle the situation forthright and as loving as possible. When a minister has an eldership that is in compliance with God’s will it is the minister’s duty to submit to them and serve. When these leaders (elders and minister) are a cohesive unit the following of members will be great and great things will be done for Christ’s church.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
While the majority of humans live life without making it into history books, there are plenty of examples of leaders who are remembered for all time. The greatest of these leaders all possess an attribute which inspires us, motivates their followers and often is the source of defeat for their enemies. This attribute is courage. In my opinion, courage is needed as a leader. We find many accounts of courageous leaders throughout history. These leaders who rely on their courage show up in many different areas. They are found among famous sports leaders, in the trials of war, in biblical accounts and as martyrs.
Don Haskins was the basketball coach who was recently made famous from the movie based on the story of his life called Glory Road. Coaching basketball in the west Texas in the 1960’s, Don had the courage to recruit and play the first all-black starting players ever in this region. Due to extreme racism, he was met with venomous reactions from hate letters to actual violence aimed at him and his team. Coach Haskins had what great leaders need to follow through with great ideas even when they are received with such hatred. He had the courage to follow through and to do the right thing. He was an exceptional man with the determination to teach an entire region to accept others, regardless of their color, as equals just as God created them. It was a struggle, but eventually his team did so well while enduring many outside problems, they were the 1966 NCAA men’s basketball champions. In 2007, the entire 1966 team was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame for their amazing season led by Coach Haskins.
Another great sports leader of our recent time who displayed great courage was Herman Boone. During the same time and racial climate, Coach Boone, an African American, was given the job as head coach at T.C. Williams High School (Alexandria, Virginia). A controversy surrounded this due to the recent court-ordered desegregation and the well-loved coach, Bill Yoast lost his job to Boone. Children from an “all black” school were bussed to school to join the previously “all white” school with violent reception from the white community. Imagine the danger Herman Boone and his family found themselves entering when he took this new job.
The friction between the two varying cultures among the players was just as tense. At first there was no acceptance given or received on either side of the opposing pigments, but Coach Boone was too courageous to allow this to persist. Even with the physical danger involved, this coach stood against the odds, made an ally in Coach Yoast and led his team to victory. That year, his team won the 1971 Virginia State High School Football Championship. They won more than that, though. They followed their courageous leader and found love and respect for each other regardless of skin color!
Another great leader, Eric Liddell, shows great courage as a runner and later leads others in missionary efforts in China. His public story begins in the year 1921. Eric was an athlete who excelled in track and rugby. He was also a strong follower of Christ and was asked to speak to large groups. His popularity continued when in 1924 he qualified for the Olympics and he took a stand, according to his conscience, to abstain from running in events on a Sunday. Eric missed the races he was favored in. Yet he won the 400 meter race he was not expected to win and did it in world record time.
Instead of continuing to pursue his running career, he chose to join his brother in China in the mission field. Again, this took tremendous courage on his part. China was communistic and dangerous for Christians. He brought his family and in 1937 he went to a very dangerous area of China which was filled with civil violence. In 1943, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, all foreigners were put on house arrest. During a two year period they were all in a small compound. Eric Liddell died in 1945 from cancer, just six months before he would have been released. This amazing leader gave his life as an example to all who were watching.
The next leader who exhibited great courage was a Dutch woman named Corrie ten Boom. Corrie was raised in a family of tremendous faith. When the German troops invaded Holland in 1940, Corrie felt she should help and risked her life by joining the underground movement. In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie tells of how she eventually lead the largest faction of this underground community in Holland which housed and smuggled Jewish people to safety from the deadly German army. She knew at any moment she could be caught and either sent to a concentration camp or killed on the spot. She also knew as a Christian, she needed to do anything she could to protect the helpless.
Eventually, Corrie and her entire family, who were as dedicated as she was, were caught and sent to concentration camps. All of her family, except her brother, eventually died in camp. She was beaten, starved, and humiliated. Yet, she and her sister still had the courage to read the Bible and teach the other women in the camp about Christ. They knew they would be killed if anyone found out, but their courage based on the belief they were doing what must be done, kept them teaching.
Miss ten Boom was eventually released towards the end of the terrible war. Instead of retiring as a tired elderly lady, she began to speak about what happened during the war and about forgiveness. She continued to lead and serve by gathering support to open rehabilitation centers for those who were abused, as well as the abusers, who all needed a loving place to heal, forgive, or find forgiveness.
What gives these leaders their courage? For some, they are simply good people with good hearts. Their desire is to do what is right when fighting for their individual cause. Most of these courageous leaders have a common thread. Most of them have a faith in Jesus Christ and attempt to live out that faith. They believe the promises of the Lord that He will never leave or forsake those who love Him. Deuteronomy 31:8 is one such promise, “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Also, Joshua 1:9 reaffirms this promise, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” These promises where given to Joshua. Joshua is certainly an example of a leader who was courageous.
Perhaps my favorite example of courage was Stephen. Beginning in Acts 6 we read about Stephen. Stephen was chosen as a servant by the apostles and they laid their hands on him. He did great wonders and signs and taught the gospel. His courage to speak the truth eventually brings him before the Jewish council. Even though he has been accused of blasphemy because of what he teaches, with great courage he preaches to the council. He compares them to those who persecuted the great prophets in Acts 7:52-53, “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”
The council becomes furious and begins to stone Stephen. Instead of running in fear or even hiding his head with his arms, his courage founded in his faith in Christ was so great, he looks up towards his reward with joy. Acts 7:55-56 says, “But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” Acts 7:59-60 continues to record this event, “They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep”.
Christians might wonder how they can find the kind of courage to be the leaders of today. By simply putting all their faith in Christ and His promises to always be with them, and to be their strength, will give them the courage needed for any situation God allows in their paths. Leaning on scripture like 1 Corinthians 12:10, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Matthew 28:20 Jesus says, “…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
In conclusion, God gives the formula of strength that can equip leaders with courage in Eph 6:10-17, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Friday, October 23, 2009
One of the greatest leaders this country has had was President Abraham Lincoln. His ability to lead a nation through a civil war with the potential to destroy the unity of America was demonstrated just after the Battle of Bull Run where the Union Army was defeated. He could have been defeated himself, but instead, Lincoln declares a National Day of Prayer and Fasting. America’s God and Country records his intention, “It is fit and becoming in all people, at all times, to acknowledge and revere the Supreme Government of God; to bow in humble submission…in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and to pray, with all fervency and contrition, for the pardon of their past offenses, and for a blessing upon their present and prospective action.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower was not only our countries 34th President; he was also the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II. Also from America’s God and Country, we learn that after watching 3000 naval ships sailing to Sicily, knowing these men were going to fight under his personal order, “He (Eisenhower) saluted his men, then bowed his head in prayer. To the officer next to him he commented, ‘There comes a time when you’ve used your brains, your training, your technical skill, and the die is cast and the events are in the hands of God, and there you have to leave them.’”
So many of our greatest national leaders were men of prayer. James 1:5 reminds us, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” It is my opinion a leader always prays. It is through prayer that one receives wisdom from above. There will be leaders who do not make it a practice to pray. They will not receive wisdom from God, but instead will receive worldly wisdom. While this might bring them success for a time, true success and true leaders seek wisdom, protection and guidance from God through prayer.
In Numbers 6:22-26 we read about the Lord giving instruction to Moses about what to say to Aaron. He gives the instruction to make a plea to God to bless the children of Israel; “…Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’” God sets a standard for a leader to pray over and for his people.
We see another example of one of God’s leaders praying. In this case it is before a battle. It is a cry for help. 2 Chronicles 14:11-12 says, “Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, ‘LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.’ The LORD routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.”
We read many examples of the Prophets of God who prayed. These great leaders offer many examples of effective leading and praying. We have the amazing story of Daniel. Daniel was a man who trusted in God with all his heart. A beautiful prayer begins in Daniel 9:4, “I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, ‘Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments…’”
When faced with the trial of choosing to pray to God or to save himself from certain death by denying his responsibility to acknowledge and praise God through prayer, he chose to pray. Daniel 6:10 says, “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.”
Daniel understood all blessings come from God and to deny Him would be to lose everything. It did not matter to him earthly wisdom of the day prevailed. He realized his reward would be from God. After God saves Daniel from the mouths of the lions, the king gives God the glory. Furthermore, Daniel is exalted as a leader among the people. Daniel 6:28 reveals, “So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” God uses great men of prayer and often exalts them as leaders.
Ezekiel prays to God for mercy in Ezekiel 9:8, “As they were striking the people and I alone was left, I fell on my face and cried out saying, ‘Alas, Lord GOD! Are You destroying the whole remnant of Israel by pouring out Your wrath on Jerusalem?’” Ezra remembers to pray to God for forgiveness. Ezra 9:6, “and I said, ‘O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens.’” Elisha has so much faith he asks God to blind an opposing army in
2 Kings 6:18, “When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, ‘Strike this people with blindness, I pray.’ So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.” God answered this leader’s prayer.
Another example of a man of prayer being exalted to be a leader among God’s people is Kind David. We have more of David’s prayers recorded than any other person in the Bible. The book of Psalms is filled with various prayers to God. There are so many things a leader can pray about and David can teach so very much about devotion to God through prayer.
Sometimes David cried out to the Lord for deliverance or safety. Psalm 3:7-8,” Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God! For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; Your blessing be upon Your people!”
Sometimes David was begging for forgiveness. Psalm 6:1-5 is a wonderful example of David praying for forgiveness, “O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away; Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O LORD—how long? Save me because of Your lovingkindness. For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks?”
David sets a good example of a leader praying for all who are following him. In Psalm 4:6, “Many are saying, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD!”
Often David was simply in awe of God and was praising Him. Psalm 8:3-9 reads,
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!”
Then other times he humbly prays because he is so very thankful. 2 Samuel 7:18 says, “Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, ‘Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far?’” We can see out of the humility exhibited by David, God exalts him to be the King of His people and the direct ancestor of Jesus!
Finally, God requires certain things from the leaders of His church. Elders of the Lord’s church are required to be praying men. James 5:14a, “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him…,” Also, James 5:16b says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
In conclusion, as I stated before, in my opinion a leader always prays. A leader can and should pray for many reasons. A leader can pray for godly wisdom. A leader can pray for deliverance or safety for him and for those he is leading. When a leader stumbles, he can pray for forgiveness and mercy. A leader can pray to let God know he is in awe of Him and give his praises to Him. A leader can pray because he is thankful. A leader of a local congregation, an elder, can pray for those God has entrusted him to oversee. A leader who prays will gain the wisdom which comes from above and he will, in turn, successfully lead his followers where God would have them go.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
God’s perfect and purposeful design of marriage begins in the Garden of Eden. God revealed to Adam that he needed a helper and that this unity was essential for God’s plan for mankind. The fruitfulness of their relationship would not only fill the earth but allow for man to continue to rule over all of God’s good creation (Genesis 1:27-30). Just as God planned for man to have the closest of relationships with Him, God designed the marriage covenant to simulate that relationship by joining man and woman in one flesh (Genesis 2:23-24).
Our marriages should be used to help each other grow closer to God. Through proper devotion to God, our marriages will stand through fiery trials and unexpected temptations. The Lord’s church is in need of couples who have withstood such incidents to help encourage those who are in weaker relationships. A strong marriage also sets the stage for children that may be born into the family. Children with parents who are wholly committed to God and their marriage covenant will benefit greatly in their own walk with God and future relationships. We believe the Lord’s churches can grow exponentially as a direct result of stronger marriages.
Not only is the Lord’s church suffering from weak marriages, we see a trend in the lack of longevity or duration in these marriages. In Glover Shipp’s Book, Marriage Is A Covenant, Not A Contract, we read, “This state of our nation has come about in part from the throwaway mentality, in part from our lack of commitment to anything at all, and in part from a false concept of marriage. Many look on marriage as no more than a civil contract, easily entered into and easily broken. Many more look on it optimistically, but with the out of divorce, if it doesn’t succeed” (10).
Both of us have come from broken homes. Early on in our marriage we vowed to never even use the word divorce. The tragedy of divorce is heartbreaking for adults, but it is earth shattering for children. Their very foundations are rocked and nothing is ever the same again. The selfish act of two adults preferring their own happiness over the security of their children has been accepted over time because society has abandoned The Lord’s teaching’s on this subject. Married couples have been tricked into believing that if they are not happy, their children cannot be happy. Satan is still the Great Deceiver just as he was in the Garden of Eden.
God’s Word is so very clear on this subject. Romans 7:2-3 says, “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is not adulteress, though she has married another man.”
Bill Stewart teaches us very clearly that marriage is a covenant between God and our spouse in his book, Building Bridges in Marriage Communication, “The Bible states that marriage is a covenant: ‘[Wisdom] will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God’ (Proverbs 2:16,17, NIV). God calls the marriage vows a contract made by the wife. The same holds true for the husband: ‘…the Lord is active in witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant’ (Malachi 2:14, NIV). God not only expects us to keep the covenant of marriage, He demands it!” (24-25).
God gives the husband and wife specific responsibilities within the marriage. When both take their responsibilities seriously, God blesses the marriage and both the husband and the wife are fulfilled. God created the man and the woman to have certain needs and he knew that it was only within this marriage relationship that these specific needs would be met. Society would have us believe that women can be the leaders within the marriage relationships and that men should be the followers, but this is not how God created us. This is not to say that some people were not planned to remain single throughout their lives, but within the marriage relationship, God had a plan for the husband and the wife.
In Ephesians 5:22 we read, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.” Notice that this does not say that wives should obey and respect those husbands who deserve it. God’s Word specifically tells wives to be subject to their husbands as to the Lord. A woman must submit to her husband with as much respect as she would be willing to give the Lord Himself!
Often, the very act of receiving respect from a loving wife gives a husband the courage and desire to be a godly leader. It is within the nature of a man to desire the respect of his family and specifically his wife. A good wife will not only submit to the will of her husband, but she will respect him with her words and actions. It will be her loving words of praise that will fill his heart and ears and he will not have the need to hear flattering words elsewhere.
A husband who loves the Lord and loves his family will choose to give his family godly leadership, thereby eliminating the temptation that many wives have of taking over the God given leadership role of the family. Even more than leadership, which should come naturally to a man, God gives the responsibility to the husband to fill the emotional needs of his wife. More than respect, women desire tenderness and love. The very Creator of woman knew this and lovingly advises the man how to love his wife: Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
This, in Jon’s opinion, is by far the greatest command given to a husband. These words cannot be understood any other way than what they actually say. When a man and a woman commit to one another in a marriage covenant, their relationship resembles that of the Lord Jesus and His church. The Lord has made a covenant with His bride, the church, which cannot be broken by Him. The husband shall serve his bride to the best of his ability, which embodies the husband’s knowledge of Scripture and his understanding of It.
We love the example God gives us in Aquila and Priscilla. The book of Acts does not give detail into their marriage but all indicators point towards a love of the Lord and that they serve Him as a united couple. Along with their commitment to the Lord and His church, they are willing to go where the Lord needs them. This is shown by their various locations throughout the New Testament (Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus). They are soul winners for Christ as a couple. We, as ministers of the Lord’s Word, have a great responsibility to deliver His truth to congregations. But just as we see in the New Testament, Aquila and Priscilla are a team in their local congregation. Husbands need to understand that their spouses and children are their first ‘mission field’. See Acts 18:2, 18 and 26, Romans 16:3, 1 Corinthians 16:19 and 2 Timothy 4:19 regarding Aquila and Priscilla.
All married men with children should aspire to be elder qualified. 1 Timothy 3:2, “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” The initial qualification, besides having the desire to be an elder, is to be faithful to one woman in marriage which, of course, is another responsibility within the marriage relationship. This qualification cannot be compromised in any way, shape or form. If one man cannot be committed to his God-given spouse, what will he do as an overseer for God’s church? A one woman man shows his determination to work through the hardest of times with his mate. He must serve her as he will be serving the flock of the Lord’s church. More importantly, the husband should serve his wife as Christ has served the church.
God purposed from the beginning of time for the covenantal relationship between the husband and wife to model Christ and His church. God’s Word specifies the purpose, duration and responsibilities that both marriage partners have very clearly. When His Word is obeyed, a husband and wife who are devoted to a lifetime of serving each other will learn to serve any children that the Lord blesses them with and persevere through any trials that life sends their way. Through a lifetime committed to God and the covenant that they have made with Him and each other, they will grow spiritually and will serve to strengthen each other, their family and the congregation that they worship with.
Shipp, Glover. Marriage Is A Covenant, Not A Contract. Joplin: College Press Publishing Company, 1999.
Stewart, Bill. Building Bridges in Marriage Communication. Kearney: Morris Publishing, 2001.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The principles found in Acts 2:42 seem so basic, yet as I walk further in this life, I see how important they are. The church at the local level, at times, appears to struggle with one or all of the principles which can act as an obstacle for growth in the body. In discussing these four principles, I believe Acts 2:42 will be seen as an excellent outline for maintaining the church. When these four principles are practiced in accordance to God’s will, a providential balance permeates the congregation and spiritual growth is all but certain. There are four clear steps to a strong church which were designed by God and observed through the eyes of the first church in the book of Acts. The first churches recorded in Acts were continually devoting themselves to the application of these four activities: Being committed to the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. These first Christians can be observed devoting themselves to these activities throughout the entire book of Acts.
First the original Christians were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching. Just prior to this in Acts 2 we read Peter’s sermon where he ultimately teaches the gospel. We therefore can assume that the gospel was part of the teaching from the apostles that these Christians devoted themselves to studying.
“At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico. But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number,” (Acts 5:12-14). We can only imagine the magnitude of amazement that was felt by those witnessing these signs and wonders. This served to validate the message and teachings of the apostles. In Original Commentary On Acts, J. W. McGarvey concludes, “The increased awe in the presence of the apostles, with which the people were inspired, made them listen with increased respect to their testimony concerning Jesus, and brought them in greater numbers to obedience”.
“Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). This occurred immediately after the stoning of Stephen. At this point we now see an all out persecution of the Lord’s church in Jerusalem, whereas before, the persecution was only done by the Jewish leaders. The fear that consumed these disciples must have been tremendous. It is at this point that Saul begins dragging men and women from their homes. Christians are beaten and imprisoned and all were eventually scattered abroad other than the apostles. This persecution was a direct reaction to the teaching of the gospel by the apostles. Simply believing in Christ would not bring forward such a strong reaction, but boldly teaching and making many disciples would. On the surface, this scattering appears to convey a failure within the Lord’s church. Rather, it is quite the opposite. While conventional wisdom would say it would be wise to figure out a new plan of attack, this is not what happens. These men and women were so devoted to the teaching of the apostles, that instead of allowing fear and frustration to silence them, they continue to preach the word of God. Their devotion to the apostles teaching carries the church from one local congregation, to Judea and Samaria, and eventually to the outer most parts of the world.
The teachings of the apostles are still important today. Obviously, the gospel is what we base our beliefs on, but the apostles gave further instruction to the church that we must still obey and be devoted to. One such example is, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell” (Acts 15:28-29). In New Testament Commentary, Jim Sheerer notes, “By referring to the Holy Spirit, they indicated they were speaking from inspiration. No uninspired man would say this. The things they laid upon the Gentile Christians were the same things that were laid upon the Jewish Christians. Since they are written in this way, they are still binding upon Christians today”.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
The Lord’s church is the most precious institution ever established on earth. Through the last six months of studying the book of Acts, I find myself in awe of the great strength and fortitude these pioneer Christians displayed. As journeymen in the Lord’s church, we should consider all that has been written by Luke regarding what, how, and why these Christians did what they did from the onset of the church. As babes in Christ, they followed the precedent laid down by the apostles who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. They completely dedicated themselves to the service of an Almighty God that was implanted into their hearts through the Law prior to their conversion. What’s more amazing is their faith and trust in God, knowing just weeks ago from the Day of Pentecost, that their Messiah fulfilled all that the prophets had foretold. The adrenaline, anxiety, and overwhelming emotions must have been flowing like a great current, creating many a sleepless night filled with conversations well into day break. Many must have believed they were part of the world’s most historic revolution and there was no turning back. Most had left the faith of their fathers, becoming outcasts and possibly even witnessing their own family members tearing their clothing in disbelief and mourning their “death”. Can you believe that in the beginning of the church there were only just over 3,000 members? Most left what was considered a secure life that was well rooted back to the days of Moses through the old covenant. They took on a new life which would change future generations forever. They now had just initiated the beginning of the end of a religious establishment cemented by their forefathers. They changed the paradigm that had been followed by the likes of King David, Daniel, and Nehemiah. Though they knew they did the right thing, they needed a solace during these turbulent times. That comfort came in the form of authoritative instructions by the apostles. They too were a part of this whirlwind of events and God had specifically placed them in Jerusalem to protect His church and see that His message infiltrated the world. God wasted no time in giving His beloved children guidance that is found in what we read in Acts 2:42, "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
"Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." Colossians 3:23-24
A couple years ago Chris Daughtry (of American Idol fame) cut a smash hit with "I'm Going Home" which I still believe is played every 5 seconds somewhere on the airwaves of Denver. I must admit I love the song and usually find myself upping the volume just a hair when it is playing. A combination of Chris' vocals, the powerful lyrics, and well written music accompanied with my thoughts of a home beyond this life, gives me goosebumps every single time.
This Saturday was yet another moment of goosebumps and thoughts of home. I had the privilege of working at Buckley Air Force Base over the weekend and an experience I'll never forget. I was honored to witness about 150 Marine Reservists being welcomed by 300 loved ones who had prepared an excellent homecoming. Upon arrival and the opening of the cargo bay doors of their C-130, all the Marines were met with clapping and cheering that shook my quiet working quarters in the corner of the hangar. What an awesome site to see when four new mommies and their newborns greeted the new daddies who had not yet had the opportunity to kiss or hold their blessings. As the activities made their way into the hangar I saw an older couple standing by the roped off section of the hangar. I went over and asked if they were here to greet a family member and they said they were here with friends whose son just got back. The lady was sobbing and just so excited to see the troops and she told me it reminded her of when her husband got back from an 8 month tour from Vietnam, 42 years ago! She said it felt as if it happened yesterday. She contrasted this joyous occasion with her husband's which was filled with jeers rather than cheers. The atmosphere back then was such that many of our troops were hated for their service in southeast Asia.
As I thought back to the events which led up to this great celebration, I couldn't help but think of how our Lord has prepared a place for us on our homecoming. When we arrive, how many saints will be there in complete jubilation for our arrival? Just like the lady I met, I believe the celebration of the faithful entering through the front door of heaven will never get old. Our inheritance will come from faithful, dedicated service saturated with grace and mercy that can only be granted by the One who gave us our marching orders; The Supreme Commander-in-Chief, God Almighty!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
In my search for the lyrics to "Soldiers of Christ Arise", I found this beautiful nugget of poetry. Little did I know when we sing this hymn in worship, we only touch on 5 of a potential 24 stanzas of this amazing piece of art. My hopes in my search was to add some of these lyrics to a paper I was writing about on courage. As I began reading the parts unfamiliar to me, I began reading them to the tune of this song. And guess what? The music goes perfectly with every line. Soldiers, give it a try!
Strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son
Strong in the Lord of hosts, and in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.
Stand then in His great might, with all His strength endued,
But take, to arm you for the fight, the panoply of God;
That, having all things done, and all your conflicts passed,
Ye may o'ercome through Christ alone and stand entire at last.
Stand then against your foes, in close and firm array;
Legions of wily fiends oppose throughout the evil day;
But meet the sons of night, and mock their vain design,
Armed in the arms of heavenly light, of righteousness divine.
Leave no unguarded place, no weakness of the soul,
Take every virtue, every grace, and fortify the whole;
Indissolubly joined, to battle all proceed;
But arm yourselves with all the mind that was in Christ, your Head.
But, above all, lay hold on faith's victorious shield;
Armed with that adamant and gold, be sure to win the field:
If faith surround your heart, Satan shall be subdued,
Repelled his every fiery dart, and quenched with Jesu's blood.
Jesus hath died for you! What can His love withstand?
Believe, hold fast your shield, and who shall pluck you from His hand?
Believe that Jesus reigns; all power to Him is giv'n:
Believe, till freed from sin's remains; believe yourselves to Heav'n.
To keep your armor bright, attend with constant care,
Still walking in your Captain's sight, and watching unto prayer.
Ready for all alarms, steadfastly set your face,
And always exercise your arms, and use your every grace.
Pray without ceasing, pray, your Captain gives the word;
His summons cheerfully obey and call upon the Lord;
To God your every want in instant prayer display,
Pray always; pray and never faint; pray, without ceasing, pray!
In fellowship alone, to God with faith draw near;
Approach His courts, besiege His throne with all the powers of prayer:
Go to His temple, go, nor from His altar move;
Let every house His worship know, and every heart His love.
To God your spirits dart, your souls in words declare,
Or groan, to Him Who reads the heart, the unutterable prayer:
His mercy now implore, and now show forth His praise,
In shouts, or silent awe, adore His miracles of grace.
Pour out your souls to God, and bow them with your knees,
And spread your hearts and hands abroad, and pray for Zion's peace;
Your guides and brethren bear for ever on your mind;
Extend the arms of mighty prayer, ingrasping all mankind.
From strength to strength go on, wrestle and fight and pray,
Tread all the powers of darkness down and win the well fought day.
Still let the Spirit cry in all His soldiers, 'Come!'
'Til Christ the Lord descends from high and takes the conquerors home
Monday, January 19, 2009
As I 'punch out' this post for my Ministry Technology class, I'm reminded by this text of how little I make mention of my God. I sit here at my dining room table (my school desk until July 2010) wondering just how have I represented my Lord to the world around me. Have you ever been asked by a stranger, "How are you doing"? What is your response? What do you really want to say? I remember working for a Captain at my last duty assignment in the Air Force who always answered that question with "better than I deserve". He was a wonderful man to work with and never once treated me with the air of authority since I was an enlisted subordinate. He often talked of and praised Jesus when possible. He was not ashamed of who he represented.
As I look around my house, I can't help but praise God for the blessings I have. Why does He pour out His lovingkinesses to me? Here I am an inconsistent, rebellious (at times) child of God who finds himself worrying more often than living joyously because of my redemption by the blood of Christ. I appreciate Paul's attitude throughout the book of Acts. What really amazes me is where his mind is even during the shipwreck on his way to Rome. From what I see, there are 276 prisoners who endured 14 days of starvation. Paul encourages them through notifying them they will survive this trial and by feeding them. In front of all 276 men he gives thanks to God in the presence of all (Acts 27:35)! What an example of steadfastness Paul is. May we all follow in the footsteps of this leader that boldly lived and represented his Savior well.
God is the fountain whence
Ten thousand blessings flow;
To Him my life, my health, and friends,
And every good, I owe.
The comforts He affords
Are neither few nor small;
He is the source of fresh delights,
My portion and my all.
He fills my heart with joy,
My lips attunes for praise;
And to His glory I’ll devote
The remnant of my days.