Tuesday, January 30, 2007

They devoted themselves to... (part 4)

Here is part 4 in our look at the key ingredients to the success and growth of the early church. Again I want to reiterate that I believe that we will see there, key ingredients that will work for us too. Let me know what you think, I value your comments.

Acts 2:42-47 "42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

We have now come to the 4th and last of the basic areas that were keys to unlocking the success of the early church. That key is prayer. Prayer is perhaps the most intimate of the four keys. First, it is intimate because it is that time where we have the opportunity to be one on One with the Creator of the universe. Did you pick that up? It is that time where we have the opportunity to be one on One with the Creator of the universe. How incredible is that! I can't even get an audience one on one with the President of the United States, yet any time I want to, I can step into the Holy of Holies and have a conversation with the Almighty. As amazing as that sounds, allow me to let you in on something even more amazing, God wants me to come to Him. He actually desires my presence. This is a truth I will never understand. Want to know something even more incredible? Most people, who call themselves Christians, go through entire days without ever going one on One with God. Perhaps they give up a quick prayer at meal time, could be they shoot another one God's way as they kneel by the bedside of their child each night, but far too much of the time, that is the extent of their intimacy with the Almighty. Folks, there is a word for that, the word, "STUPID." It is absolutely stupid. I'm sorry, perhaps you are offended by my choice of words, but to be honest, so am I. In my home we aren't even allowed to use that word, but I can't think of a better word. What would you call me if the President's limo pulled into my driveway, he walked up to my front door, rang the doorbell and requested a moment of my time, only to have me turn him away because I was in the middle of a good TV program? I'll bet you'd call me a stupid idiot. Check it out – you added a bad word to my bad word. Guess what? I think I would agree with you. Even if the President was someone I didn't vote for, if he rang my doorbell and requested a bit of my time, I'd turn off the TV and sit down and chat with him. (Of course, if it was a Bronco game, I might put a video tape in and record it.)

The point is this, far too much of the time we don't even think of the incredible opportunity we have. I wish I could tell you why, but I can't. It just happens. I think that part of it is we have the wrong perception of what prayer is. When someone mentions prayer, we think of long boring prayer meetings at church or of an old saint on his knees in front of his chair or other picture like those. But is that really an accurate picture of what prayer is? I really don't think it is.

Prayer is basically a conversation. Sure it's between you and God, but it is still a conversation and it can take place at any moment in any location. On many days my conversation with God starts while I am in the shower. By that time I have had my morning power drink. The coffee is brewing, I have shaved and my mind is just beginning to function properly. Other times I pray when I am driving. The point is this, there is virtually no place or time I can't pray. The sooner we realize and take advantage of this, the sooner our relationship with God grows more special and more intimate. I can't think of any reason why we wouldn't want to have a more intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe.

There is yet another reason why prayer is one of the most intimate of the four keys to success. This reason is actually a little harder to understand. It's harder to understand because we really don't understand how it works, but it works none-the-less. That reason? Somehow prayer moves the hand of God. I really can't tell you how or why it moves the hand of God, but it does. I am convinced that certain things happen or don't happen as a direct result of prayer. Look at Scripture, James 5:16, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." Another passage simply states, "You have not, because you ask not." Perhaps it is because God desires that intimate relationship with us that our prayers move His hand. Sort of like He is blessing our desire to get to know Him better. While I don't know how prayer works, that's not about to stop me from praying. I hope that is true of you as well. You see, I want my intimacy with the Almighty to grow more each day, and I want to be part of the hand of God moving. May my prayer life grow stronger and stronger in the days, months, and years ahead.

We have now taken a closer look at the 4 basic areas that the early church had a unique commitment to. These things were huge in bringing success in the early church. They are:
1. They devoted themselves to "the apostles teaching" (The Word of God)
2. They devoted themselves to "fellowship."
3. They devoted themselves to "the breaking of bread."
(The celebration of communion.)
4. They devoted themselves to "prayer."

We have also seen the results of their commitment in these 4 basic areas.
1. "Everyone was filled with awe."
2. "Many wonders and miraculous signs were done."
3. "All believers were together and had everything in common."
4. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." (Wow, talk about unselfishness.)
5. They regularly met together "with glad and sincere hearts."
6. "Enjoying the favor of all people."
7. "The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

As I mentioned at the very start, what an incredible passage. The truth is, it is incredible enough that it ever took place, but its incredibleness multiplies at the thought that is wasn't exclusive to the early church. These things can take place today as well. Oh, perhaps it may not take place in the same magnitude, that it took place in the early church. There was a unique freshness to everything back then because so many had witnessed first hand the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. However, that does not change the amazing thing that can still take place if we devote ourselves in those 4 areas. If we will devote ourselves to "the apostles' teaching", to the reading and application of the Word of God, we will inevitably grow stronger in our relationship to God. We cannot help but be impacted by His Word. We will also find that our struggle with sin will decrease.

Which is also a result of His Word impacting our lives. If we will devote ourselves more fully to the "fellowship", it won't take long before we realize that we aren't in this alone. The fact of the matter is, if you are actively involved in a good church where there are many committed and growing Christians you will find out that no matter what struggle you are facing, someone else in your fellowship has already walked that road, or one very similar to it. They can come along side you and help you grow through the struggle. If we will devote ourselves more fully to "the breaking of the bread" the picture in our mind's eye of what Christ did for us on the cross can't help but impact our relationship with Him. I can't imagine not wanting to more fully live for Him, when we think of His death for us. If we will more fully devote ourselves to "prayer", the power of that prayer answering God, will become more evident in our lives. That will not only have a pronounced impact on our own life, but on the lives of others as well.

In the mid nineties the most powerful team in college football was the Nebraska Cornhuskers. They won three championships in four years and only missed the fourth by about a yard as a would-be game winning full goal sailed wide to the left. Yet as I look back on those teams, I see that they weren't filled with a bunch of superstars. The NFL has a ton of players from colleges like Miami, Florida and Florida State. Very few from Nebraska, yet they faced each other in head to head competition, Nebraska didn't just beat them, they dominated them, even though those other teams had more talent. What made Nebraska different? They had a few key areas they devoted themselves to and together they applied themselves as a team, to those areas. The same holds true for the church. It doesn't have to be loaded with superstars, just ordinary people with a strong devotion to a few key areas and the life changing success will be incredible. "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

Becoming more devoted each day,


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