Clearwater Florida (FL)
Over 11,000 Expository Alliterated Sermons that are full text and over 800 great illustrations. This site is a pastor's dream. This site is a complete sermon library available in one internet location. Absolutely the best and largest library of exp
The overarching purpose of THE BIBLE FOR TODAY is to proclaim and to defend the principles of the Bible. (Philippians 1:7)
"Ministering To Those Who Minister To Others"
The early church had many of the problems our churches have today. In Philippians 3, the church was warned of three particular dangers. The three “beware”s (Philippians 3:2) they were cautioned of were: “… of dogs”. Although gentiles were often called “dogs,” it would hardly be likely that Paul, a missionary to the gentiles, would Read MoreThe post Beware! first appeared on Devotions From The Bible.
If I had the choice to be in attendance at the very first thanksgiving, I would have made the choice to skip it! When I think about what our forefathers had to endure the previous year, there was not much to be thankful for.The Pilgrims documented their journey as they encountered the high seas, with enormous waves threatening to capsize their ships, diverse sicknesses, and even rat infested quarters. Once they landed, there was no Holiday Inn awaiting them. They faced a brutal winter, a terrible flu season, and an unknown enemy. Despite the Pilgrims' many earthly reasons to complain, they made the decision to give thanks to God.Likewise, the book of Acts documented Paul's journeys as he was misunderstood, slandered, attacked, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and shipwrecked. Opposition followed him everywhere he went. Nevertheless, Paul was profoundly thankful. Despite his many earthly reasons to complain, Paul was constantly giving thanks to God.What impact do the Pilgrims and the Apostle Paul have on me? It teaches me that being thankful has little to do with my present circumstances; it has much more to do with my perspective.For the Pilgrims', they knew they were securing the freedom to worship God, the freedom to employ their gifts, and freedom to reach their full potential. Future generations would be able to enjoy these freedoms as well. The Pilgrims were thankful knowing that their sacrifices would eventually pay off.For Paul, he knew that through all of these hardships the gospel was advancing. He states, â€œThat the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospelâ€ (Philippians 1:12).Would I have given thanks, if I had prayed for a smooth journey and barely survived the rough seas? Would I have praised God for His goodness, if half of my loved ones had died during the harsh winter months? Would I have given thanks to God, if I were arrested for sharing my faith? Would I have given thanks to God, if I had been chased out of town? Surely, I would if I knew that through those experiences others could have the freedom to worship Christ or hear the Gospel.Thanksgiving really is a choice. Resist being cynical and critical. Make the choice to be thankful.
by Phil Johnson (and friends)ome friends and I collected common questions that have been raised regarding the recent statement from John MacArthur and the Elders of Grace Community Church, titled "Christ, Not Caesar, Is Head of the Church." Here's our FAQ in its current form:1.Why did you consent to the original government order, citing Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2?Â Â Â Â Â The elders of Grace Church decided to follow the recommended procedures set forth in the original government order, not because we believed the state has a right to tell churches when, whether, or how to worship. To be clear, we believe that the original orders were just as much an illegitimate intrusion of state authority into ecclesiastical matters as we believe it is now. However, because we could not possibly have known the true severity of the virus, and because we care about people as our Lord did, we believe guarding public health against serious contagions is a rightful function of Christians as well as civil government. Therefore, we voluntarily followed the initial recommendations of our government. It is, of course, legitimate for Christians to abstain from the assembly of saints temporarily in the face of illness or an imminent threat to public health.Â Â Â Â Â When the devastating lockdown began, it was supposed to be a short-term stopgap measure, with the goal to "flatten the curve"meaning they wanted to slow the rate of infection to ensure that hospitals weren't overwhelmed. And there were horrific projections of death. In light of those factors, our pastors supported the measures by observing the guidelines that were issued for churches.Â Â Â Â Â But we did not yield our spiritual authority to the secular government. We said from the very start that our voluntary compliance was subject to change if the restrictions dragged on beyond the stated goal, or politicians unduly intruded into church affairs, or if health officials added restrictions that would to attempt to undermine the church's mission. We made every decision with our own burden of responsibility in mind. We simply took the early opportunity to support the concerns of health officials and accommodate the same concerns among our church members, out of a desire to act in an abundance of care and reasonableness (Philippians 4:5).Â Â Â Â Â But we are now more than twenty weeks into the unrelieved restrictions. It is apparent that those original projections of death were wrong and the virus is nowhere near as dangerous as originally feared. Still, roughly forty percent of the year has passed with our church essentially unable to gather in a normal way. Pastors' ability to shepherd their flocks has been severely curtailed. The unity and influence of the church has been threatened. Opportunities for believers to serve and minister to one another have been missed. And the suffering of Christians who are troubled, fearful, distressed, infirm, or otherwise in urgent need of fellowship and encouragement has been magnified beyond anything that could reasonably be considered just or necessary. Major public events that were planned for 2021 are already being canceled, signaling that officials are preparing to keep restrictions in place into next year and beyond. That forces churches to choose between the clear command of our Lord and the government officials. Therefore, following the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, we gladly choose to obey Him.2.Are you saying that pastors who choose to follow the government guidelines are thereby guilty of abdicating their responsibility before the Lord and violating the God-ordained spheres of authority?Â Â Â Â Â To be clear, we're not trying to tie faithfulness to a particular evaluation of the severity of the virus or the best way to take precautions in response. For many churches, elders will independently conclude that the recommended regulations are the best course for the present time. Our point is that these decisions are the church's call to make, not the state's.Â Â Â Â Â How elders make their decisions on whether and how to meet is a Christian liberty issue, and not every faithful congregation will make those decisions exactly as we have. Given the size, health, age, and location of their congregation, as well as how the virus has affected their own community, some pastors and elders may decide to suspend fellowship for a bit longer. Our statement was not intended to target faithful pastors and elders striving to exercise their own independent discretion and navigate their own congregation's needs. Our desire was simply to equip and empower such faithful mennot cause them trouble or bind their consciences to choices we are making.Â Â Â Â Â With that said, it is not a Christian liberty issue for elders to farm out to the state their God-given authority to make such decisions. That is abdication. Pastors and elders who allow the government to dictate the size of their gatheringsor whether they can meet at allgive authority to the government that God has given only to Christ as the head of the church. If church leaders have ceded Christ's authority to the government, which God never gave nor intended government to have, it is our prayer that they would repent of that and reaffirm that Christ and not Caesar is the head of the church. The statement calls other faithful congregations to join us in recognizing that God has committed to elders the authority and responsibility to make these decisions, and they should not forfeit to the state that authority and responsibility in contradiction to God's design.3.Are the spheres of church and state as distinct as the statement implies? Doesn't the church submit to government fire codes and zoning restrictions? If so, why not likewise acquiesce to these public health restrictions?Â Â Â Â Â While it is true that the church is subject to fire codes and zoning restrictions, those are routine civil, not spiritual, matters, so the state exercises legitimate authority enforcing them. But the government's authority in civil matters associated with the church does not give it authority in spiritual matters, which are the lifeblood of the church. Attendance caps, singing bans, and distancing requirements (especially those that are established arbitrarily and by executive fiat) have the effect of suppressing or eliminating the congregational worship that is an essential element of church life. Therefore such orders fall outside the jurisdiction of civil authorities.4.Why did you ask for signatures on this statement?Â Â Â Â Â We wanted to find a way for other pastors and church leaders who agreed with our perspectivebut who were perhaps apprehensive about reopeningto have a way to express their support and solidarity.5.Why haven't the elders of Grace Church enforced social-distancing rules and the wearing of masks?Â Â Â Â Â The medical community has widespread and dogmatic disagreement on the effectiveness of both of these restrictions. We do not believe it is within the elders' purview or responsibility to resolve that disagreement or act as enforcers of such a hotly debated policy disputeespecially when government authorities themselves have declined to enforce those rules during countless mass demonstrations with crowds much larger than any of our worship services have ever drawn. Instead, we leave it to each individual to be "fully convinced in his own mind" whether or not to follow these guidelines. We gladly welcome anyone to Grace Community Church and leave those choices to each individual, in the spirit of Romans 14.6.What if officials intervene in our services or force us to comply?Â Â Â Â Â The threat of even the most severe consequences from government has never stopped faithful people from submitting to the authority of God's Word. And we know that any opposition we receive will be within the will of our Lord, and for the good of His church. We simply desire to gather peacefully and reverently in worship of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:2), free from the prohibitions of the state. We also understand how desperately the world needs the church, because we are (in Jesus' words) "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:13-14)an absolutely indispensible influence for truth and righteousness in society. Of all people, we understand how desperately the world needs the Gospel, a spiritual priority far more important than any physical threats which can kill the body but are unable to kill the soul. If the governing authorities feel the need to assail us for that, we will trust the Lord, rejoice, and glorify God for the privilege of suffering in the name of Christ (1 Peter 4:12Ã¾16; cf. Philippians 1:27Ã¾30).7.Is Grace Church open for anyone to attend?Â Â Â Â Â Yes. Please feel free to join us for worship.8.Must we meet in the tent, or will the worship center be open?Â Â Â Â Â We trust the members of our congregation to be mature adults, so they and their families are welcome to sit wherever they feel comfortable. We have ample outdoor seating available, and have uniformly observed that congregants have been respectful of those wearing masks and/or seeking to social distance.9.What if I don't feel comfortable returning?Â Â Â Â Â We understand that we are in unprecedented times, and that the information from governing authorities and health officials changes each day. If you are not comfortable returning to worship, please feel free to take advantage of the live stream and other alternatives. We love you, we miss you, and we are eager to welcome you back when you are able to join us (1 Pet 1:22), but we recognize there are some of our members for whom this is the right decisionespecially if you are sick or experiencing symptoms of the virus, are at high risk of complications due to age or other health conditions, or have regular contact at home with someone who is at high risk.Â Â Â Â Â While you're away, please continue to reach out to your fellowship group pastors, Bible study shepherds, and other fellow members. We are eager to learn of and meet your needs.10.When will fellowship groups, children's ministry, the nursery, and student ministries resume?Â Â Â Â Â As soon as we can work out the logistics.
by Hohn Chofter 13 years of ministry alongside college-and-career-aged single folks, I've witnessed and counseled and comforted more than my share, perhaps, of dear people who have suffered from the tragedy of sexual and physical abuse. And in a culture that is seemingly degrading by the day, especially sexually, it should not surprise us that we are seeing more and more reports of it, even within the church, sadly. I laid out numerous examples in paragraph 12 of a previous blog post, and since that time we've seen more and more and more examples, including one from earlier this week at Matt Chandler's Village Church.[*] Interestingly, that last article appeared to validate certain concerns that I and others have raised previously about the "Ministry Safe" organization, particularly the dangers associated with possible conflicts of interest and institutional bias.On a brighter note, also earlier this week, the SBC sexual abuse advisory group released its "Caring Well" report. Although I don't agree with everything and continue to be concerned that terms such as "abuse" and "spiritual abuse" are too vague to be helpful, the report has many helpful points, and appears to represent some positive movement. In particular, I appreciated large portions of pages 17-22, which included this sobering view from Rachael Denhollander, "Predators often target faith communities because our mishandling of sexual assault means that churches are one of the safest places for predators to flourish", as well as some reasons why that could be, explained under subheadings such as:Failure to Recognize and Value God's Image in Every PersonFailure in Understanding the Doctrine of SinMisapplication of Confession, Repentance, and Forgiveness of SinConfusion Over Doctrine of the ChurchMisunderstanding that Sexual Abuse is Not Only Sinâ€”But a CrimeMisunderstanding of Church AutonomyAnd while of course not every church in the SBC or the United States might be guilty of these theological failures, one needs only to consider the average state of biblical literacy and understanding across American evangelicalism as a whole to realize that the list is probably pretty spot-on. Indeed, having read many dozens if not hundreds of articles and stories on the topic, themes such as "I was pressured to keep this within the church" with little thought to the protection of the governing authorities in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, and "my pastor told me I had to forgive" with no regard for genuine repentance in 2 Corinthians 7, are so common as to be nigh-constant.Meanwhile, all of this is happening against the backdrop of a parallel conversation in evangelicalism, specifically the issue of complementarianism vs. egalitarianism relating to women in leadership roles within the church. The secular Washington Post has summarized the recent discussion in a way that links the two issues, and speaking as a staunch complementarian, I agree with that linkage in one important way.Complementarian Churches Ought to be the Safest Places for WomenWhenever we look at human authority structures in the Bible, we see a dynamic between the one in authority and the ones under authority. The ones under authority are to submit to the one in authorityâ€”but the one in authority should be trembling under the weight and responsibility that the Word of God places upon those in authority. Some patriarchal Christians might be quick to point out the three verses dealing with the wife's submission to her own husband in Ephesians 5:22-24, but then downplay the next six verses in Ephesians 5:25-30 dealing with the husband's sacrificial (even unto death itself) obligations to his own wife. Parents might be eager for their children to memorize Colossians 3:20, and yet conveniently forget that Colossians 3:21 commands parents not to provoke their children. Bosses might be thrilled that servants are to be subject even to unjust managers with all respect as it says in 1 Peter 2:18, but nevertheless the masters are commanded to treat their servants justly and fairly in Colossians 4:1. Governing authorities might shout "obey" to its citizens per Romans 13:1-2, but woe to those authorities if they fail to approve the good and avenge God's wrath upon the wrongdoers per Romans 13:3-4.And when it comes to the church, the language is arguably the strongest of all. Jesus in Matthew 20:25-28 clearly told the disciples that followers of Christ must not lord it over others the way the rulers of the Gentiles did, but rather that they must be servants, and the one desiring to be first among them must be a slave, following in the example of Jesus Himself, who came not to be served, but to serve. This archetypical example of servant leadership is a radical departure from both the authoritarian leadership styles of the Romans, as well as most concepts of leadership today, whether in the United States generally or even in much of the evangelical church, sadly.One needs only to consider the example of certain high-profile Christian leadersâ€”and in many cases, their sad fallsâ€”to see this borne out time and time again. Whether it's the heavy-handed leadership of Mark Driscoll, who charmingly referred to wives as homes for penises, or Doug Phillips, who was disgraced and then sued for the sadly all-too-banal story of grooming and seducing his family's nanny, or Paige Patterson, who in a sermon approved of a 16-year-old girl being referred to as "built" and in another incident told his head of security that he wanted to meet with a rape victim alone so that he could "break her down" (presumably an aggressive cross-examination of her testimony), or James MacDonald, who set up photos of some of his fellow elders' wives to use as target practice, with the ones most troublesome to him apparently designated for higher point values. Based on many reports, in all of these men's organizations, they appeared to demonstrate all of the authority and none of the servanthoodâ€”and it showed in their attitudes toward women.The Scriptures on the nature of leadership in the church don't end there, of course. Elders are to rule well over the local church, as it says in 1 Timothy 5:17, and their very name is essentially interchangeable with the word overseer. And from Hebrews 13:17, we see that congregants are indeed to obey and submit to their elders. But the nature of the rule and oversight that congregants are to follow is the very servant leadership described by Jesus in Matthew 20:25-28 and Mark 10:42-45, and the weight of that is further established by the very same Hebrews 13:17 that talks about submission to the eldersâ€”because those elders are going to give an account before God Himself for how they kept watch over the souls God placed under the elders' care.Reinforcing this point, 1 Peter 5:1-4 commands elders to shepherd the flock of God, willingly and not under compulsion or for shameful gain, and explicitly not domineering but as an example, once again bringing to mind Jesus and the servant leader. Indeed, as we search through Scripture for what elders are to do, it sounds like a whole lot of service and precisely the opposite of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Elders are to preach and teach and even rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine, a necessary task, but one that is often arduous and hardly enjoyable, except perhaps for the pugnacious and quarrelsome (who ought to be disqualified from eldership in any event). Elders are to pray, and tend to the sick, and care for the church of God, and shepherd the flock for whom they are accountable before the Lord.Speaking from my own experience as a lay elder, it is a blessed and joyful task, and a deeply fulfilling one, but it is also an enormous amount of work, and I'm truly grateful for treasure laid up in Heaven, because it certainly isn't a source of material profit. On some levels, I believe complementarian leadership in the church would be quite a bit less controversial if the focus were more on the endurance and perseverance needed for the often inconspicuous and sometimes thankless tasks of shepherding and caring for the flock and the least of these, and not at all on the (mostly) American phenomenon of the glamorous and successful "celebrity" Christian preacher.Opening Your Mouth for the MuteAnd as we do shepherd and care for the flock and the least of these, complementarians should remember that yes, 1 Corinthians 14:34 says what it says, and yes, 1 Timothy 2:12 means what it means, and although these might be controversial topics today, the Scriptural words and concepts are not hard to understandâ€”even if they are hard for some to bear. But as we consider the weighty Scriptural call for men to lead the church, we must also remember what that means with respect to the women. I have previously questioned the helpfulness of frequent attempts to apply Proverbs 31:8-9 to the larger "social justice" debate in the US, especially in light of the fact that in our age of social media, just about anyone can have a voice, and in our society of casual wealth that would be unimaginable in the Ancient Near East, just about no one is truly destitute. One obvious example of where Proverbs 31:8-9 would indeed apply are the untold millions of murdered unborn, who truly lack a voice (although they have a heartbeat) and are truly destitute (not only of material wealth, but also of basic human rights).But another example would be right here, where women as a matter of biblical structure are necessarily absent from the plurality of elders, and indeed, they are explicitly called to be silent. In these cases, should we not be vigilant to apply Proverbs 31:8-9, and speak up for their rights and defend their interests? This could of course take many different forms, but in a (largely) peaceful and wealthy society where neither murder nor death are lurking around every corner, should we not be especially watchful and protective, then, in the area of physical and sexual abuse, which sadly runs rampant throughout our society?In a previous article, I mentioned how in 2016, actually reported cases of rapes and sexual assaults numbered nearly 300,000, while domestic violence incidents were over 1,000,000. Underlying those horrifying statistics is the sad reality that only a fraction of each type of crime is reported, and that when one considers the terrible human cost of this suffering as it ripples outward, sometimes compounded down through the third and fourth generation, the direct and indirect impacts of these grievous and sinful crimes are far, far worse than the sterile numbers indicate. So often, Christian men say they would defend Christian women from any physical threat, even with their own lives. I honestly trust this is usually a genuine sentiment, and not mere lip service. And so here is an area that presents a perfect opportunity to live this out.Are you, complementarian man, approachable if someone that you care about has a secret to disclose that she deems to be sensitive, shameful, or even sinful? And what will your response be if she recounts an event of physical or sexual abuse? Remember, complementarian pastor, in our dealings with women, 1 Timothy 5:2 would have us treat older women as mothers and younger women as sisters. So if your own biological mother or sister came to you with such a recounting, what would your first reaction be? I know mine would likely be to strive to mortify my immediate outrage and thirst for vengeance, before offering as much comfort and tangible assistance as I could, including reporting the matter to the governing authorities (which might even be a legal requirement, depending on your jurisdiction) and helping her to seek justice, regardless of who the alleged perpetrator was.Speaking as a lawyer, this does not mean we throw out the idea of due process, of course, nor does it necessarily even mean #BelieveAllWomen in the ideological or political sense of that hashtag. What I'm talking about is more along the lines of bearing your fellow Christian's burden, mourning with those who mourn, and remembering that pastors and elders are neither the governing authorities with respect to crimes, nor the investigating detective, nor the cross-examining lawyer on the case. Proverbs 18:13, 17 would indeed tell us that the accused has his own story to tell, and he should absolutely have the opportunity to tell it. It may be, however, that you, complementarian leader, will not be the one to hear or adjudicate that story.As men, we are sometimes inclined to put ourselves in the shoes of the accused and sympathize with him, even as specific false accusations from the past spring to our mind in a type of confirmation bias. But the reality is that the most credible studies have shown a range of only 2-10% of rape accusations being demonstrated later to be false. If you think without any supporting evidence that those statistics are fake news, well, go ahead and triple that range, sheerly for the sake of argument, and the reality would still be that the great majority of rape accusations are at least somewhat plausible.It grieves me, then, when I hear of cases where the churchman immediately springs to protect the accused rather than the accuser, or pushes cheap grace upon the tangibly wronged, or even worse, tries to cover the crime up via pressure for silenceâ€”especially when the accused is a man of influence within the church. But simply because a man is successful or respected in the community, that does not mean he is incapable of horrific sins or crimes. Deep down, I think many of us really do know that, because whenever fathers have daughters, we're typically going to warn them against the ulterior or even dark motives of guys in general, since back when we were single, quite a few of us were those guys.Distinguishing Ourselves from the WorldI hope all of this has been relatively straightforward, because at the risk of sounding naÃ¯ve, I really don't think it should be especially controversial to us as Bible-believing Christians. I also believe that a proper complementarianism that cherishes and treasures and looks out for the rights and interests of women can be an amazing way to distinguish ourselves from the secular world. Part of this will be in the area of attitude. It would be perverse, after all, for a man's heart attitude toward the biblical structure of complementarianism to be, "Yeah, we get to keep those wimminfolk down!" And may I humbly submit that in light of our fallen, sinful nature and the inevitable stumbling blocks relating to pride for those in leadership, perhaps we could even use a bit less, "Now let's go forth boldly as MEN and go do a bunch of manlike leader-man things," and a bit more time in earnest on-our-knees prayer for the weight of this responsibility and what it might truly mean for those under our spiritual care.By the way, I am indeed aware that we live in a gender-confused society, and yes, I still stand by what I just said, because first, it should not require a macho caricature of biblical masculinity to show a contrast with the world, and second, no matter what the world might look like, biblically we are all still called to humility and servanthood and sacrifice all through Scripture (Philippians 2:3-4 being one of the most obvious and clear, and one of my absolute favorites). In the face of a Roman Empire full of sexual immorality and confusion, Christian men led, and the Gospel spread, by standing for the truth via a willingness to suffer and even die under persecution, and not by becoming political culture warriors. And on that note, I'd much rather see one tangible and sacrificial act of biblical manhood, than a hundred tweets full of empty words or even worse, chest-pounding bravado about it.In the secular world, we see an increasingly pornified culture where women are objectified and commodified and degraded and pressured to indulge in every form of perversion, existing right alongside fourth-wave feminism and the #MeToo movement and all of their supposed attempts to empower women and eliminate gender differences. The contradictions and confusion inherent in these worldviews that lack an ultimate purpose like pursuing Jesus Christ and an objective anchor like the Word of God are patently obvious, especially when we see so much subjectivity that half of the feminists seem to glorify porn while the other half seem to reject it.Meanwhile, as I've said in prior comments, everywhere we look, women seem to lose out whenever they're stacked against any other identity or interest group, such as ethnicity, national origin and immigration, Islam, or more recently transgenderism. Even in an area that would seem like a slam-dunk such as female genital mutilation, a barbaric and cruel practice with zero medical and health benefits, this society simply is not standing up for women like it could and should.It must not be this way in Christianity. What an opportunity we have to demonstrate a church culture that cherishes, values, and protects women, because the Bible commands us to cherish, value, and protect women. That is my prayer for the church universal, and that is how I would strive to serve any church where I might have the immense and weighty privilege to help as a servant leader, including my own beloved local church. And that is my prayer for your church as well, dear reader. [*] In 2015, Chandler and his elders at the Village Church also received criticism for their treatment of another woman, Karen Hinkley, a former missionary whose then-husband had admitted to possession of child pornography as part of a long-standing indulgence in pedophilic desires. The Village Church's church discipline of Hinkley and subsequent apology to her have been widely reported, including here (with paywall) and here (without paywall, although from a secular publisher that has been hostile previously to biblical Christianity, so read with discernment).
3 Aspects of the Normal Christian Life It's a question I have heard frequentlyâ€”perhaps dailyâ€”for over ten months: â€œWhen is life going to get back to normal?â€Sometimes it takes other forms: â€œWill things ever get back to normal?â€ â€œIs this going to be the new normal?â€The civil unrest of earlier this year, the political angst of this election season, and the violence in DC last week have only made our hearts yearn more for â€œnormal.â€I strongly believe that, as far as Covid itself is concerned, we will get past it and that God will bring lasting good from it. But none of us can predict the future with certainty, which includes describing what â€œnormalâ€ will look like tomorrow or next year or twenty years from now.But I believe that one blessing of the past ten monthsâ€”Covid and allâ€”will be if Christians rediscover the normal Christian life.It's a sad reflection on our hunger for God that when Christians voice their desire for â€œnormalâ€ it is usually talking about the normal routines of being able to eat inside a restaurant or go through a checkout line without a mask.Could it be that we no longer long for what the first-century churches in Acts experienced as the normal Christian life?When you read Acts and understand some of the historical and political events that happened concurrently to the exploding growth of the early church, it's a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit through what should be the ordinary routines of the Christian life.The Christians in Acts faced cultural division, prejudice, religious hypocrisy, and outright persecution from their government. But they also experienced the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. I'm hungry to see that kind of normal.What were the â€œnormalâ€ factors of the early church?1. PrayerThere is hardly a page in the book of Acts without a reference to prayer. It seems the apostles and the early church Christians prayed in every situation. And God answered their prayers.These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.â€”Acts 1:14And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.â€”Acts 2:42And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.â€”Acts 4:31Prayer should be as normal to the Christian life as breathing. And fervent, regular, importunate, intercessory prayer should be the normâ€”not the exceptionâ€”among God's people.The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.â€”James 5:162. PraiseNo matter what was happening in the larger picture of culture, including how that influenced direct persecution of Christians, the early church praised God.Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.â€”Acts 2:47And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.â€”Acts 5:41And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.â€”Acts 16:25Do you think the average Christian today is known for their high view of God and constant praise of Him? Or do you think they are more known for their views on the pandemic, politics, personal disappointmentsâ€¦? God inhabits the praises of His people. May we be people of praise.Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;â€”Philippians 2:14â€“153. Proclaiming ChristThe early church just never stopped proclaiming the gospel. For too long now, American Christians have allowed others to drive the narrative in our country to one cause or another. It's time for God's people to drive the narrative back to Jesus Christ.The gospel spread in the first century because Christians shared it.And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.â€”Acts 5:42And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.â€”Acts 8:25Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. â€¦ Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.â€”Acts 8:4â€“5, 35And there they preached the gospel. â€¦ And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,â€”Acts 14:7, 21I find that statements about the importance of declaring the gospel are easy for Christians to agree with. But are you doing it? Have you told anyone this week how they can find forgiveness and salvation through Jesus? This month? Last year?Yes, the pandemic has made some of our normal methods of outreach less feasible. So let's find new ones. If you can't talk with people door-to-door in your community, can you canvass and leave gospel flyers? Can you visit new move ins? Can you visit your neighbors while wearing a mask? Can you post your testimony on social media?For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.â€”Romans 1:16These three activitiesâ€”prayer, praise, and proclaiming Christâ€”aren't reserved for certain people or only practiced by the spiritually mature. They are baseline discipleship. They are the normal Christian life.Let's not give up on the essential aspects of our faith.Let's not allow current events to disrupt the basics of our love and loyalty to Christ.Let's get back to normalâ€”the normal Christian life.
Powered by Ekklesia-Online