A few months ago, I threw out the challenge that we should all read the New Testament over the Summer. Two or three people have come up to me and said that they have indeed achieved this, but for those of us (including myself!) who found this timetable too short, our initial “task” was to read the Gospels of Luke & John and the Acts of the Apostles (written by Luke as a continuation of his Gospel)
To read them is the starting point! We then should think about, meditate, reflect and talk about: what’s their relevance for us, what’s God saying to us – both as individuals & families and corporately as a church. Also, as it’s God’s Word we’re talking about, we should in particular pray about it.
I remember being astounded on reading a Penguin Classic – Augustine’s Confessions (his confession of his life up to his conversion, concluding with a commentary on the first chapter of Genesis) – to find that when he couldn’t understand a verse or passage in the Bible that he prayed to God to enlighten him. I then tried this and certainly it’s my experience over many years that when we do this God does indeed answer. Today, this is an integral part of my sermon preparation and re the past, I could never have got through theological college without God’s help.
As the 3 books of Luke, John & Acts are, as it were for us now, a common base, we will be focussing on them in our Services over the next few months (although not entirely). If you haven’t completed (or started!) them, why not now do so. In my Bible we’re talking about just 90 pages crammed full of wisdom, truth and value.
Also, you may have noticed that I have started to put the Scripture readings for Services at the back of the newsletter. You may find it helpful to read these before the Service. Then when you hear the readings they will already be familiar to you and with the Sermon you won’t then be starting with such a blank sheet of paper.
It’s interesting to compare the Church of Acts with the church today. There are some similarities, but the differences are glaring. Is the Church of Acts our experience of church ? I think not! and so we have the crucial question then of why not?
We can always question whether the account of Acts is true. However, it’s certainly portrayed as being a true account; the persecution of the Church is certainly true and despite it, the amazingly rapid expansion of the Church in the 1st century is certainly true. Acts gives us an account that explains the facts we know re the Church in the 1st century. One can try, but I can’t think of a better explanation and of course it is a contemporary account and, from Chapter 16, an eye-witness account.
Further, if we look to Church History, we see God acting in similar ways. If we just think of the UK in the last few hundred years, we can immediately think of George Fox and the original Quaker movement in the 17th century; George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers in the 18th century; Moody and Sankey in the 19th century. The life of Hudson Taylor is like the full story of a page in Acts. Earlier this year I spoke about the revival in Scotland in 1839. This Autumn, 150 years ago (1859), was the Welsh revival; and then in 1903/4 another revival in Wales; and I could go on …!
What God has done in the past, He can do again. God has not changed. He’s not lost His interest in the human race and this little planet of ours. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
I would suggest that our real need is for a revival of religion. The church clearly needs it and looking at our culture with its low morality and general lack of integrity (as clearly evidenced even in our leaders) our country needs it.
It’s clear from God’s Word and from history that God wants to revive us. The question is whether we want to be revived! Would we like our church to be more like the Church of the 1st century? It would be different, perhaps a bit uncomfortable, certainly not boring! But if not, then that’s all the explanation we need as to why it’s not!!
God loves us and cares for us. So let’s not fear, but get expectant (even excited!) about what He’s got in store for us. Let’s pray for His will to be done and His Kingdom to come; let’s look at what God has done in the past, let it increase our faith and anticipation; and then let’s pray for Him to do it again! Why not ? Now! Today!