Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lights! Camera! Acts-tion! (scene 2)

...continuing with our lesson on Acts..."aaaand Roll 'em"

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

Lights! Camera! Acts-tion! (scene 1)

The Church's Healthy Development in the Book of Acts

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

Welcome Home

"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!