On the First Day of the Week

Today’s reading is Acts 20.

A couple of important things for Christians happened on the first day of the week. Jesus rose from the dead. Christ’s kingdom was established. It should not be at all surprising then to discover that Christ’s congregations meet on the first day of the week. We see it here in Acts 20. The first day of the week is not the New Testament Sabbath. No, the Sabbath is always the seventh day of the week; though, under the New Covenant, Sabbath observance is not bound. However, the first day of the week is the day Christians gather within their congregations to remember Jesus, His death, and resurrection by breaking bread together. And, of course, the bread that we break is a participation in the body of Christ and the cup that we bless is a participation in the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16). We aren’t here talking about getting together for a potluck, but participating in the Lord’s Supper, in communion. When it is the first day of the week, congregations need to gather to break bread in the Lord’s Supper; if congregations are gathered to break bread in the Lord’s Supper it needs to be the first day of the week. That is what we see from churches in the New Testament, that is what we need to see from churches today.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 20.

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The Hand of the Lord

Today’s reading is Acts 11.

Why did the Antioch church have so much success with the gospel? Because the hand of the Lord was with them. How will we have success with the gospel today? The hand of the Lord needs to be with us. I know I have to remember this all the time. Sometimes…okay, I’ll be honest, a lot of the time, I get caught up in my own arrogance and pride thinking my ideas are the best, my plans are greatest, my work is what is needed to grow my home congregation. It’s just not true. What is needed is the hand of the Lord. If the hand of the Lord is with us, He can use anyone, any plans, anyone’s work. No doubt, like those Christians, like Barnabas, like Saul, we need to work. We need to plan and then act out the plans. But we always need to remember who the author of the success really is: the Lord. Let’s simply thank the Lord that He lets us be involved.

Next week’s reading is Acts 12.

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Barnabas: A Son of Encouragement

Today’s reading is Acts 9.

We started the week with the shocking choice of Saul, but we are seeing a whole cast of supporting disciples who made Saul successful. Without Ananias, Saul would have not even been a Christian. Without Barnabas, Saul would have been forever on the outskirts of the church. It took Barnabas, a son of encouragement, a merciful, compassionate, trusting disciple to bring Saul in and stick his neck out for Saul before the apostles. By the way, did you notice that it wasn’t the Holy Spirit who brought Saul before the apostles? It wasn’t the Holy Spirit who revealed to the apostles or the Jerusalem church that Saul could be trusted. It was Barnabas. Why? Because God works through people. We need to be the kind of people the Holy Spirit works through. We need to be the Barnabases that God uses to grow the church and comfort the brethren.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 9.

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Preaching the Word

Today’s reading is Acts 8.

When the Christians from Jerusalem scattered, they didn’t go quietly. They went preaching and teaching. However, notice what they went teaching and preaching: The Word. They didn’t go teaching and preaching self-help psychology. They didn’t go teaching and preaching philosophy. They didn’t go teaching and preaching cultural mandates. They taught the Word. The Word has been so linked to the kingdom of Christ that the growth of the Word has been used interchangeably for the growth of the kingdom (see Acts 6:7). While the Word teaches us to be moral, moralism is not the foundation of the kingdom. The Word is. While the Word provides guidance for successful living, successful living is not the foundation of the kingdom. The Word is. While the Word gives instruction in a psychologically fulfilling and meaningful life, psychological fulfillment is not the foundation of the kingdom. The Word is. When what we teach and preach looks and sounds more like the self-help section of the local bookstore than it does the preaching and teaching of Jesus, Peter, and Paul, we are going to be in trouble. And while folks’s lives may seem to improve, they won’t be saved. These early Christians were scattered, but went about preaching the Word. Folks were saved. May we do the same.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 8.

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Scattered, but Preaching

Today’s reading is Acts 8.

Stephen lay dead. Saul was stirring up persecution. A shift happened. Rather than staying in Jerusalem and meeting en masse in the temple grounds as the church had been doing, they scattered. The Jerusalem church was all but destroyed. Thousands fled the city. Only the apostles remained. However, what did the scattered Christians do? Did they lie low in their new homes? Did they keep quiet because they feared they might lose another home? No. They went about preaching the Word. Jesus had told the apostles they were to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the remotest part of the earth. Due to the persecution, the Lord’s prediction would come true. How did it happen? Not because the apostles themselves went preaching to the remotest part of the earth, but because they had been training the brothers and sisters. When they were scattered, they were ready to preach the Word. No doubt, any congregational leadership needs to be working on preparing folks to proclaim Jesus. However, each of us as believers needs to take some initiative as well. Are we listening with an ear to pass along? Are we learning with a goal to proclaim? Or are we satisfied merely being personally comforted by the Savior? What would happen if you were scattered from your home into an area without the church? Would you be prepared to proclaim and spread the Word? What next steps do you need to take to become ready? When will you take them?

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 8.

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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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