Thank you for your patience these last two weeks as we have been transitioning to living near Clear View Retreat full time. Jim has started a new job, and we ask for your prayers as we all adjust to a new schedule.
Now, back to the biblical community blog…
Oh, the “good ole days.” Often when people are reminiscing about their lives, they look back to the good times of life – when things seemed easy and carefree. Cultural and civilization advances change not only the way we live but also our perspectives on life. Have you ever thought about what life was like “back in the day?” I think it is fun to look back and think about such things. Although there are many differences throughout the ages, there are also consistencies in our human natures. The fact that God created us for relationship with Him and to live in community with others is consistent. Unfortunately, many cultures and people miss the mark in their connection to God. So, when the Truth of Christ was revealed and the church was formed at Pentecost, God inspired this new community and what that community should look like.
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” — Acts 2:42
What does it mean to be devoted? As a verb, ‘devoted’ means “give all or a large part of one’s time or resources to (a person, activity, or cause).”
To what are you devoted?
“Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” –Proverbs 4:23
Guarding your heart does not mean doing all those things that make you happy. You and I both know that happiness is fickle. It is a lollipop at three, a boyfriend/girlfriend at fifteen, a new car after college, a first home after marriage, a grandbaby within a year of your child getting married, etc. Happiness is a moving target; guarding your heart is NOT. Guarding your heart means choosing – devoting yourself – to keeping your heart protected, pure, and purposeful.
So, again, to what are you devoted? Checking your social media first thing in the morning? Political causes? Social justice? Career building? Family entertainment? Personal accomplishments? A quick perusal through social media can add several things to our list, and it can go on and on. Take a moment to actually list the areas where the vast majority of your time is spent. If you are like me and so many others, you might find that aside from sleeping, the majority of your day spent looking at the little computer in your hand that we call ‘smart phones’ – devoted to increasing knowledge, staying connected, avoiding conflict, maybe creating conflict to make people ‘really think,’ or a combination thereof. Maybe you are one of the ones devoted to taking care of your body – planning great meals, cooking great meals, exercising for a minimum of an hour a day, taking just a ‘stroll’ on your ‘off-day,’ constantly seeking the endorphins of a high from living. As you can see, what starts as simple things, good things, can easily and quickly become our devotion, and if they supersede Christ, then they are sin, plain and simple.
The beauty of biblical community is that we have the opportunity to uphold and challenge each other to the best things. What are the best things?
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” –Acts 2:42
To what was the early church members devoted? The Acts text says they were devoted to four things: the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.
Teaching. What is the apostle’s teaching? God’s truths. Is that a priority in your biblical community? A Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church isn’t always going to make you feel good about yourself. Your standard is the perfection of Jesus Christ; you cannot achieve it. However, a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church will also teach you grace, mercy, hope, and so much more. You will be stretched, you will be challenged, and you will emerge a bit more like Christ. Once, when we were highly distracted as the leaders of our church small group, a family left because there had not been enough teaching in the three months prior. At first, I was quite offended; we were doing the best we could, I thought. However, the truth is that teaching and learning God’s Word had become secondary to simply meeting together. Thankfully, other members of the group stuck in with us, and we all got back to prioritizing God’s Word as we should. Why? God’s Word changes lives, and being devoted to it puts all of the other distractions into their rightful place.
Fellowship. Most of us think we are really good at this fellowship thing: chit chat, smiles, and saying, “God is good!” Is that the depth God is talking about here? Do you have someone to turn to when the darkest thoughts and most difficult times hit? Are you dying inside but saying all the right things? Folks will keep their distance from others due to insecurity of acceptance, guilt of past sins, walking in sin still, low self-esteem, pride, etc. You get the picture. The reality is that God wants us to have authentic biblical fellowship. In this type of fellowship, we share the amazing triumphs God has given us, and we confront our weaknesses, often with someone else loving speaking God’s truth in love. Fellowship is sweet but it is also challenging. It causes to let our shields come down and hearts to be laid open to examination. We must each be willing to do this in authentic biblical community but we must also be trustworthy with someone else’s heart. Are you a Godly, safe-place for others?
Breaking of bread. Biblically speaking, this phrase can be used two ways: eating a meal together as in Acts 2:46 (which we often think of interchangeably with fellowship) and having the Lord’s Supper to remember Christ’s sacrifice (Acts 2:42). As a group of believers, we are to be devoted to breaking of bread as Christ instructed, remembering the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins.
Prayer. We did a whole blog in February, our Spiritual Disciplines month, about prayer. Remember here that we are to be devoted to prayer. We are to be devoted to falling at the feet of our Lord, together and individually, for one another. When we bring our focus on the sacrifices of the Lord, we are able to pray knowing that we are to focus on Him and His will. This focus shifts our efforts in life. When we no longer need to struggle because we trust in Him and the biblical community that encourages us to keep Him as preeminent, we have the abundant life He desires for us, no matter what our bank accounts, homes, cars, and careers look like to ourselves or others.