For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Four Basics

In the book of Acts we read that the church devoted themselves to four things.
These four things are a part of every healthy Christian's life and, by extension, every healthy church. If they are not a part of our lives, we are not experiencing everything that God wants us to enjoy. What are these four things?

The Apostles' Teaching
One of the primary responsibilities of the apostles was teaching others about Jesus and the gospel. They eventually wrote down four biographies of Jesus (the gospels), a history of the early church which provides a model for us (Acts), a series of letters addressing theological and lifestyle issues (the epistles) and a book dealing with the last days (Revelation).
The believers were hungry to know these things, and were passionate about passing that knowledge on to other people. They studied together, they listened to the teaching of the Bible, they measured everything against God's Word. This was both a personal and a relational activity. In other words, devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching was something that they did by themselves, but also with other people on Sundays and during the week.
We must make the Bible a priority in our lives. We must read, study and meditate on God's word. We should consider memorising it. The fact that we have a Bible app does not mean that we are devoted to studying and applying God's Word to our lives.
Possible Action Steps:
Schedule a time during the day to study and meditate on God's Word.
Join a TICOS Bible Study. Don't see one that works? Find a few friends and meet to study a book of the Bible together.
Memorize a book of the Bible. Here's how.
Commit to regular attendance at a Bible teaching church.

The Fellowship
The fellowship is the web of relationships formed when a person becomes a follower of Jesus. John wrote that one of the main reasons that he was telling others about the gospel was so that they might have fellowship together (1 John 1:1-4). The early Christians were not spectators who were satisfied by filling the room in support of their favourite platform performers. Instead they were to be committed to the people in the church. They bore one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). They spurred one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
Western society tends to be individualistic and consumer-driven. We tend to view our church like a restaurant that serves us food we like rather than as a family we are committed to. God wants us to experience something that cannot be found anywhere else: fellowship. But that fellowship requires commitment and determination on our part. It is not like finding TV show that keeps us entertained, but it like having deep friendships with people that will challenge and encourage and be sympathetic towards us. It is based on a single common interest: Jesus.
Action Steps:
Make a commitment to a local church. Become regular in attendance at worship services and other church functions.
Seek to build Christ-centered relationships with the people of the church.
Seek to be an encourager of others in the church (Hebrews 10:25). This can happens most effectively when you know people well.
Go beyond being a spectator. Get involved in the church in order to build relationships. Seek to encourage and bear someone else's burden.

The Breaking of Bread.
Scholars are divided about the meaning of this phrase. It could refer to the act of celebrating communion together. Jesus "broke bread and gave it to his disciples." If so, then participating in the Lord's Supper is an important part of the life of the church. It is a means of focusing on the heart of the gospel: Jesus's death and resurrection. Certainly this is an important part of the Christian life!
I am more inclined to think that it refers to the simple act of eating together. Just a few verses later we are told that they "attended the temple together and broke bread in their homes" (Acts 2:46). The early Christians had one another over for meals together. What a wonderful way to get to know one another and to build relationships!
Following Christ is not about simply attending church. It includes developing relationships with other believers. It is significant that they met in one another's homes. This meant that they were invited into the lives of each other in a way that eating in a restaurant just doesn't match. Most of the people in the church were poor. They did not have luxurious homes to show off. We don't need chandeliers and fancy seven course meals to do this. A table and a pizza will do. The important thing is a commitment to opening our lives and developing relationships with other believers.
Action Steps:
Invite some people over for a meal. It does not have to be fancy (but if fancy is your "thing" go for it!). Remember that the goal is getting to know one another. Eating together does that.
An idea: One couple hosted a regular "Spaghetti Night". They invited 8 people to their home on a Friday evening for spaghetti with the understanding that they would find the house "as is". They chose spaghetti because it was kid-friendly and easy to make. Because others frequently volunteered to bring salad or baguettes, the evening was spent enjoying friends rather then cooking.

The Prayers.
Prayer was a central part of the life of the church. Reading the book of Acts one is constantly finding references to the church praying passionately together. The epistles are filled with calls to prayer and examples of how the apostles prayed for others. Prayer is the finer-optic cable of communication with God. Prayer in the early church was an individual practice. People were committed to getting alone with God in prayer. It was also a corporate practice. They prayed regularly together. They prayed for one another. They prayed for the spread of the gospel. They prayed for the pouring out of the Spirit. Their prayer meetings were not boring "stare at the carpet" affairs, but the passionate crying out to God by a people filled with the Spirit commissioned to take the gospel to the nations.
Prayer must be a part of our lives. This is not an option, and lack of prayer indicates that we are depending on ourselves rather than on God. Prayer needs to be one of the identifying characteristics of our lives. Simply put: we cannot live the Christian life without prayer.
Action Steps:
Make time to pray in your schedule. Yes, 10 second prayers can be powerful, but they are not enough for a vibrant life with Christ. Plan a regular rendezvous with God.
Find people to pray with. TICOS has a prayer meeting at 9:15 every Sunday morning downstairs. Join a life group that prays together as part of their gatherings.
Pray out loud when in a group. Perhaps you have a fear of praying out loud. Seek to overcome it. Break through that barrier so that others can agree with you in prayer. Praying out loud often has a side benefit of deepening our relationships with others.
Find a prayer partner. Find someone who you can meet with on a regular basis for prayer.

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