Teamwork

Today’s reading is Acts 6.

Imagine a one man football team. How would that work? Could the man hike the ball to himself, block for himself, then hand off to himself or pass to himself, and then run for a touchdown? Of course not. Or what if everyone on the team was a quarterback? Folks like me, who don’t really keep up with sports or know much about it, tend to think a guy like the quarterback is the most important person on the field, so it might be good if the whole team were like him. However, would 11 QBs actually make a good team? No way. Sure, they may be passable at blocking and receiving and running, but in the end they will always get beat out by the well-rounded team with men who know how to fill their own particular roles. Or what about this? What about a team that has 11 players who are trying to play every position on the field all at the same time? Do you know what we call a team like that? PeeWee League. Okay, I know what you are asking, what does this have to do with Acts 6? We saw on Monday that the Jerusalem church had a problem. The Hellenistic widows were being overlooked. But why? Because the apostles were basically doing all the work. They were ministering the Word, they were praying, they were counselling, they were directing, they were leading, they were confronting, they were correcting, and they were handling the money, accounting for it, and distributing it as any had need. It isn’t surprising that as they were spinning all those plates, some of them started to fall. What was the solution? Teamwork. Specialization. Delegation. The apostles were going to focus on prayer and the ministry of the Word. They would select seven other men to handle the collection and the distribution. This simple, yet seismic, shift in how the Jerusalem church related to one another and accomplished its work is a beacon for us. The Jerusalem Christians had to learn that no one can do everything. If the congregation is going to grow or handle the growth it has, the members have to figure out what part they play. No one does everything. Not even the apostles could do everything. It takes Teamwork. What is your role on the team? What is your part in your congregation?

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 6.

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Problems Within

Today’s reading is Acts 6.

Sadly, there seem to be some Christians who do not want their congregation to grow. Why? Because of the Acts 6 principle. You know, the larger the congregation, the bigger the problems. But perhaps that is the wrong way to look at it. In Jerusalem, the congregation grew and so did their problems. Specifically, an ethnicity problem. I am sure the apostles were not purposefully ignoring the Hellenistic widows, but they had a lot on their plate. In fact, they had everything on their plate. Some of it was toppling off. If we are not careful, we will read right through this chapter and miss how revolutionary the solution was. They had to completely change their structure for accomplishing work within the congregation. Perhaps they were able to do this because they hadn’t been doing it for so long that people were married to their methods. Up until this point, the money collected had been laid at the apostles’ feet to distribute as they saw fit. But now, it was going to be laid at someone else’s feet. Someone else was going to be in charge of distributing the funds collected to those who were in need. Seven men were selected to do this work of ministering, literally deaconing. And it worked. The church had been threatening to divide, but instead it multiplied. What had seemed a humongous problem turned into a terrific opportunity. Yes, as congregations grow numerically problems increase. However, they aren’t really problems. They are opportunities. Opportunities to grow spiritually, opportunities to grow maturity, opportunities to relationally. True spiritual growth doesn’t come from ignoring potential obstacles, but from facing them head on and overcoming them. Don’t be afraid of the potential problems coming in your congregation. Attack them, solve them, conquer them, and grow because of it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 6.

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Devoted to Praying

Today’s reading is Acts 1.

I have no desire to make any of us feel guilty. However, today I can’t help but notice how the apostles and other disciples behaved as they awaited the coming Holy Spirit. “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14, ESV). I have to ask myself a tough question. If Luke were writing about me, could he remotely record, “Edwin was devoting himself to prayer”? Then I have to ask about my congregation. If Luke were writing about us, could he remotely record, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer”? That is, not only are the Christians in the congregation praying regularly, but are we devoted to praying together as a congregation? I have no doubt Luke could record that we are devoted to learning. Between sermons, classes, “short” talks, and even Lord’s Supper devotionals, our devotion to teaching and learning is clear. But what about prayer? What about prayer together? Recently, I was pondering the seemingly universal decline in the attendance of Sunday night assemblies. I think it is clear that fewer and fewer Christians view what their congregations do in a second assembly on Sunday evening as really all that important. It makes me wonder what would happen if we turned Sunday evening assemblies into times to be devoted to praying. Would the attendance increase? Would your attendance increase? Would your participation increase? Or would the thought be, “Oh, they’re only praying tonight”? Again, I have no desire to heap any guilt upon us. I just can’t help but pondering and doing some self-examination. Would Luke remotely be able to claim I’m devoting myself to prayer? What about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 1.

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A Sequel

Today’s reading is Acts 1.

“In the first book,” Luke begins reminding us that Acts is a sequel. In the first book, Luke dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach. This implies that the book we are about to read is about all Jesus is going to continue to do and teach. This isn’t really the Acts of the Apostles, it is the Acts of Jesus. Of course, Jesus isn’t physically present, rather He is working through the apostles and through the church that gets established. But that reminds us exactly what the church is. It is Christ’s body. The church is the incarnation of Christ in the world today. With that in mind, “Acts” is continuing on today. In a real sense, we are part of the sequel. It is not being recorded in Luke’s account, but it is being recorded in heaven. Christ is the head, we are His body. In our doing and teaching, when we follow where the head leads, Christ is continuing to act in the world today. Let’s be Jesus today.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 1.

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The Bride

Today’s reading is Revelation 21.

I know we’ve talked about the Bride before, but now we meet her again in all her glory. At the beginning of Revelation, we were introduced to her in the image of the seven churches. At that time, they were struggling with faithfulness and loyalty to the Hero. But now, just as one of the seven angels with the seven bowls of God’s wrath introduced us to the seductress (Revelation 17:1), one of those same angels shows the Bride. The seductress was out in the wilderness, the Bride is at the top of a mountain. The seductress was pictured as a woman on the back of dragon, though she was called the city Babylon. The Bride is pictured as a city. And what a city. Perfectly square, with insurmountable walls, unassailable gates, unbreakable foundation. It is full of the glory of God. The Lamb is it light. God Himself is its Temple. While I don’t want to take away the beautiful picture of eternity most of us jump to when we see this picture, we need to understand that John’s point was not simply that in the end we go to heaven. His point was this is the bride of Christ; this is the kingdom of Christ; this is the church of Christ. Yes, the enemies gather around our city. Yes, they besiege our city. Yes, they mount their attack against our city. But our city is unassailable. The question is not who will win this war. The question is to which city will you flee for refuge: Babylon or the Heavenly Jerusalem? When you see how the story ends, the choice is obvious.

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 22.

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Repent and Give God the Glory

Today’s reading is Revelation 16.

Of course, there are some differences, but don’t these bowls of wrath sound familiar? Painful sores, darkness, water turned to blood, hail. Obviously, the Holy Spirit is again calling to mind the plagues of God on Egypt. Further, He is calling to mind Pharaoh’s own hardness of heart that refused to repent and give glory to God. However, notice right in the middle of this the interjection, “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” Does that sound familiar to you? It should. It is a mixture of what Jesus said to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:2-3 and to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:18. Smack in the middle of all this judgment coming on the Bride’s enemies, there is a reminder that these messages are for us, the Bride, the church, as well. This is not simply an issue of insiders and outsiders. This is not just an issue of having gone through some entrance requirements, having our name on the role, paying our weekly dues, and now it doesn’t matter how we live. We who make up the Bride are to stand against the enemy as much as God is to judge the enemy. How often do Christians end up turning their back on the Lord because of hardship instead of repenting and giving glory to God. Remember, no matter what, God is the Savior. He is the Lord. He is the deliverer. Even when it looks like He is going to lose, even when we can’t understand why He is behaving as He is, He deserves glory. Whether you are in the church or without, let God’s disciplines accomplish their goal. Do not curse God and die, rather surrender to God and give Him the glory. I promise you, in the end, you’ll be glad you did.

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 17.

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If You Have an Ear, Use It

Today’s reading is Revelation 3.

As Jesus calls to the Bride in these letters to the churches, He repeatedly says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Basically, this means, “Listen Up!” This concept goes all the way back to the Psalms and the Prophets. God had explained that idols had ears that don’t hear and eyes that don’t see, and those who trust in them become like them (Psalm 115; 135). Of course, the main problem is the metaphorically deaf and blind rarely realize how deaf and blind they are. That is why we need to keep reading and keep praying. Because God is the one who gives eyes to see and ears to hear. If we want to see and hear, we need to be filling our hearts with God’s Word and seeking from Him the ears to hear. And as He grants them to us, we need to use them. Otherwise, we will lose them. Don’t miss this repeated admonition at the beginning of this book. We’ve got ears, we need to use them as we read. Don’t miss what the Spirit is revealing even to us today through Revelation. Only by listening will be prepared as the Bride for the Hero to stand at our door, knock, and come in and have the wedding feast with us.

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 4.

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