From Our Meetings

Men’s Fellowship – Prayer

This past Sunday evening, we met for our Men’s fellowship and experienced a time of challenge, of encouragement, and of repentance. Our thoughts were drawn to the subject of corporate prayer and we expressed our struggles, frustrations, and hopes regarding this important subject.

I am personally convinced that we have many pressures upon us that mold us into patterns of corporate prayer that are far from biblical. Even the best of the books and studies that we have used to help our prayer lives fail at some of the most basic levels. At the core of this is the assumption that the only thing that we care to pray about is our health, our finances, and our relationships…oh, and lest we forget the staple of all modern corporate prayer, travel mercies (forgive the sarcasm). Many of these books and studies try to show us that we are to pray for all of these things with the focus of bringing glory to God. This is an important point, but as I look to the teachings on prayer in the Scriptures I am left to wonder if there is an issue that lies deeper, at the heart of the things that we desire and the things that we do not.

There were certainly plenty of needs in biblical times. There was poverty in many of the places were the churches existed. There were broken families and relationships. There were illnesses and death. The mortality rate was about the same as today! There were accidents, disasters, social injustices, etc. All of these things were just as rampant then as they are now. But what was the focus of the prayers of the Church? Time and time again we see corporate prayer focused upon the unity of the Church, the edification of the Church, the need for wisdom in the Church, for the advancement of the Gospel as the Church continues to proclaim the Word of Life as it expands the dominion of the Lord Jesus as salvation goes forth. The Scriptures show forth the need to ask for God’s strength and provision for the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit and through faith in the risen Lord Jesus.

I am not saying that we should not be praying for material or physical needs. Pray for them all…spiritual, physical, relational. Any thing that urges you to depend upon God and ask of His good provision. We are commanded in the Scriptures to do so! But understand that as a believer, you are able to pray for these things without necessarily needing the help of others in prayer.

Now, if you have labored in prayer and the burden is heavy, if you need encouragement and you need to know that others are bearing the burden with you, by all means, bring it before another brother or sister in Christ. Ask your church to pray for you! But all too often, I think we have reached a point in which we ask others to pray for things that we ourselves are not truly burdened about. Or else, we ask thinking that the Lord will not answer our prayer alone, but that He is more apt to answer the prayers when others are asking Him.

My greatest concern is that there are so many of these requests that there is little emphasis placed upon praying for the earnest and dire needs of the Church. It is very indicting that we do not see sincere and dependent prayers of corporate repentance, corporate supplications, and biblical yearnings for the strength of the Church in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

Perhaps another hindrance to biblical corporate prayer is that we do not want to speak as if there is something wrong in our churches. In other words, if we are going to seek biblical corporate prayer, we will have to admit that we don’t have perfect unity, perfect desires, perfect people, and perfect ministries. It takes corporate humility and corporate repentance. We must not be afraid to admit that we need to grow in these areas. But let us take heart and see the things that the Scriptures call us to value and let us pray that those things take place in our midst!

I am thankful for the discussion that we had Sunday night, and I hope that it continues, no only as a discussion, but that it changes our corporate prayer life to be more biblical, more sincere, and more effectual for the glory of the Lord Jesus! May we pray that it is so.

Acts 2: Devotion

The second chapter of Acts chronicles the incredible display of the power of the Holy Spirit as God poured it out upon these believers. We have looked at the salvation that was revealed, the judgment that was revealed, and the power that was revealed as promised by our Lord that these people would become His witnesses. In verse 42 we see that these believers were changed…they “continually devoted” themselves to the apostolic teaching of the Gospel, fellowship with one another including breaking bread together, and to prayer.

In verse 43, we see that the apostles continued to perform signs and wonders. This is the same phrase used earlier to describe the manner in which God attested that Jesus is the Messiah. I take from this parallel usage that God now was attesting that the apostolic teaching of the Gospel was the true message of the Messiah, the promised Good News of the New Covenant and therefore God was declaring the certainty of the hope that is, and that is to be revealed. In chapter 3, we will see a specific example of the apostolic signs and the validation that they bring upon the Gospel that they are heralding.

Such things are overwhelming. God demonstrated in power with wondrous events that Jesus is the Messiah, that His judgment is against those who oppose Him, even those who were once His people, but now are not His people if they continue in unbelief.

My friends, we need to be overwhelmed. We must be driven from our whimsical nature to lives of continual devotion. This passage calls us to consider the great events of those first days of the New Covenant and we ought to be amazed. Perhaps as we study these accounts we realize that reading about them may not bring the same amazement that we may have had if we were there, experiencing the rushing sound of the Spirit, seeing the manifestation described as the tongues of fire, experiencing the miracle of the tongues. But these signs testify of the reality that can overwhelm us with incredible power. These all attest that the Holy Spirit will empower the people of God to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ and that we will be driven to devotion when we are led by the Spirit.

Let us thirst for this power! Let us ask for this power! And let us seek this power in faith, knowing that it is the will of our God to display His glory through the Good News concerning the Lord and Messiah, Jesus Christ!

Acts 2: The Gospel

This past Sunday, we enjoyed fellowship and worship. Our text for the sermon continued to be Peter’s sermon in the second chapter of Acts. This time, my purpose in the message was to focus upon the Gospel message from this text. Perhaps the aspect that stood out most to me was the Gospel’s presentation of the person of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is not merely about Jesus, it is intrinsically centered upon Him.

Peter says, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene…” He does not skip to what Jesus did or what Jesus has now made possible without immediately and primarily presenting to his audience Jesus himself. You do not know the Gospel if you do not know Jesus. You may have an understanding of sin, and understanding of repentance. You may know that faith is essential and that salvation is of grace. But if you do not know Jesus and therefore know these wonderful things that are also part of the Gospel, than you know nothing of the Gospel presented in the Scriptures. In John’s words:

1 John 1:1-3 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

We may not have seen Him with our eyes, heard Him with our ears, or touched Him with our hands, but through faith, we know Jesus. We have fellowship with Him. May He grant to us this knowledge through His great grace!

Acts 2: Judgment

Since I am late again posting, here is a quick summary of the sermon last Sunday.

This past Sunday, we looked at Acts 2 and focused on the judgment of God the was revealed at Pentecost.

I laid out my approach in three headings:

1. The Pouring out of the Holy Spirit is connected with the beginnings of the New Covenant Kingdom. We have seen this over the past few months as we have started Acts and as we looked previously at the significance of the Holy Spirit in regards to the New Covenant.

2. The Coming of the New Covenant Kingdom is associated with Judgment on the old kingdom. As we saw from our previous studies in Isaiah 5 and Luke 20, the Kingdom of God was about to be revealed and given to a people who were not previously God’s people. Instead, the Old Covenant people were being judged for their unfaithfulness through this.

3. The Pouring out of the Holy Spirit is connection with the Judgment on the Old Covenant people of God. We see Isaiah 28 (and other passages) being fulfilled with the extraordinary tongues of God spoke in a way that some of the Old Covenant people did not understand, even though others were able to hear the great deeds of God.

As we finished our time together, I took us to Romans 9-11 to see that we ought to have humility as we consider our faith and salvation. For just as God brought an end to the Old Covenant and poured out His promised wrath upon the Old Covenant people, so too there is a judgment to come for all. This fear should always keep us clinging to the Gospel through faith and also keep us proclaiming the Good News to others!

Acts 2: The Spirit and Salvation

“It will so happen that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

This past Sunday, we began looking at Acts 2. My plan is to continue in Acts 2 over the next several weeks and see the different themes that shine forth throughout this wonderful chapter. This week, we spent time looking at the salvation revealed as promised by the prophets.

The prophet Joel warned his people that though it seemed like things could not get any worse, they should take heed. God’s judgment was near, “Who can endure it?” (Joel 2.11). Yet in the midst of God’s judgment on the Old Covenant people, the prophet calls the people to repentance again and then states a glorious hope. One day, God has promised to pour out His Spirit (Joel 2.28) and it will come about that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2.32).

In Acts 2, we see the undeniable proof of the outpouring of the Spirit and Peter declares that Joel’s words were now fulfilled. May God be praised! Selah.

Then the text shows us the power of the Spirit – the power of the Gospel – and 3,000 people called upon the name of the Lord Jesus by the mercy of God and were saved!

Truly our God is merciful and faithful! Truly the Spirit’s power is real and effectual! Consider these disciples and the apostles. They had walked with the Lord for many years, experiencing his wisdom in teaching and seeing his glory. But now He has been put to death by those in political and religious power. The followers of our Lord had no power to respond. The risen Lord then appears to them and Jesus teaches them of the Kingdom and commands them to wait in Jerusalem until power comes upon them – the power of the promised Spirit.

Until this point, the followers of Jesus had no power, no ability, no wisdom to take the message of the crucified Lord, the atoning work of Jesus, nor even the news that He is risen and hold that message as a light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. But now, the moment the Spirit came in power, as Jesus promised, Peter stands and declares to those who opposed Jesus that they are guilty of His blood. They crucified the promised Messiah.

Now these believers have boldness. They have no fear of the religious and political leaders who just crucified Jesus and would want to do the same to them. Christ has now given power and authority to those in His kingdom. They will now go forth from here in Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria, and then onward to the remote parts of the world. The Gospel will not be stopped. And all of this is due to the power of the Holy Spirit, promised to be poured out on God’s people.

The text also shows us that God had gathered a remnant of Israel that had been dispersed. During Pentecost, many Jews had returned to Jerusalem from the list of many far away places as found in Acts 2:5-11. As God had promised, he would gather a remnant and bring them redemption through the Gospel.

We often look upon Calvary and see the atoning work of Christ…and we should often do this! Though we have been redeemed and we are forever secured by His grace as believers, in our weakness and in our sins, we continue to ever look to the blood of Christ and seek its cleansing power by faith. So too, though the promised Spirit has been poured out upon the Church (to the Jews in Acts 2, later to be given to the Gentiles) and the Gospel will go forth by its power, let us look back to Pentecost and be reminded that without the Spirit, we would not see the Gospel go forth. Without the Spirit, we would not have the boldness or wisdom to proclaim the Gospel to our friends, or family, our neighbors. And therefore, if we find that we are not as bold and faithful to share the Gospel as we should, let us beseech the Lord to empower us with His promised Spirit and send us forth as His servants to proclaim the Good News and see His kingdom expand!

Resurrection and Missions

It was our joy and privilege on Sunday to have Dr. Ron and Faye Rogers join us for worship. The Rogers are missionaries to Brazil and we have known them since Stan and I met Dr. Rogers at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Dr. Rogers’ sermon provided a glorious look at the relationship of the resurrection of Christ to the missionary work of the Gospel. The providence of God was clearly demonstrated as we have been studying in-depth on the subject of the resurrection and also through Isaiah, and in March, I started preaching through the first chapter of Acts. All of these studies came together in Dr. Rogers’ sermon.

After our worship service, Ron and Faye shared with us of the specifics regarding their work in Brazil. We heard many encouraging testimonies of the work as a whole, and specific men who have given their lives to starting Bible studies, planting churches, and taking the Gospel throughout their region.

The passion of Ron and Faye for the Gospel’s advancement is a testimony of the power of the Spirit of God. Ron’s personality is not charismatic. His preaching is not loud nor excitable. Instead, he demonstrated yesterday that in the simple preaching of the simple Gospel there is power as the Spirit attends it. His passion shows the transforming power of union with Christ and love for the people whom Christ has redeemed throughout the world.

These thoughts led us in delightful conversation in our Men’s fellowship in the evening. We all recognized that this day was special. The Lord had answered our prayers and been merciful to us. Our great and mighty God displayed for us true power as the Arm of the Lord continues to go forth, displaying the power of the Gospel for the salvation of all who believe. We were able to share the opportunities that God had presented to us over the past few weeks to share the Gospel. Then, we joined together in prayer, petitioning God to strengthen us for His service, to use us as leaders in our families, and to continue to provide for our needs by His great grace.

All of this is humbling and encouraging. We must not let this moment depart without changing us. Our prayers ought to be changed. Our desires ought to be changed. May God forgive us of our failures to pray for this work of the Gospel as we should have prayed. May God grant to us a renewed heart for missions and evangelism as we serve the risen and living Lord!

Worship 3/23

Our worship service on Sunday provided a bounty of themes that gave each of us much to consider in devotion and thanksgiving. Our hymns included:

“Christ the Lord is Risen Today”
“Victory in Jesus”
“O Sacred, Head Now Wounded”
“I Know That My Redeemer Liveth”

We experienced a wonderful time of open testimonies displaying the Lord’s provision in answering our prayers and also showing the joy that we have in Christ for being redeemed as God’s choice possession, the Body of Christ.

Stan’s Bible study continued his discussion on the extent and efficacy of the atoning work of Christ. This study led into many edifying comments and points of discussion. I must add that it has been one of the best studies upon the subject that I have been involved in. I am tremendously grateful that the Lord has blessed us with unity and with a desire to seek the truth of the Word. Such blessings are only by His good grace.

My sermon came from the text of Acts 1:12-26. In this passage we find many important points as the apostles chose a replacement for Judas after his betrayal of the Lord. First, we find that while these followers of the Messiah obeyed the Lord’s command to wait for the power of the promised Holy Spirit they were immediately encouraged by the knowledge of God’s sovereignty, even in the terrible betrayal by Judas. This trust in the sovereignty of God gave them a sure hope that God would indeed give them power to be his witnesses to the entire world. As such, they were bold in the midst of persecution and even facing certain death. In fact, they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ.

Obviously, God’s judgment is presented often throughout Acts, and is here displayed in graphic manner in the description of the tragic end of Judas after his betrayal of the now risen Lord. As believers, covered by God’s mercy and free from condemnation, we must never think of God’s judgment in a light manner. It is God’s wrath towards sin that took our Lord to the cross on our behalf. And though our sins be atoned, we must never use mercy as a license for sin, but we must instead now live for His glory and for the good of His people.

Finally, on the day when the world considers the resurrection of Christ, we too found our passage calling our attention to the fact that Matthias was chosen to be a “witness of the resurrection”. The resurrection is central to the Gospel. Without Christ’s resurrection, our faith is in vain. Without it we would lack the power of the newness of life (Romans 6). In Acts we see verses that link the resurrection with our personal salvation. But we must not miss the critical focus of the resurrection – Jesus was raised in exaltation to the right hand of God the Father and is now Lord! He is ruling over his kingdom. He is active in the church. The resurrection of Jesus is presented as proof throughout Acts that Jesus is the promised Messiah, fulfilling the Law and the Prophets (Acts 28:23-31).

Therefore we left an appeal to all in attendance, as we do to you, repent and believe in the Gospel of Christ…who is the promised Messiah. As Spurgeon has beautifully said:

“Follow only one track: Jesus is the one and only way to life. In the old times of slavery in the States, when men escaped from their masters, they did so by knowing that the north star would lead them to freedom, and by following that heavenly guide. They had to travel by night, for fear of being captured and taken back; and therefore they learned little of the geography of the country: they cared for nothing but the star. As they hastened through the woods, they did not study botany; as they flitted through towns and villages along the road, they learned nothing of poetics or social reform: they knew one thing, and minded that one thing only: they kept on following the pole-star. Brother, there are hosts of things that you do not know at present, and many things that you will never know; but see that you know Jesus, who is the pole-star of salvation. Keep Christ in your eye. Follow the crucified and risen One. Trust him, rely upon him, follow him, receive the life of which he is the Prince, and it shall be well with your soul. May you live in Christ Jesus, and glorify him as “the Prince of life” for ever and ever! Amen.”