Acts 2

Read Acts 2.

What is “fellowship?” It is a term that we Christians use frequently. But do we really understand what it means?

A lot of people think that “fellowship” is a word for “socializing but with my Christian friends.” Socializing is fine; an important part of life, really. But it is not the same as fellowship.

This chapter describes true fellowship. The chapter begins with a massive evangelistic movement in Jerusalem brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit (vv. 1-41). God kick-started the church through this Day of Pentecost movement.

Verses 42-47 describe how this early church instinctively began to function. Verse 42 says they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship.” You know as well as anybody how much I think we need to be devoted to the apostles’ teaching. But we also need fellowship, and need it badly.

So, if these believers were devoted to fellowship, as verse 42 said, what did that look like?

Communion (“the breaking of bread”) and prayer are mentioned in verse 42 and they certainly are aspects of fellowship. When we gather together around the Lord’s Table and when we pray together, we are sharing (that’s what “fellowship” means) in deeply spiritual, Christian practices.

But the rest of the paragraph in verses 44-47 also give more details about the practice of fellowship in the first church in Jerusalem. Think about our church as we look at those details:

  1. “All the believers were together” in verse 44. They just liked to hang out together in their free time. Do we? Or do we come late on Sunday, leave as soon as possible after the service and never come in contact with anyone else from church until next Sunday?
  2. They “had everything in common” even selling “property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (v. 45). They fellowshipped by showing sacrificial generosity to each other. Do we do that? Do we look to share what we have with believers in our church who need stuff.
  3. “Everyday they continued to meet together…” They came together daily to worship and hear God’s word. They couldn’t get enough of it and came everyday to fellowship around God’s word. Is that your feeling or is one message a week on Sunday morning almost too much to take? I’ve often wondered why so many people stay in the lobby eating donuts during the Calvary Class hour instead of going to a class to feed on God’s word with others.
  4. “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God” (vv. 46-47a). After the church service was over, they went to each others’ homes to share more food and worship together. When was the last time you had someone from church over? I mean, before “social distancing” became the norm?

After the restrictions from this COVID-19 pandemic are lifted, people are going to want to socialize like never before. And, honestly, I’ve been praying that this forced separation will ignite in us a hunger for God and for true fellowship with each other like we’ve never had before at Calvary.

But we don’t actually have to wait until the restrictions are lifted. We can call, text, FaceTime, or email others. Do you look for opportunities to fellowship with others in our church or do you avoid it like the pandemic?

Will you join me in praying that God would use this to build some real prayer groups and ministries in our church? Will you look for a way to connect with someone from Calvary for some personal fellowship–not just socializing but sharing the word and prayer together?

Luke 24

Read Luke 24.

Good Friday to you! I hope you’ll watch our Good Friday service today or sometime this weekend.

This chapter prepares us well for Easter Sunday as it describes the resurrection of Christ and his appearances to his disciples.

At the end of the chapter, though, Jesus blessed the disciples (v. 50) and “…he left them and was taken up into heaven.” That was the end of Christ’s ministry on earth.

We call this the ascension and it teaches that Jesus was received bodily into heaven. But why? Why did he leave so publicly? Why did he physically There are two reasons why Jesus ascended into heaven.

  1. To remain in a human body. Christ became a man at the incarnation but he remains a man to this day and will for the rest of eternity. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” This verse describes Jesus’s mediatorial work in heaven. That is happening right now. But Paul specified that he is “the man Christ Jesus.” In other words, Jesus continues as both God and man. He is glorified, but still human. The ascension into heaven accomplished that. See also Hebrews 7:24-25.
  2. To return bodily the same way he left. Jesus will not return as a spirit; he will return in his human body. He won’t return in secret; he will return visibly and publicly. Acts 1:10-11 says, “They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

We spend much more time and effort on the death and resurrection of Jesus–as we should. But Jesus’s ascension is important, too.

Luke 16

Read Luke 16

This chapter contains one of the strangest parables Jesus spoke in verses 1-8. It is about a bad manager who, when he was getting fired, gave deep discounts to the customers of his master (vv. 1-7).

The purpose of those discounts was to make the customers like him so that they would give him a place to stay after he was fired (v. 4). After wasting his master’s money (v. 1)–probably by making risky loans that went bad–this man lowered his master’s revenue even further by reducing the profit his master would make on the few good loans this bad manager made.

Think of it like this: Back in 2008, banks started to lose money on all the risky loans they had made. You made all your mortgage payments on time and would continue to do so even though your lender was going bankrupt on all your other loans. Imagine you owed, say, $50,000 on your house. Then the loan officer at your bank called you and said, “I’ve re-financed your mortgage; you now only owe $25,000. You can pay it off now, if you can or just keep making the same mortgage payment but you’ll be done much earlier.”

That would be nice, right?

But what if that loan officer got fired and needed a place to stay. Would you let him sleep on your couch for a while, or in your basement or spare bedroom?

It would be weird; but given how much money he saved you, wouldn’t it be worth a few months of free lodging?

If I were the master in this story, I’d be mad at the money manger for wasting my money and I’d REALLY be mad at him for giving such deep discounts to the few profitable clients we had left. But that’s not what the manager in the story did. Instead, he “commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly” (v. 8). Though he lost a lot of money, he had to admire how his ex-manager made a safety net for himself out of nothing. That was a shrewd thing to do.

Jesus applied this story to us and the way we use money. He commanded us to “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (v. 9). What does this mean?

It means be generous with your money and give it away to others instead of being stingy with it. After all, money all belongs to God, not to us (v. 12a). If we trust God, we’ll be generous knowing that our eternity is secure (v. 9). Generosity is the result of faith in God; it does not buy God’s affection.

But the reverse is also true–stinginess is the result of no faith in God. Instead, when we live like money is everything and should never be shared, we are revealing that we love money more than we love God (v. 13).

Think about how you use money. Does the way you save it and spend it reveal that it is your god? Or, are you growing in generosity because you are a servant of God?

What is one financial decision you could make today that would bring your money-management into greater alignment with your statement of faith?

Luke 14

Read Luke 14.

“Ok, these guys won’t like it if I heal you now. So come back tomorrow, if you still want me to heal you and I’ll do it then. Mkay?”

Jesus could have said that in verse 4.

Instead, after asking the Pharisees and scribes if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath, Jesus went ahead and healed him after “they remained silent” (v. 4). Jesus knew they wouldn’t like it; that’s why he asked them about it in verse 3. Instead of changing his actions to suit the expectations of the religious, so that they would like him, Jesus challenged their false assumptions and healed the man anyway.

Then he explained to them why it was NOT wrong to heal on the Sabbath day (v. 5).

How often do we act like this?

How often do we do the right thing or say the righteous thing even when we know it will anger the people around us?

How often do we have the courage to do what God wants us to do even if it is offensive to others.

For me, not often enough. If I think someone might not like what I have to say or what I’m going to do, I’ll avoid the topic, change the subject, try to soften the statement or do what I’m going to do privately or another time.

Jesus didn’t run away from controversy. He looked for it. He took every opportunity to do good, even if others didn’t like it. He knew God would be glorified and God’s people would be blessed and that’s all that mattered.

There’s no reason to be unkind or act like a jerk. That’s not godliness.

But it is also ungodly to be a chameleon. Jesus could have acted like the Pharisees when he was around the Pharisees. He could have sneaked over to the home of the puffy man in verse 2 and healed him privately after he left the dinner party.

Shoot, he could have just said nothing at all and healed the guy remotely as the man walked out the door and nobody was watching. Instead, he took the opportunity to heal the man and shine a light on the hypocrisy (v. 5) of the religious crowd.

We care too much about what others think and not nearly enough about what is right. Let’s look for ways to be more like Jesus and less like a chameleon.

Luke 13

Read Luke 13.

A few weeks ago, workers in China built a new hospital. The hospital was needed to quarantine and treat victims of COVID-19 which was spreading rapidly.

Construction on the hospital took 10 days. The time-lapse video of it being built is very impressive.* It’s incredible how rapidly they were able to built it.

God’s kingdom doesn’t work like that. God does not build his kingdom rapidly. Instead, Jesus said it was like a mustard seed that grew into a tree (v. 19) or yeast that permeated a huge lump of dough (v. 21).

Both of these things happen slowly, imperceptibly. You can plant a mustard seed and look at it everyday. You will see that it has changed over time but you can’t see it changing in time. The growth is happening too slowly to see in real time, but it is happening.

So it is with the gospel. There have been times in church history when thousands came to Christ at the same time (Acts 2:41) but every salvation happens individually and usually those individuals believe alone or in a small cluster. Yet, everyday, all over the world, people are being saved. The church worldwide grows a little bit all the time and, when Jesus returns, we’ll enter the kingdom and see how that little mustard seed has become a massive tree.

If you’ve lost faith in God’s saving power, take heart. The kingdom of God is not a hastily assembled hospital built by people forced to work around the clock by their tyrannical government.

Instead, it is a tree, growing slowly but constantly. And you and I contribute to that growth as we share the gospel message with others.


*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VvV10S4QSw

Luke 12

Read Luke 12.

In verse 1, Jesus warned the disciples about the “yeast of the Pharisees” which he defined as “hypocrisy.” The hypocrisy he had in mind has four elements:

  1. Create a system of rules that define what godliness is. These can be based on biblical commands but made specific and rigid.
  2. Live by that system rigorously on the outside.
  3. Be hard on people who don’t abide by the system of rules.
  4. Sin privately, if you think you can get away with it. Your sin can be a private violation of the rules you say you live by or it can be a violation in other areas.

Let me make up an example. Here in Luke 12:21 Jesus condemned someone who “stores up things for themselves.” Let’s say I take that phrase out of context and say, “This means it is wrong to save money in a bank account. You should have no bank accounts because that is a place to store up things for yourself. Instead, you should spend money as you need it and give the rest away.” Let’s run this example through the four elements listed above:

  1. Create a system of rules: “Don’t store up things for yourself” = never have a bank account.
  2. Live by that system on the outside: I close all my bank accounts, sell all the assets I have and give the proceeds away.
  3. Be hard on people who don’t abide by the system: I start protesting outside banks with signs that say, “God hates banks.” I rail against bank customers coming in and out and, if I see someone writing a check in a store, I give that person a hard time about their sin.
  4. Sin privately: Unknown to you, I shrink-wrap thousands of dollars in cash and store it in my attic. Or maybe I do have a bank account my wife’s name or in the name of some corporation that I own.

So, personally, I don’t have a bank account. By any technical definition, I am living righteously as I have defined it. But my shrink-wrapped cash and/or my bank account in someone else’s name is a way to store value for myself. By my definition of sin and righteousness, I’m technically righteous.

But in reality, I’m disobedient to Luke 12:21 (as I have incorrectly interpreted it) by storing up value for myself in another way.

According to this example, I’m a hypocrite.

Hypocrisy is like yeast in the sense that a little bit expands until it permeates everything just like yeast expands until it ferments an entire loaf of bread. Once I start feeling good about the rule I’ve made and how I’ve been able to live up to it and condemn others, I’ll make more rules.

But hypocrisy doesn’t always involve manmade rules. We can be hypocrites if we demand obedience to clear and true commands of scripture while privately disobeying them. So,

  • Are you hard on others for a sin that you secretly enjoy?
  • Do you condemn others who fail to do right even though you don’t do right in that area either?

If so, then Jesus said: “You’re a hypocrite.” While none of us is perfectly consistent, the hypocrite is harsh when condemning the failings of others yet, s/he makes excuses for their own failures in the same area.

And, since hypocrisy grows and spreads like yeast, eventually your hypocrisy in one area will invade and corrupt other areas of your life. One problem with living in hypocrisy, however, is that eventually your secrets will be known (vv. 2-3). This fact should give us greater sense of humility and a deeper compassion for sinners who may struggle more obviously with the areas where we struggle as well.

Are you living in hypocrisy? Are you projecting a life of obedience and holiness while attempting to hide sin in your own life? Repent–change your mind–and ask God to help you root out the hypocrisy in your life.

None of us is perfect. We all struggle with things we know to be sinful; that’s not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is pretending not to struggle and being hard on those who are. It is an additional sin, layered on top of other sins you commit.

Luke 9

Read Luke 9.

This chapter began with Jesus sending out the Twelve to give the gospel and to do miraculous works to authenticate their message (vv. 1-2). Jesus told them to take nothing so that they would learn to rely on God’s provision for everything (vv. 3-6).

God did provide for them and he used them powerfully to serve Jesus (v. 10). But they did not completely learn the lesson. When food was needed for a large crowd, the Apostles wanted Jesus to send the crowds away (v. 12). Jesus challenged their thinking and commanded them to feed the crowds themselves which they protested (vv. 13-14). Christ showed them once again that he had the power to meet every need they had in ministry. But the implication is that, if they’d had trusted him, they could have fed the crowd themselves through his power (vv. 16-17).

When we’re serving God, we can trust him to meet every need we have. He has more than enough power–infinite power, in fact–to meet every need we have and then some. The question is whether or not we look to him in faith to provide for our needs or if we conclude in unbelief that it cannot be done with the present resources.

Ministries and churches–including us–are being tested on this right now. As the precautions against the spread of COVID-19 do damage to our economy, we have the opportunity either to trust God to provide or to freak out about what this will mean.

Will you believe God with me for our church about this? Will you pray and ask God to keep providing money to pay our staff, fund our missionaries, provide for those who have benevolence needs, and continue to pay for our building and other expenses?

Will you trust God to provide for you and your family and keep giving to his work? We have a unique opportunity to see God work and provide. Will you trust him in faith or give up in fear?