Articles from September 2020

Breaking Bread in Our Homes

One of the most descriptive passages of a healthy church is found in Acts 2:42-47. In this passage Luke describes the priorities of this first group of new covenant believers. The Holy Spirit not only sovereignly saved 3000 souls on the Day of Pentecost, but He also divinely guided these new believers giving them a devotion to God, a devotion to each other and devotion to the mission of spreading of the Gospel. It shouldn’t surprise us that these three priorities are still the priorities of every healthy church today: To worship God, build believers, and reach the lost.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Their devotion to God was evident in their commitment to study the Word of God (“Apostle’s teaching”), their desire to remember Jesus by celebrating the Lord’s Table, and having hearts of praise. Their devotion to the spreading of the Gospel was evident in their evangelization and the growth of the Church. But they also had a devotion to one another. This devotion to each other is the focus of this article. When you read the paragraph above, there are a few things that jump out as evidence of their devotion to one another:

  • They were continually fellowshipping together. (v. 42)
  • They had all things in common (spiritually unified). (v. 44)
  • They were selling their material possessions to help one another. (v. 45)
  • They were together worshiping in the Temple. (v. 46a)
  • They were daily meeting in homes breaking bread together. (v. 46b)
  • They were continually eating together. (v. 46c)
  • They were worshiping together. (v. 47)

Togetherness
The one word that stands out is the word “together.” These new believers in Jesus Christ could not help but to be with one another. They worshiped together, fellowshipped together, and even ate with one another in each others’ homes. This togetherness was not manufactured but a Spirit-induced longing in their hearts to truly love one another and be with like-minded people. This togetherness created a warmth and compassion for one another. Every healthy church should be marked by a togetherness.

Excuses
If we are all honest with ourselves, we all have made excuses (some good and some bad) for not getting together with others in our church. We find it difficult to make time for others as we are busy with our lives, with work, kids, etc. Maybe for some we are hesitant to invite others to our house because it isn’t as nice as we’d like or as clean as we’d like, or there doesn’t seem to be enough room.  But we must put all of these things aside. And we must not be judgmental of each other or prideful in our hearts. We must work hard at getting together with one another and put all of these excuses aside.

As a kid, I remember families getting together after church for lunch and all the kids would play together. Those were such sweet times, as I remember singing together and having prayer together. We made lifelong friendships during those times. And after all of these years I couldn’t tell you if the house was nice, or whether the food was good. All I remember is great friendships and sweet times of being together.

One of the greatest excuses people make is simply “I don’t need kinship.” I have heard this argument over and over through the years. Our western affluent culture has created independent spirits in us all. We love our luxury and comforts. We love our privacy fences. But the Scripture commands that we gather! The Christian community cannot afford being independent and isolated from one another. We must pray that the Lord would rid us of our self-centered, ego-centric attitudes. This is going to be extremely hard for many. Healthy churches break out of those attitudes and create an atmosphere of sharing and caring in all of life. Just as the Holy Spirit created a desire for fellowship in the early Church, we must all seek the revival of our own hearts in this generation.

Kinship Groups
In order to try to foster togetherness most churches have put together some kind of small group ministry. At Ebenezer we have about 20 “Kinship Groups” that meet all around the Lehigh Valley in order to try to encourage togetherness. Ideally every person in the congregation should want to attend one of these groups. These groups provide a consistent opportunity for togetherness for prayer, praise, and accountability. You can sign up for a Kinship group here.

Make a Plan
Zig Ziglar has said, “You can’t hit a target you cannot see, and you cannot see a target you do not have.” Simply stated, if you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time. For most of us, having others into our homes for fellowship is not on our radar; it simply is not a target in our lives. If change is going to occur, we are going to have to be purposeful. Change can be overwhelming, so it is best to start small. Get out your calendar and determine a few dates that are open for fellowship. Start small with dessert rather than dinner. I know of one family who has simply designated one Sunday night a month as fellowship night in their home. Over the years, people have gathered there to watch football, eat, fellowship, pray, play and so much more. Deep relationships have been made through simply gathering. This was accomplished because they set a target. If you are anxious pray that the Lord will help you and He will.

The Church is not a building, but rather, the Church is people of God. We are healthy when we are “encouraging one another” as we see the Day of Christ approaching (Heb 10:25). We need one another. Instead of complaining about not having friends and close connections in the church, we can foster relationships by simply breaking bread in each other’s homes. My prayer is that the Church will become healthier by getting into one another’s lives. Make it your goal to be a better Church!

Why Do We Preach?

One of the greatest disappointments of the church in our century is that preaching no longer takes central stage. In efforts to appeal to people’s interest many different programs, methods and approaches have been used to make things more “culturally relevant.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say, “No one wants to listen to preaching anymore. It just isn’t relevant.” When the Church takes its cues from the culture rather than from the Bible it definitely starts to look more like the world than the Church.

A mark of a faithful church, not necessarily one that appeals to the masses, is that it takes its cues from the Bible, and its methodology from Christ Himself. In order to be faithful, the Church must not adopt the adage that teaches that the “end justifies the means.” In other words, this adage ascribes that pragmatism that grows the church must be godly and effective or otherwise God wouldn’t be blessing it. I have heard that argument all my life, but it simply doesn’t hold true. Some of the most heretical “churches” across our country are the largest in the nation.

Argumentation for Preaching
To be a faithful healthy Church, we must go to the ministry of Jesus and the apostles and the example of the early church to take our cues and develop our ministry philosophy. When these ministries and exhortations are examined, it is clear that the ordained method of the Church must be preaching, and preaching must be central.

First consider Jesus and His ministry. When Jesus first entered His ministry, he entered Nazareth and quoted Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Three times Jesus says He was anointed to “proclaim” the good news. It is clear that this was His method, as He said, “I must preach the Kingdom of God to the other cities for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43).

Second consider the instruction of Jesus to His disciples. When Jesus sent his disciples out into the world, He sent them to preach the good news of the Gospel. Jesus sent out the twelve apostles telling them to preach as they went, saying “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt 10:7). Furthermore, the last thing he said to them before he ascended into heaven was “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).

Third consider the apostles in the early Church. The very first thing that Peter did after Pentecost was to preach a sermon. He stood in front of literally thousands and he delivered the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His death, burial and resurrection (Acts 2:17-36). A simple survey through the book of Acts reveals that preaching was the main method of the early Church (Acts 4:2, 5:42, 8:4, 25, 35, 9:20,11:20, 28:31). The Apostles and Church were simply obeying what Jesus commanded them to do when He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach” (Mark 16:15, Matt 10:7).

Fourth consider the argumentation of the Apostle Paul concerning preaching. In his letter to the Romans and Corinthians he clearly taught that preaching was God’s ordained method for saving souls. In Romans 10:13-17 Paul says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So, faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.”

In Corinthians 1:17-25, Paul says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

Fifth, consider the exhortations to the Church. Paul exhorts Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim 4:1-5).

Al Mohler is right when he says, “Preaching did not emerge from the church’s experimentation with communication techniques. The church does not preach because preaching is thought to be a good idea or an effective technique. The sermon has not earned its place in Christian worship by proving its utility in comparison with other means of communication or aspects of worship. Rather, we preach because we have been commanded to preach.”  I highly recommend Mohler’s four articles on preaching.

The Church should expect sound biblical preaching. Every healthy church consists of members who long for the Word of God to be explained to them (1 Peter 2:2, Neh 8:1-18). Mark Dever in his book on the 9 marks of a healthy church states, “The first mark of a healthy church is expository preaching. It is not only the first mark; it is far and away the most important of them all, because if you get this one right, all of the others should follow. This is the crucial mark.” (Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, page 39).

So how should the congregation respond? Here are a few applications:

  1. Come ready to hear the Word of God expounded. Prepare your heart the night before and be rested up so that you can be attentive.
  2. Ask God to speak to you through His word as it is preached. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, illumination will not occur. (1 Cor 2:6-16).
  3. Pray for your pastor/preacher that he will adequately prepare during the week to give clear explanation of a particular text of Scripture. Pray against distractions that will not allow him to have adequate time for study.
  4. Demand faithful exposition of Scripture. Topical messages are good periodically, but faithful exposition of the Scripture is going to prove to be the best way to grow spiritually and to get a clear grasp of Scripture.
  5. Listen with a discerning mind, not necessarily critical but thoughtful. Make sure that what the preacher is saying can be backed up with Scripture and is pertinent to the particular passage at hand.
  6. Pray over what you have heard and ask God to help you apply it to your life and heart.
  7. Pray for the lost that God might call them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

 

A Time to Laugh… A Time to Dance

Solomon reminds us that there is a time for everything. In Ecclesiastes 3, he tells us that there is a time to laugh and a time to dance. This last weekend was that time for the Gibson family. We are so blessed that our eldest son, Abram Gibson, was married to Grace Helfrich Sunday afternoon. We give praise to the Lord for providing such a wonderful union. Grace comes from a godly family. She was raised at one of our sister churches, Whitehall Bible Fellowship Church. The Lord has been so good to us and we wanted you to laugh and dance with us. We are sorry that covid-19 put a damper on inviting guests. We wished that all of you could have attended, but we needed to significantly limit our guest list. Sadly, both sets of grandparents were unable to come. We were blessed to have my twin brother, his wife, and one of his sons in attendance. Julie’s brother and his wife were able to come as well. Abram has accepted a job as the Director of Worship for Fairfax Bible Church in Fairfax, VA (just outside of Washington DC).  Once he and Grace get back from their honeymoon in Maine, we will pack them up and send them off to Virginia. A whole lot of change is happening in the Gibson household. Thank you all for loving us so well, and celebrating with us in this joyous occasion. All glory goes to our heavenly Father and His Son and Spirit! I’ve included a few pictures for you so that you can smile like we have!