The 2010 film “Extraordinary Measures” depicts John and Aileen Crowley’s heroic efforts to find a cure for their two children who suffer from a rare and deadly genetic disorder. In one heart-wrenching scene, their oldest child experiences an exacerbation so bad that it brings her to the brink of death. With no treatment options remaining on the table, the Crowleys can do nothing but wait. Attempting to comfort them, a doctor tells them that they could try to look at their daughter’s seemingly imminent death as a blessing because their daughter would not need to suffer any more. As any parent can imagine, the proposal was less than satisfying to the Crowleys.Continue reading
We come to the last distinguishing mark of the infant Christian church in this series. This series does not give an exhaustive list of distinguishing marks, only those listed in the first major snapshot of the infant Christian church given to us in the Book of Acts (Acts 2:42-47).Continue reading
This continues a series of articles on the distinguishing marks of the infant Christian church. The infant Christian church’s devotion to prayer comprises its fifth distinguishing mark (Acts 2:42).
In the original Greek, the word often translated “prayer” is pluralized and preceded by the Greek article. Literally, we would render the Greek, “the prayers” and not simply “prayer.” The members of the infant church not only devoted themselves to the act of prayer, but they devoted themselves to regular routine times of prayer. They did not pray only at times they felt moved to pray but established regular times to gather together and pray. A healthy church prays regularly and routinely. Prayers do not simply punctuate the end of a song or fill a liturgical role in the service, but flow from the heart of those who make these times of regular prayer foundational to their lives.
Luke showed us the believers praying before. Before the day of Pentecost, they were in a room praying regularly, likely for the power from on high Jesus promised (Acts 1:14) . Luke will show us again, time after time, the early church praying (e.g. Acts 3:1). Prayer gives the church her lifeblood.
The scholar Dr A. T. Pierson once said, “There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.” Charles Spurgeon was said to have a group regularly meeting in the steam cellar of the church for the sole purpose of praying for the ministry of the church. It was said of John Knox that one day when he went into the room he often withdrew to, his wife followed him. When she entered, she heard him pleading to God in broken sentences, “Lord, wilt thou grant me Scotland.”
The prayer life of a congregation serves as one of the spiritual barometers that measures a congregation’s health. Is your congregational prayer life healthy? Is your individual prayer life for your congregation’s ministry healthy? If you cannot answer in the affirmative, drop what you are reading and fall on your knees. Your Lord calls you; will you listen?
For those looking to pray for our county, I invite you to join a group of us Mondays by the flagpole near the courthouse in Wellsboro at 4pm (or a little thereafter). Many prayers go from that place weekly for the welfare of our community. It matters little your denomination, only your willingness to join fellow brothers and sisters in beseeching Christ for times of refreshing to come to the people in our community.
In this third part of this series on the distinguishing marks of the early Christian church, we look at something unusual that took place. “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need (Acts 2:45).” The early Christian church demonstrated a radical generosity the world had never seen before.
The question of what to do with the poor and needy has plagued societies throughout time. God wrote into his law for the nation of ancient Israel a policy for the poor among them (Deuteronomy 15:4-7). If they would have followed it, there would have been no poor person among them. Yet, even Israel chose to ignore God’s law in regard to the poor. God spoke against that nation through the prophet Amos saying, “They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground (Amos 2:7).”
No human society has ever managed to eliminate poverty from their land. Yet, the early Christian church did what no one else could. Later in the Book of Acts, Luke says, “there were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:34).” How did they do this? They did not do it through policy, taxation, or mandatory measures. Rather, something more radical transformed the minds and hearts of this community of believers that now numbered thousands.
Usually when people give to the poor, they do so out of guilt. They see an advertisement to raise money for starving children in a foreign country. They see the swollen bellies of these children and then look at all they have. They feel guilt. They give. They feel better about themselves, and the guilt goes away, at least for the moment.
The early Christian church was giving for a different reason. Their hearts had been touched by grace. They came to see clearly the depth of their sin. They knew they were helpless to change themselves. They were convicted of the truth that God sent his Son Jesus Christ to lay down his life to cover their sins with his blood. They were not giving out of guilt; they were giving out of gratitude for what they knew God did for them.
Generosity marks not only the early Christian church, but also individual Christians as well. How can a Christian, who knows how widely God has opened his hand to them, close their hand to the poor among them? Salvation comes by grace alone, but the conviction of this grace expresses itself in the life of the Christian through acts of radical generosity.
The philosopher Alasdair McIntyre once said that for something to make sense it needs to be put into the context of a story. So many of our disagreements today stem from arguments over what the real story is. The Bible offers us a story that can be counted on, one that makes sense of the world we live in. This story can be trusted because it comes from God.Continue reading
Prior to the day of Pentecost, Jesus’ disciples committed themselves to prayer in an upper room (Acts 1:12-14). Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift God the Father had promised (Acts 1:4). Never underestimate the power of prayer. God has many times used the prayers of his people to accomplish great things.Continue reading
Hannah was one of the sweetest young ladies you ever could meet. She was bright and smart, graduating the top of her class in college. Upon graduating, she took a job at a non-profit that specialized in helping impoverished families. With her grades and newly minted credentials, she could have chosen a more lucrative career. Money, however, did not motivate Hannah. Her heart was warm and compassionate. She wanted to help those less fortunate than herself.Continue reading