We Must Use the Right Materials to Build our Foundation

Matthew 7:24 (NKJV) 24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:

This week we are examining our foundations. In our study of favor, we have learned that certain things will draw favor to our lives. One of them is a good foundation. God cannot bring us favor if we are not stable in our walk with God. We will never be stable in our walk with God if we do not have a good foundation. Yesterday we looked at the nature and value of a good foundation. Today I want to talk about the materials with which we build.

Foundation building materials, like foundations themselves, do not tend to be very exciting. Where I live, we usually build our foundations out of cement and cement blocks. The blocks are gray and rough. The cement is gray and messy. When it is wet, it looks like grayish mud. It is not pretty. You do not choose textures or colors for your foundation. You cannot compromise the foundation based on ascetics. Foundation materials are what they are because they have to be those things. You cannot change them.

Foundations always stay the same. You may remodel your house. You may paint or wallpaper the walls. You may put in carpet or wood flooring. You might even remove walls and change the configuration of the house. We can get excited about these things. Still, the foundation must stay the same.

If the foundation is compromised, we must fix it. We have to use the same kind of foundational materials. We will see no change in the look of the house. There may be a choice of materials, but they will all be “foundational” in nature and by default less than exciting. Nevertheless, if we do not fix the foundation and fix it correctly, whatever we do in terms of the “fun” things will be a waste of time because the house may fall down.

One thing that is a real problem in our Christian walk is the tendency to want to take truths that are not foundational and try to build them into our foundation. Many years ago, I heard some teaching on things like prosperity, healing and successful living. At the time, these were things I thought should be true but had never heard expressed. I believe these were things the church needed to understand. They are in the bible. They are just not foundational in nature.

Some people began to build their foundation on prosperity or healing. Some made successful living a foundational truth in their lives. These are important and wonderful things that the bible says we can have but when we try and make them foundation they simply do not work well. You cannot build a physical foundation out of wood or sheetrock. You need those things to finish the house but if you try to use them for foundation your house will not be stable and it will be liable to fall.

We have a family in the church that was given some bad advice by someone they trusted. They bought a house that needed foundation work. A contractor told them about a new foundation system that used treated lumber instead of cement and block. It was much cheaper. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The contractor put in the wood foundation but did not do it just right. The foundation was fine until we had a season that was unusually wet. Then we had the 2011 flooding. These things exposed the flaws in the concept. The foundation had to be completely redone with the right materials.

Even though it seemed that this wood system was viable, it had to be done in a very specific way. The reason is that wood is not a foundation material in the Northeastern United States. If you build a foundation out of cement and block, you may make small mistakes and it will not matter because the materials are right for the job. We need to examine what materials we are using to build our spiritual foundation. If we use the wrong materials, we are going to have problems.

What should we use to build our spiritual foundation? If healing and prosperity are not foundational truths, what truths are foundational. We see one of them in today’s scripture. Jesus told them to build on hearing and doing the things he had just preached to them. We need to build on the principles in the Word of God.

The Sermon on the Mount is a very basic teaching on Christian living. It speaks of things like prayer, integrity, servanthood and trust in God. It promises that God will meet our daily needs but only if we seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. Which of these things is foundation? Seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness is a foundation truth. God meeting our needs is a result of having the right foundation. (Matthew 6:33)

God will meet your needs. That is a promise, but not a foundation stone. When you try to build on God meeting your needs, you will get out of balance and you will cultivate the wrong attitudes. When things do not work out as smoothly as you might like, you will become offended and discouraged. However, if you build on seeking the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, you will automatically have the right priorities and attitudes and you will automatically have your needs met.

Jesus also says your needs will be met because the Father knows what you need and he loves you more than the birds or the flowers. (Matthew 6:38-32) He loves his children more than anything else. He is your Father! The love of the Father for his children is foundational. If you build on that, you know that God will take care of you not matter what it may look like. Paul had this kind of foundation.

Romans 8:35-39 (NKJV) 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul faced tremendous trials in his life. If he tried to build his foundation on God’s meeting his every need when he thought it should be met, he would have lived in perpetual discouragement. That was not the case because the foundation truth in this section of scripture is the reality of the love of God in his life. Whether or not he faced trials was not a factor. In every trial he could boldly say that he was “more than a conqueror” because he knew God’s love meant he was never abandoned.

Take a look at what your life is built upon today. Have you been building with the right materials in the right place. I believe in things like prosperity, success and healing. I just do not try to build my foundation with them. They are like the paint and wallpaper. I would not want to live in a house that just had cement block walls. I also would not want to live in a house with a wallpaper foundation. We need both, but they have to be in the right proportions and in the right place.

Favor Flows to a Good Foundation

Matthew 7:24-27 (NKJV) 24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Over the course of this year, we have studied the topic of favor. Some time ago, we looked at today’s scripture. Jesus is teaching about building our lives on the rock of his Word. In studying these two houses, we realize that they would be very similar in construction and look. In that day, most common houses were built the same way. It was not like the US today where there are many different styles and sizes of homes even for everyday people.

The two houses in this story would have been built from the same materials and in the same manner. They would have looked almost identical. The only difference in these two homes was what they were built upon. One was built on the surface soil, which was sandy by nature. The second builder dug to the bedrock. His house was established on ground that would not move. This did not matter until the wind and rain came. When they did, the house on the sand became unstable. The house on the rock stayed strong and stable. The house on the sand eventually fell while the house on the rock stood through the storm.

Which house would draw favor? God will not cause favor to flow to a house that will fall under stress. Favor is drawn to a house with a firm and stable foundation. We understand that Jesus is not really talking about buildings in this parable. He is talking about our lives. If we want to walk in unprecedented favor, we must build a strong foundation. The only way to do that is to obey the words of Jesus. “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

The problem with building a foundation is that it is not the most exciting part of the construction process. I remember building an addition on the second church that my wife and I founded and pastured. We were extending the back of the structure to add offices and enlarge the sanctuary. We began the process by excavating behind the original building and then laying the block foundation. It seemed that for months I would go to the church and walk to the back and all I would see was a pile of dirt and stacks of blocks.

The foundation work is dirty and ugly. We want to get to the walls and the roof. We want to get to the decorating. We can hardly wait until we bring in the furniture and begin to use the space. That is the fun part. The foundation is not fun but it is “foundational.” If we do not take the necessary time and effort to build the foundation our whole structure will be flawed.

The foundation of any building determines a number of things about that building. First, it determines the stability of the structure. You may have a structure that looks good but if the foundation is flawed the building will be unstable in difficult conditions. We do not want to be in a building that has a flawed foundation if there is an earthquake. It will shake and sway and even if it stands through one quake, we know it is not truly stable.

Second, the foundation determines how big a building can be. A foundation that may be sufficient for a small home is not sufficient for a large office building. If we build any kind of building and we expect to add onto it, we must be sure the foundation can handle the added weight. If we want God to build “big” in our lives, we must make sure the foundation is sufficient to handle the growth.

Finally, the foundation determines the duration of the structure. If a foundation is not strong, the effects of time will cause it to weaken. The building may start our stable but it will eventually decay to the point that it will fall. If we want to be strong in the Lord for our whole life, we need to make sure the foundation we build will stand the test of life and time.

We had an example of a flawed foundation in our family some years ago. We experienced a severe flood in September of 2011. My daughter and her family live not far from us but their house was in a low-lying area in our town. The floodwaters did not enter the living space in their home but they did fill the basement. We had to use a rowboat to get to her house.

When the waters receded, they moved back into their house for a short time. Although some things were a little damp, it seemed that the house had survived the flood with little damage. A few days after they went home, an inspector came around checking the houses that had been flooded. When he looked at their foundation he “red tagged” their home. They had to leave and for the next 5 months, we all crowded together in my home.

The problem with their house was that the foundation was a stone foundation. I am not a builder so I do not really understand construction methods but their foundation was made out of natural stones stacked together. I am not sure how they were held in place, but whatever the method it did not hold up under the floodwaters. Years ago, this was an accepted method of construction. Today it is not. The reason is the inherent susceptibility of such a foundation to things like floods.

When we went into the house, we did not feel it moving or shaking. It seemed the same as it always had been. However, the inspector said the house could fall at any time because of the erosion of the foundation. They had to jack up the house and build a completely new foundation underneath it. This one was made out of cement. When they were done, they lowered the house down onto its new foundation and my daughter’s family moved back in.

Because they had flood insurance, they were able to do some remodeling in their home as well as fixing the foundation. However, the house did not look significantly different. Unless you went into the basement, you really could not tell that tens of thousands of dollars had been spent on this house. Nonetheless, the house is now more valuable, more stable and will last a long time because it has a good foundation.

We need to examine our foundation. We may need to replace some blocks. We may need to pull out the whole thing and rebuild it from the ground up. If you are new in the Lord, make sure you build your foundation in the right way. It will determine how far you can go in the things of God.

For the next few weeks or months we are going to examine our foundations. We are going to look at the right kind of material to use for a good spiritual foundation. We are going to make sure our houses are the kind that will stand through a storm or a flood. We are going to make sure we are building in such a way that God can cause favor to flow to us. As we build good foundations, we will also build the Kingdom of God.

What is the Bible Definition of Waiting

Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV) 31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

(It was our privilege to have Brother Brian Van Deventer with us for our Sunday morning service. He is part of a ministry called Enabling Mission Endeavors or EME. They are based in Athens Greece and have ministry outreaches that effect North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Brian is also involved in encouraging Christian businesses and developing leadership. For more information about this powerful missionary ministry, you can go to www.emeministries.org. Here are some thoughts on what he shared with us.

Part of his message involved a definition of waiting that I had already used in our church. I always find it exciting when God confirms things so clearly. I decided to re-publish my post on the same topic. You can find the whole message on effective waiting in the posts for late July and August of this year. The audio for these messages are available on our web site, www.livingwordgreene.com, via the media tab and the tabs for July and/or August. Brian’s message is under the “This Month” tab and will be under October shortly.)

The last few weeks we have been looking at another aspect of walking in the favor of God. That aspect is the necessity of successful waiting. We all must wait in life. Faith in God requires waiting. Walking in the favor God wants to bring us from others is tied to waiting by nature. We must wait for circumstances or people to respond to the moving of God’s Spirit because that is the channel through which favor comes. Last week we spent time studying the most well known scripture in the bible concerning waiting, Isaiah chapter 40 and especially verse 31. We learned things that hinder our waiting as well as the benefits that we can expect from waiting. This week I want to look at how to wait on the Lord.

As we begin, I believe that it is very helpful to understand the definitions of the words used in the bible. Many times, we think we know what words mean but we really do not. In addition, there are shades of meaning in the Greek and, in this case, Hebrew words used that do not come through in the English translation. Understanding what the words God uses really mean will release the revelation in God’s Word to our understanding.

In studying waiting, I found that there are two basic Hebrew words that the English bible translates as “wait.” I also noticed that sometimes the bible uses the phrase “wait on the Lord” and sometimes the phrase “wait for the Lord.” I fully expected that I would find that one of the Hebrew words would be translated “wait on” and the other would be translated “wait for” the Lord. This was not the case. Both words were, at different times, translated both ways.

Both words carry the idea that we have to wait for the Lord to do what he says he will do. We are waiting for God to bring something about that we cannot rush or bring about on our own. We are waiting for his timing. We are waiting for him to work out circumstances or deal with people. We may also be waiting for God to work in us so that we will be ready to receive. Both words give us insight into how we must wait on the Lord.

The word used in Isaiah 40:31 is a a primitive root meaning; to bind together (perhaps by twisting), i.e. collect; (figurative) to expect :- gather (together), look, patiently, tarry, wait (for, on, upon). There is much in this word to help us understand how to wait.

I like the idea that to wait on the Lord means to be bound together with him. The thought of being twisted together with him is very important. The picture is that of a rope. A rope is made up of many fibers twisted together to form a whole. We were recently visiting Mystic Seaport in Mystic Connecticut. This historic town reenacts the elements of an 1800’s seaport. One of the displays was how they made rope for the sailing ships.

The process begins with very small fibers twisted together to make cords. The cords get larger and larger until they become very thick, very strong ropes capable of holding giant ships against the force of the sea. The small strands that the rope maker begins with could not stand up to much strain at all, but the finished rope is nearly impossible to break.

This is what it means to wait on the Lord. We must become entwined with him until we disappear into the great whole called the body of Christ. Ephesians 4 tells us that we are strong when we stand together as one with each joint supplying its strength to the whole. (Eph. 4:16) Of course at the center is the Lord. To wait on the Lord means to be so entwined with him that our life and his are not separate things but one whole that is much stronger than we could ever be alone.

One of the first scriptures we looked at in this study was Isaiah 8:17. In this verse a different Hebrew word is used. This word is a primitive root that carries the idea of piercing]; properly to adhere to; hence to await :- long, tarry, wait.

This gives us another insight into how we wait on the Lord. This word implies that we need to “adhere to the Lord” in order to wait on him. We use an idiom that is very similar. We say, “He stuck like glue” to mean someone who stayed with a person or a thing through adversity. What a powerful picture of waiting on the Lord.

When we are faced with struggles and problems in life, we need to stick like glue to the Lord. The devil wants to pull us away from him. Often our emotions fight us and try to draw us to other solutions for our problems. This is always true but it is especially applicable when we must wait. This word tells us what we must do in these circumstances.

When we are tempted to think that God will not come through for us this time, we need to “stick like glue” to our faith. When the devil tries to tell us that God is not concerned about us or that he has forgotten us, we need to “stick like glue” to our trust in God’s love for us. When our emotions want to rage and draw us away from our confidence in God, we need to be like David and stick like glue to our trust in the Lord and his inevitable provision.

Psalm 103:1-2 (NKJV) 1 A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:

When faced with the necessity of waiting on the Lord, keep these two ideas in mind. My life is entwined with God and my strength is now his strength. I will “stick to the Lord like glue” no matter what comes and in the end, I will be victorious. With these ideas firmly entrenched in our thinking, we will never fail to be successful in our times of waiting on, or for, the Lord.

Whose Side Are You On?

Joshua 5:13-14 (NKJV) 13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” 14 So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?”

(It was our privilege to have Brother Brian Van Deventer with us for our Sunday morning service. He is part of a ministry called Enabling Mission Endeavors or EME. They are based in Athens Greece and have ministry outreaches that effect North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Brian is also involved in encouraging Christian businesses and developing leadership. For more information about this powerful missionary ministry, you can go to www.emeministries.org. Here are some thoughts on what he shared with us.)

This week we have been looking at certain aspects of reaping the harvest God desires to bring into the church. Just as when we looked last week at what it takes to have a Book of Acts ministry in today’s world, we find that the keys to harvest are in our relationship to the Lord and the people around us not in plans, programs or methods. We have seen that Jesus saw the people he ministered to as weary and a sheep with no shepherd. This describes the condition of many in our world today. What do we need to tell them that will bring them to a saving knowledge of Jesus? We need to let them know that there is a shepherd who cares about them.

Yesterday we saw that we had to wait before we could go. The Great Commission is to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. However, Jesus made it clear in Acts 1 that before they could go they first had to wait in Jerusalem. What were they waiting for? They were waiting to be filled with the power of God. They were waiting for the direction and anointing of the Holy Spirit on their work. To reach the lost today we need to hear from the Lord. We need his plan and we need his power. Without that power, Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 would have been ineffective. With that power, he won 3000 people in one meeting.

I want to look at a scripture today that reveals another key to successfully wining the harvest. In today’s verses, Joshua has just led the children of Israel into the Promised Land. This is the culmination of 40 years of wandering. A whole generation of people has died in the wilderness because they would not trust God enough to obey him. Now their descendents have finally entered Canaan. An angel appears to Joshua. Joshua asks the question many are asking today. “Are you on our side or are you on the side of the enemy.”

As I read Joshua’s question, I cannot help but think of our world. Everyone wants to know what side you are on. Are you a republican or a democrat? Are you liberal or conservative? Are you a nationalist or a globalist? Are you a socialist or a capitalist? Are you for the environment or for business? Are you for the big guy or the little guy? The list goes on and on.

Unfortunately, this thinking also makes its way into spiritual things. Are you a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu or an atheist? Even in the Church of Jesus Christ, we want to know if we are evangelical or charismatic. Are we baptistic in our theology or Pentecostal? Even among spirit-filled people, we have many streams of ministry. We may be Word people or restoration people. We may be tribulation believers or rapture believers. The divisions are endless. I think most of us sincerely believe that we are right in our political and religious convictions.

The problem in all of this is that we spend so much time defending our position we get nothing done. In our American politics today, we spend so much time fighting about ideologies and condemning those who disagree that the government shuts down instead of solving the problems they were elected to solve. There is something both wrong and frightening about that. In the religious world, we are more concerned about what we believe than we are about the people who perish eternally while we fight.

I am a preacher of the Gospel. I do not pretend to have the answers for the political or even the religious world. I do think there is an answer for those whose concern is building the kingdom of God. I think we can find it in these verses in Joshua.

We can understand Joshua’s concern. He knows that this angel represents the will and power of God. We have already established that the most important thing we need to know is what God wants. We know that we must have his power to be successful. When he sees the angel, it is normal for him to ask who he represents. Was he a representative of the gods the Canaanites served? In Joshua’s mind that was certainly possible. Joshua could have wondered if he heard correctly. Was taking Jericho the will of God?

We want to know the same thing. God are you for me in this endeavor? The problem with that thinking is that for God to be for us implies he is against someone else. You might say, “Of course God is for the church. The bible says ‘If God be for me who can be against me.’” That is true enough, but what about the other churches in town. What about people who believe for different things than we do? Either of us could simply be misguided. Is God against one of us? If the question is the one Joshua asked, God must be for one and against the other.

The answer the angel gave Joshua is very revealing. He told Joshua, “I am not for either of you. I am for the army of God. I carry out his agenda and no other. If you find yourself opposed to God’s plan and purpose you will face me. If you walk in line with God’s plan and purpose, I am your ally.”

What is the key to winning the lost? How can we have a Book of Acts ministry? We need to be on God’s side. He will not be on ours. He will not serve our agenda. He will not build our ministry. He will serve his agenda. It is the one that he sent Jesus into the world to accomplish.

John 3:16 (NKJV) 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

It is the source of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane.

Mark 14:36 (NKJV) 36 And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”.

I realize this is so simple that is should not be worth stating but as I read the angel’s words in Joshua, God really convicted me. The question for today is not whose side is God on. It is not who is right and who is wrong. The question for anyone who is interested in the kind of ministry that wins the lost is just the opposite. Whose side am I on and whose agenda am I accomplishing. The answer needs to be, “I am on God’s side and I am building his Kingdom.” Any other answer can only lead to failure in what really matters.

Before We Can Go We Must Wait

Acts 1:4 (NKJV) 4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me;

(It was our privilege to have Brother Brian Van Deventer with us for our Sunday morning service. He is part of a ministry called Enabling Mission Endeavors or EME. They are based in Athens Greece and have ministry outreaches that effect North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Brian is also involved in encouraging Christian businesses and developing leadership. For more information about this powerful missionary ministry, you can go to www.emeministries.org. Here are some thoughts on what he shared with us.)

Yesterday we looked at the command Jesus gave to his disciples in Matthew chapter 9. We are familiar with what he said about praying for laborers to go into the harvest. It is important to remember that he did not pray for a harvest. He told the disciples that the harvest was already there. I believe it is the same in our day. He prayed that God would send laborers into the harvest. He said these things in response to what he felt as he ministered to the people. He saw them as weary and sheep without a shepherd. That is an apt description of many in our day.

Although the great commission tells us to go into the world and make disciples of all nations, Jesus told his disciples to do something else first. In Today’s scripture, he tells them to wait. We have dealt extensively with waiting in this space, but I want to look at it in light of the harvest God wants to bring into the church. Before the disciples could go and fulfill the great commission, they first had to wait for power. Without that power, they could not reap the harvest.

For ten days after the ascension of Jesus, the 120 gathered in the upper room. We saw last week that they spent their time in prayer, the Word of God and fellowship with one another. They did not preach to anyone. They did no miracles. They were essentially hidden away from the world. After the Holy Spirit fell on them, everything changed. They made so much noise that they could be heard on the streets outside the upper room. Peter preached a message that resulted in 3000 being added to their number in that one day.

What changed in them that they could do the things they did on the day of Pentecost? They did not receive more education. They did not become better preachers. They had no more money than they did before. They did not become braver people. There was nothing that changed in any natural way. The only difference between the ninth day after Jesus’ ascension and the tenth day was the fact that God, the Holy Spirit filled them. With that filling came power.

What do we need to reap a harvest today? Last week we asked a different question. What does it take to have a Book of Acts ministry in today’s world? I will submit to you that the first thing Jesus told them they needed was the power of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He said they should do nothing until they were empowered by the spirit to do so. Jesus gives us the same command he gave them in Acts 1:4. Wait until you are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

There are two aspect to this that I want to point out. First, it is an increasing condition in our day that the term “Spirit filled” does not really mean the same thing that it did some years ago. At the turn of the 20th century, a great move of God came into the earth called the “Pentecostal movement.” In this move of God, he restored to the church the experience we read about in Acts chapter 2.

Acts 2:3-4 (NKJV) 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

In the 1970’s there was another outpouring, called the Charismatic renewal, that extended this experience to many outside of the Pentecostal world. In both cases, the emphasis was on the fact that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was necessary if we were going to have the power to reach the world for Jesus. There are certainly many doctrinal points of view about all of this but I cannot help but think that if Jesus thought the baptism in the Spirit was necessary in Acts 1, it must still be necessary today.

In many Pentecostal and Charismatic circles, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is no longer an active experience. It has become a doctrinal stance instead. Doctrinal stances will not produce the power to change the world. I believe we still need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 1, Acts 10 and Acts 19 all indicate that when people were filled with the Spirit in the New Testament, they spoke in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. To reap the harvest and have a Book of Acts ministry today, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I believe speaking in tongues activates this power in the life of the believer.

The second thing I want to point out about this command in Acts 1 is the need to wait until we are empowered by God. We have gotten very good a planning and strategizing. We look at trends, methods and statistics. We do many things and feel very professional about our approach to ministry. We even look at things like worldly marketing and think we need to use those tools to build the Kingdom of God.

I heard a man preach once about David and Goliath. His message was that David killed Goliath with his Goliath’s own weapon. He said that God wanted us to use the world’s weapons to win the battle. I beg to differ. Maybe I am just old fashioned, but I think David killed Goliath with a Holy Ghost anointed stone. He cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword, but if Goliath was not already dead, he could not have cut off his head at all!

We may use some of the methods and technology of the world to help us in the harvest. However, we will win the battle with the weapons God has given us.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NKJV) 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,

We need to wait until we receive power from the Lord before we try to win his battles. It is fine to plan and strategize, but if we want to win the harvest for Jesus, we need the power of Jesus. We need to give time to hearing his voice. We need to find out his plan and not just bring our plan to him. We need to wait until we know that the power of God is working in us. Then we can go into the world, preach the Gospel and be sure that the Lord will work with us “confirming the Word with signs following.” (Mark 16:20)

We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit every day. This is not some one-time experience that makes us Charismatic or Pentecostal. This is a continual lifestyle that we cannot do without if we want build God’s kingdom in the earth. Without the power of God active in his life, Peter’s message would not have won anyone to the Lord. With this power, born out of his willingness to wait on the Lord, he was able to win 3000 in just a few moments of preaching.

I want that kind of power. I want words that can cut through all the objections and speak to the heart of people. I want to have the gifts of the Spirit at my disposal so that I will not just speak words to the lost. I want demonstrate the power of God to them. Without the power that comes from waiting, we are wasting our time. With that power, we cannot fail.

Sheep Without a Shepherd

Matthew 9:36-38 (NKJV)
36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

(It was our privilege to have Brother Brian Van Deventer with us for our Sunday morning service. He is part of a ministry called Enabling Mission Endeavors or EME. They are based in Athens Greece and have ministry outreaches that effect North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Brian is also involved in encouraging Christian businesses and developing leadership. For more information about this powerful missionary ministry, you can go to www.emeministries.org. Here are some thoughts on what he shared with us.)

This is a very familiar scripture to most of us. I think it is safe to say that we all know we need to do better when it comes to the harvest of souls for the kingdom of God. In our church, we have many things we can look to with a great deal of satisfaction. I believe we have a good move of the Spirit. Our people are growing in the principles of the Word of God. We have strong unity and good fellowship. One thing I am not happy with is the fact that the majority of our people have been born again more than 10 years. Of those who are younger in the Lord, the majority grew up in our church. I do not think this is an unusual condition for our churches here in America.

We can look to many reasons as to why this is true. We can talk about our culture and the nature of modern society. The truth is that our world is no more or less opposed to the Gospel than the world of the first church. We need the Holy Spirit to move in our world just as they needed him to move in theirs. I think some of the keys we need in order to see God move in our world are revealed in these familiar verses.

As my friend Brian Van Deventer was sharing with our church on Sunday, he pointed out some things I think are significant. We tend to feel that people do not want to hear the message of the gospel. The truth is that they do not know what that message is. They do not understand that the gospel is the solution to the cry of their hearts. Many do know that they need something. Leading up to this verse, Jesus has been ministering to sick and hurting people. The bible tells us that he was “moved with compassion” because of the depth of their need. It says they were “weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” As I look at the people in our community, I cannot think of a better way to describe their condition.

Many people are worn out by the pressures and problems of daily life. We are living in a day of tremendous uncertainty. People are dealing with difficult economic times. Even more troubling is the lack of hope for the future. This affects the marriages, families and the emotional health of a great many of our neighbors. People do not know where to look for help. They are increasingly encouraged to look to government or community services to meet this need. Historically this is always a mistake. There is only one place to find the solution to these problems. Jesus knew what they needed in his day and it is the same thing people need today. They need a Shepherd.

A shepherd in bible days was a very important part of their society. A shepherd was someone who took care of a flock of sheep. A true shepherd knew that the wellbeing of those sheep was his responsibility. In John 10 Jesus tells us that he is the good shepherd. He also tells us of another kind of worker in the sheepfold. This person is called a “hireling.” He takes care of the sheep as long as there is no trouble but when trouble comes, he will not lay down his life for the sheep. Jesus, as the good shepherd, did lay down his life for the sheep.

What will draw people to the kingdom of God in our world. I have heard preaching about the tendencies of each generation we are dealing with today. This kind of thinking gives insight into how to reach each group. I am a “baby boomer.” My generation tends to think a given way. Each generation from then until today has been shaped by the world in which they live. It is true that we may need to use different methods to reach them. However, the basic need remains the same. People need a shepherd.

I have been to many parts of the world. Each country has its own problems, culture and point of view. The one thing that remains consistent is the heart need of the individual. They all need love, care and the basic necessities of life. Everyone needs to know that someone loves them. Everyone needs to feel that someone is watching out for them. Everyone needs to feel that someone is going to be there to when they face trials and struggles. We all need a shepherd.

It was in the midst of these emotions that Jesus turned to his disciples and declared that they must begin to pray for laborers for the ripe harvest before him. He did not say pray for the harvest. He declared that the fields are white and ready to be picked. The problem was not the lack of harvest but the lack of those who would gather this great harvest into the storehouse. I believe that is the problem today just as it was in Jesus’ day.

The harvest is all around us. It is there in the faces of the rudderless and discouraged people we confront every day. It is there in the news reports of economic and political turmoil. It is there in the parents who are dealing with a rebellious child who they know is headed for ruin but they do not know how to stop it. It is there in the sick person who needs healing. It is there in the person who is dealing with depression or guilt or fear. It is there in the people who have no sense that anyone cares about them or their needs.

We look for plans and programs that will draw people to our church, but what we need to do is let them know that there is a shepherd who loves them and takes their wellbeing as his responsibility. We need to introduce them to this wonderful shepherd. We need to tell them how he has taken care of us and our families. Jesus saw the real need in his world and tried to communicate that to his disciples.

It is true that we live in a very different world than they did. It is also true that the basic needs of the human heart have not changed. The harvest is just as ripe today as it was in Jesus’ day. We need to pray just what he told his disciples to pray. “Lord we see this tremendous harvest before us. We know that you want to be their shepherd. We know that the only solutions to the needs of our community are the ones that you provide. Raise up laborers to gather what is before us.”

While you are praying this prayer, remember that the first one who needs to respond to this call is you. Open your eyes and see in your world what Jesus saw in his. See the weary and scattered multitude around you and remember that you have a “good shepherd” who is concerned with every need of your life. I believe this shepherd will begin to open our eyes to many who are ready to meet him if we will become laborers in this great harvest season before us.

The Outpouring of the Spirit is in the Local Church

Acts 2:1-2 (NKJV) 1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Over the last few weeks, we have been trying to discover what the people who made up the first church had which enabled them to walk in the power of God. We have discovered many things about them from the first chapter of Acts alone. This week we have been focusing on one thing in particular. The first thing that they established was a local church structure. We see this in the last few verses of Acts one when they chose a replacement for Judas. They found a way to make a corporate decision that involved doing their part and allowing the Holy Spirit to do his part. That is the essence of successful local church.

When I was very young in the ministry, we thought the idea of local church was outdated. We had a “ministry” where everyone was welcome. We refused to call it a church. We did not have membership. We subscribed to the idea that everyone should just be free to go anywhere for ministry without ties of any kind. We soon discovered that, although this sounded very spiritual to us, it was neither practical nor effective.

The bible describes the church a number of ways. It calls the church a family and an army. Neither of those things can operate in the natural without some kind of structure. More important than the structure, both a family and an army require commitment. Without those things, an army cannot fulfill its purpose and a family will fall apart. The local church must have both in order to provide care for its members and fulfill its destiny in the world.

I believe the Lord wanted us to know the importance of local church interaction and that is why he put it in the first chapter of Acts. Much like the book of Genesis, the Book of Acts is a book of beginnings. Every bible doctrine has its beginnings in the book of Genesis. The principles and patterns revealed there are carried through the whole bible. The same is true for Acts and the church. The principles and patterns established there are still valid today. We have a great deal more knowledge, resources and technology today but that does not change the need to maintain the patterns of Acts. The one thing we do not have, at least in the church in America, is the power they had. I believe we must find that power again.

In Acts 1, we see a number of things that are local church related. Of course, there is the “first business meeting” where they chose Judas’ replacement. We also saw that they gathered in one place, the upper room. We saw that they prayed together in this place and we saw that they were in “one accord.” We see this maintained into chapter two.

The most important event in the history of the church outside of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus was the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. There are many doctrinal interpretations about what happened. Most agree that it is the day when the church that Jesus intended was born. What cannot be disputed is that everything changed for the disciples after this event. Before Pentecost, they were frightened fugitives not sure what to do next. After Pentecost, they were bold enough to preach the Gospel and heal the sick publicly. They did this even though they were often arrested as a result.

It seems to me that we should understand where this event occurred. We need continual outpourings of the Spirit of God. This is not supposed to be a onetime event. Where can we expect the Holy Spirit to be poured out on us today? It is reasonable to me to assume that we should expect it to happen in the same kind of place that it happened to them.

In Acts 2:1, we find that they were in the same place they had been in Acts chapter 1. I submit that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost in the local church. I believe that is where He will be poured out upon us and through us again.

In our society, we are driven by fame and size. We seem t think that fame somehow equals value. We think that the bigger a thing is the more important it must be. This thinking gets into the church as well. It can be very exciting to be in a big meeting with a famous ministry. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem is that we tend to think that this is the kind of place where we can expect a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit may indeed manifest in a place like that, but the real atmosphere that produces an outpouring is the local church.

I see an interesting dynamic in the church today. There have been a number of places that have been considered significant outpourings of the Spirit in the last 20 years. All have been received by some and rejected by others. I do not intend to endorse or condemn any of them. The interesting thing is that, as far as I understand, they have all occurred in local churches. In places like Lakeland, Brownsville and Toronto, God poured out his spirit in a local church and then people heard of it and came to that place from all over the world.

Again, I am not endorsing any of these places. I believe that there were probably both good and bad things in all of them. That is the case with most every outpouring of the Spirit because people are involved. I believe we should learn something from them. God can and will pour out his spirit in the local church. If God can do it in those cities, he can do it in your city. One might say that this can only happen in large churches. This is not true. I know that the Airport Vineyard church in Toronto was about 250 people when God first moved. In the end, probably millions came through their doors.

I do not believe size has anything to do with the outpouring of the Spirit of God. The local church in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost had 120 people. That is all. God still poured out his spirit upon them and they changed the world. It was not the size of the church that was important. It was the commitment of the church to the Lord, to each other and to the mission that mattered.

If we want to see Book of Acts ministry in our day, I am convinced it is going to come through healthy local churches. I believe this is true because God wants children born into his family not converts to a religion. For children to flourish they need to be nurtured, trained and cared for. For that to happen, they need to have relationships with other people in the family of God.

We also need to understand that God places gifts and callings on all of his people. For those callings to function together in the community, they need a place where they are coordinated and complimented. We need to be an army marching together to accomplish what God has called us to do. Once again, it is the local church where that happens most effectively.

Acts Ministry Requires Local Church

Acts 1:21-26 (NKJV) 21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” 23 And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” 26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Yesterday I caught us up on the things I found from Acts chapter 1 that need to be in place for us to have a Book of Acts ministry. We need this kind of ministry in our day as much as it was needed to establish the first church. In many ways the church of 2013 is seen as irrelevant. Our word alone is not enough to people’s minds today anymore than it was in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. We need God to move just as they did. For that to happen we need to be more like they were.

The last thing we find in the first chapter of Acts is something that I usually overlooked. It seemed an immature thing that the disciples did because they did not have the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They had to choose a replacement for Judas. To do so they “cast lots.” In effect, they took a vote as to whom the replacement disciple should be.

As I was putting together this study for our church, one of the study guides I was using had a heading that said, “The first business meeting of the church.” That caught my eye and I looked at these verses again with renewed interest. I believe the bible is the inspired Word of God. I believe that almighty God is capable of making sure the things in his book are there for a reason. I realized that this was not just an historical footnote to show how immature the disciples were before Pentecost. This was something relevant to the establishment of the kind of ministry necessary in the Book of Acts.

What was God showing us in these verses? From the very first days of the church age, God was showing us the necessity of local church. There was business that had to be done and they had to find a way to do it. One hundred twenty people had to interact together. For that to happen effectively there had to be some kind of structure established.

As I read these verses, I saw guidelines that we can and should use today. The need was clear. Jesus had called 12 people to be his Apostles. This original group of 12 men are often referred to as “Apostles of the Lamb” to distinguish them from others called apostles in the bible. Peter understood that Jesus chose 12 for a reason and that there needed to be a replacement for Judas. Some will say that Jesus had already chosen a man named Saul, soon to be known as Paul, for the replacement. However, Paul did not meet the criterion that Peter laid out for Judas’ successor. I believe this first “local church” was doing what they needed to do to provide balance at that time.

Let us look at the process they used to conduct their business. As I said earlier, I always discounted what they did as simple immaturity. As I looked closer, I realized that this was not the case at all. They did not yet have the indwelling Holy Spirit, as we know it in the church today. They had spent three years with Jesus. In that time they had seen how he operated and I have to believe that their time with him influenced how they made this decision.

What was the process they followed in making this decision? First, they set down qualifications for this position. For a person to be considered he had to have been with them from the beginning. He could not be a novice. He had to be familiar with the ministry of Jesus and with what they had been through from the baptism of John right up to the ascension of Jesus.

This implied some things not stated in this passage of scripture. They had to know the candidates character. They would know his strengths and weaknesses. They would have known his family status. If he was married, they would have known how he conducted his marriage and raised his children if he had them. They would know if he walked upright and if he kept the commandments and principles of God.

I believe we could learn from their example. Too often in today’s church people are promoted solely on the strength of their gifts. The church does not take time to find out if a new person is strong in their walk with God. If the church needs a musician and the new person can play, they put them on the platform. Even more damaging is when a person is placed in position because they have been successful in business or because they can give a lot of money.

Next, they prayed about the candidates. I am sure there was some discussion about who should be the one to stand in Judas’ place. They ended up with two names they felt would qualify for the position. I do not believe was a carnal process. Some might say that they should have simply prayed and the Holy Spirit would bring them into agreement as to who should be the replacement. This sounds good in theory, but in real human terms, it just does not work. They had to do their part. They had to make some evaluations and come to some decisions.

What they do next may seem like the most carnal part of how the process. However, as we look closer it was not. Without what they did next, the process would have only been a natural process. Instead, when they were done with their part they left the final decision in the hands of the Holy Spirit. They cast lots.

When Israel needed to know the will of God in the Old Testament, they used two stones that were carried in the High Priest’s garments. They were called the Urim and the Thummim. If a decision had to be made about which they had no clear direction, they would cast these stones and believe that God would control the outcome. Depending on the way the stones fell, they either did or did not do the thing they were considering. Although the process the disciples followed was not quite the same, the principle was what they knew. They did their best to hear from the Lord as to the direction they should go.

This is the last time a vote is taken in the New Testament. After the day of Pentecost, the disciples would have a different level of the leadership of the Holy Spirit. However, the process they used remained in the early church and is with us today. They set qualifications. They did their part to determine the right decision and they left the final say to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Whatever else we may learn from this process, we must understand that from the beginning, the Lord established local church. If we want to have Acts ministry, we need to be part of a healthy local church that stands for the Word of God and the move of the Holy Spirit. We need to be in relationship with people who desire to walk with the Lord together in order to see the area they live in touched by the power of God. Without the relationship and accountability provided by the local church, we will never see Acts ministry in our day.

What we see in the final verses of Acts chapter one is the establishment of such a local assembly. Tomorrow we will see that this pattern continues throughout the book.

10 Keys to Acts Ministry in our Day

Acts 1:21-26 (NKJV) 21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” 23 And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” 26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

(Once again, this Sunday my message to our church involved things I wrote about 3 weeks ago. With that in mind, I am going to continue to look at the question, “What does it take to have a Book of Acts ministry in today’s world.)

As we begin this week, I want to list the things that I have found up to this point in our study to be requirements if we want to see Book of Acts ministry in our world today. I believe we need such a ministry because, just as they lived in a difficult time and in a world that did not know about or wish to hear the Gospel, we live in such a time. We need God to move in a mighty way. What do we need functioning in our lives to see that kind of power released. Here is what we have found so far from Acts chapter 1.

1. We need to be willing to lay down our lives in order to open a door to the move of God in the earth. Five hundred people in the bible were invited to the upper room. Will we be a like the 380 who did not come or like the 120 who did come and opened the door for the entrance of the Holy Spirit into the world?

2. We need a personal relationship with the Lord. Jesus spent 40 days after his resurrection spending time with his disciples. We must spend personal time with Jesus if we want to have the kind of ministry they had. During those 40 days:

3. Jesus showed them many “infallible proofs” that he had really risen from the dead so that their faith would be unshakable. We need to have that kind of faith and it can only come from a personal encounter with the Lord and his Word.

4. Jesus spoke to them of the principles of the Kingdom of God. Any ministry that desires to have the impact of the Book of Acts must also be based on those principles. We may build ministries that look successful to the outside world on something else but they will not build the Kingdom of God.

5. We need to be willing to wait for God and his timing. They were told not to do anything until they were filled with the Holy Spirit. If they had tried to minister before they received this promise it would have been unsuccessful. Maybe we are trying to do some things that are not anointed because we did not wait on the Lord.

6. We must focus on our area of responsibility. The first question the disciples asked Jesus was if he was going to bring a political change in Israel. As citizens, we should do our part in the social and political arenas. However, we must never forget that or mission is to preach the Gospel and build the Kingdom of God no matter what happens socially or politically.

7. We must not become so focused on spiritual experiences, particularly past ones, that we forget our mission for today. As Jesus ascended into heaven, two angels appeared to the disciples and asked them why they were staring at an empty sky. Jesus would come back to them in due time. They needed to get to the work the Lord had called them to do. We need spiritual experiences in our lives. However, we must also remember that the mission God has given us is more important that any experience we may have except for salvation itself.

8. Book of Acts ministry requires that we obey the Lord. This is very basic but we often speak about obedience more than we obey. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came to them. That is exactly what they did even though it was dangerous for them to be in the city. We need to obey.

9. Book of Acts ministry requires prayer. The disciples did not go back to the upper room and have a seminar. They did not go back and discuss the next step in what they were supposed to do. They went back and began to pray. They communicated with God in their hearts and over the Word. (That is why Peter preached on Joel chapter 2 in the first message of the church age. He had spent ten day praying and reading the Word. The Lord led him to this scripture.)

10. Book of Acts ministry requires that we be in one accord. They were not in the upper room arguing doctrine or debating the social impact of what they were doing. They were not talking about who was to blame for the problems they faced. They were no longer arguing about who was the greatest among them as they had just before Jesus was crucified. They were of one mind. They were concerned about the directive Jesus gave them to wait and about their mission. Nothing else mattered. One source of their unity was that they had all been with Jesus. Could it be that if the church today concentrated more on being “with Jesus” and less on doctrine or methods, we would begin to see “one accord” rising among us?

I am sorry about my compulsion to review but I believe we must learn the principles and precepts of the Word of God not just study them theoretically. These are ten basic things that I found in the chapter one of the Book of Acts. Each of them is vital to the release of the power of this book in our day. I honestly believe that if we will pay more attention to these things, we will see God move in our day as he did in this wonderful book.

There is one more thing I found in the last few verses of chapter one. The Book of Acts flowed from the local church. That is what I found in today’s scripture but we will have to wait until tomorrow to get to that.

Acts Ministry Requires Unity

Acts 1:12-14 (NKJV) 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. 13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

As we have studied the first chapter of the Book of Acts the past two weeks, we have found that the reason they had the kind of ministry they did was due to the kind of people they were. This is not to say that they were in some way exceptional in ways that we cannot be today. On the contrary, as I went through Acts I found that they were no different from us.

They had similar struggles. They heard from God the same way we do. They had to deal with the realities of everyday life just like us. What we do see is that they had certain priorities and certain things in place that we must also have if we want the kind of ministry they had. It is possible. It simply requires some discipline and dedication.

The very first chapter of this book gives us many insights into who they were and what they believed. This week we have been looking at the section of scripture above and we have found a number of things to which we need to pay attention. First, they obeyed the command Jesus gave them to wait in Jerusalem. If we want a Book of Acts ministry we must cultivate obedience. Second, we see that they prayed.

Prayer is communication with God. In order to minister as they did we must have the kind of communication they had. They spoke to God but they also allowed him to speak to them and they listened. They spoke creative words that he gave them in their prayer time. They studied the word of God so that when it was time to deliver the first message of the church age Peter had the scripture God wanted to reveal in his mind. They heard the direction of the Holy Spirit as they went to the temple to pray so that they were able to minister to the lame man at the gate. Prayer is absolutely necessary for Book of Acts ministry.

There is one more thing I want to share with you from this section of scripture. The bible says that they were in one accord in the upper room. We cannot have Book of Acts ministry if we do not have unity in the body of Christ. They were not in the upper room arguing about who was in charge. They were not discussing doctrinal differences. They were not arguing about what they should do. They were in one accord.

The word accord means to be of one mind. They were all of one mind or one opinion. That opinion was that the most important thing in their lives was the preaching of the kingdom of God. They knew that God had called them to something great. They agreed that they needed to do what was necessary to see that mission accomplished in the earth. Everything else was secondary to that goal.

There is a great deal of talk about unity in the church. I have spent time in countries where the Christian population is by far the minority in the land. In India, the Hindus and Moslems make up some 98% of the population. That leaves just 2% of the 1 billion people in that country as Christians. Yet the same doctrinal differences occur there as here. I often wonder how they expect to win a nation when they cannot even love one another.

The source of unity in the Book of Acts is not that they were all the same. Even though they were all Jewish, they came from very different backgrounds. Some were of the party called “zealots” which could be called Hebrew nationalists. Matthew was a tax collector, people the zealots hated. We do not know exactly what doctrinal positions they held but we do know that there were many opinions about many things in Israel at that time. It is reasonable to assume that, with the varied backgrounds represented by the disciples, many of those points of view might have been represented amongst the 120 people there on the day of Pentecost. Yet the statement in verse 14 is clear. They were in one accord in the upper room.

What was the source of their unity? I would submit to you that they did have a few things in common. They were under a common threat. That is certainly part of what drove them to unity, but my experience in places like India tells me that was not the key thing. We have already pointed out that they were committed to the same goal. They had received a commission from Jesus and that commission meant more to them than anything else. There was one other thing they had in common and I think it is safe to say that this was probably the most important factor in their unity. They had all been with Jesus.

I do not believe unity starts with a meeting of church leaders. I do not believe we will ever come to unity by drafting statements of faith or doctrinal agreement. We must recognize that the whole church will never agree on every point of doctrine. Too many sincere people love God but, for many reasons, see things differently. Some things are not really important. Some things are very important and we may never come to agreement on those things until we get to heaven. It does no good to argue about them.

What can we do to cultivate the kind of unity that will result in Acts ministry? I believe we must start in a much more basic place than doctrinal purity. I believe we each need to “be with Jesus.” That is what set them apart. I cannot create unity with people I do not agree with. I cannot compromise what I believe in order to try to come to an artificial agreement. I can spend time with the Jesus that is in them as well. I can build my relationship with Him. I can agree that the mission of winning the lost is more important than a doctrine.

It must be said that there is a difference in nominal Christianity and those who are born again. Christianity is a relationship founded on a supernatural encounter with God. Paul said that anyone who is in Christ is a “new creature.” This implies that to be in Christ requires a fundamental change in the individual. This change cannot occur by inheritance. It cannot occur by joining or even growing up in a church. Jesus said, “You must be born again.” If a person is not born , they are not a Christian. They may be affiliated with the Christian religion. They may be an official in a Christian denomination, but by Jesus’ own definition, they are not a Christian if they are not born again. There can be no unity with those who are not Christians.

However, if we are born again, whether we are charismatic, evangelical or Pentecostal we should be able to come into agreement over one thing. Jesus is Lord and people need to receive salvation by accepting the death burial and resurrection of Jesus as the payment for their sins. To receive salvation fully, they must also accept Jesus as the absolute Lord and ruler of their lives. Everything else is secondary.

I have to believe that the more we are with the Jesus of the Bible the more we will allow those things which join us together take precedence over the things that divide us. I also believe that we cannot be concerned about unity in the whole church until we concentrate on unity in the family and in the local church. The people in the Book of Acts loved each other. They were joined by a common experience and a common vision. They wanted to obey Jesus and reach the world with his message of love and acceptance.

Take a look around you today. Who are you at odds with? Is there anything you have done that hinders being in one accord with those in your home or your church? If so repent and make things right. You cannot change others or how they react to you, but you can change yourself. Let us begin to think about the commission Jesus gave us. Let us make that more important in our lives and we will see unity begin to be established. When we do, we will see more of a Book of Acts ministry in our day.