Thursday 3rd December 2020

Welcome to Digital Church

Welcome to Digital Church, I hope you find the teaching useful. My prayer is that you will be encouraged in your walk with the Lord and that you will bring glory to his name.

The Blessings of Restrictions

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12v7-11

As this is being written churches around the world are trying to work out how to restart under the restrictions that many governments have brought in due to Covid 19. In these times of restrictions it can be easy to look at all the negatives, rather than seeing that within the restrictions, God Himself as a loving Heavenly Father may be trying to teach us a few lessons and put us back on course.

One of the most difficult things for Christians to see is that over time we stray off course. We lose focus and slowly start to drift and because the drift is slow we assume that we are on the right course because everyone else is doing the same and at times it takes a major event to open our eyes to how far we have drifted.

A simple example of this can be seen in Exodus Chapter 12 when God gives the Israelites the instructions for the Passover meal.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbour, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
Exodus 12v1-11

When we read this passage we see that the Passover is a simple meal, real fast food. It must be fast because it’s eaten standing up with sandals on and staff in hand ready to start a journey. In it’s crudest form this is lamb in pitta bread, a kebab eaten in haste.

Some years ago I went to a church to have what I was told was a real Jewish passover meal. I must admit I was amused at the time. We sat down, which was just as well as the meal lasted for hours with course after course. As it went on, it was explained what all these “extras” meant, but the fact was that they were all man made extras that added to and complicated the simple instructions that god had given to His people. In fact the meal took so long that if it had been in the days of the exodus the Egyptians would have had time to bury their dead, spend time in mourning and get over their losses before the Israelites had even started on their journey. With all the extras that had been added God’s people would have found it very difficult to move at any speed.

When we come to the modern church we see the same, we have added lots of things that we view as essential, but in doing so have moved away from the things the early church was founded upon and viewed as the core of their church life.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 2v42

In this simple verse we see the core elements of the early church. They are the things that are expounded upon in the various letters of the New Testament and it sums up the teaching of Jesus.
It is the fast food basics of what makes a church what it is and the key components that need to be devoted to if the church is to continue in the ways of the Lord.

So let’s look at these four key components.

Firstly there is a devotion to the apostles teaching, this is not just a devotion to listening to a preacher. This is about a devotion to the implementation of a way of life. As Paul explains in Romans 1v1, he was called to “be” an apostle. This is far more than being a good teacher or preacher, this is about living it first and leading by example. It is a heart changed and humbled in service to the Lord that changes the lifestyle allowing the person to be called. Can this devotion be carried out under the current restrictions, absolutely. The question is whether this “Christ crucified” lifestyle is viewed as being central to our Christian lifestyle today.

The second devotion is to “the fellowship”, sadly something that is often reduced to the social side of the church. Yet true fellowship is about the mutual building up and encouraging of each other in Christ. It is the type of thing that Paul talks about in Romans:

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.
Romans 1v11-12

This is true fellowship in Christ, a sharing of our spiritual lives, of giving testimony about what the Lord is doing in our spiritual walk. Sadly, this is rare in this day and age, most of the time the modern idea of fellowship is sharing the things of the flesh and the concerns of this world. True fellowship builds up our faith, this is the type of fellowship that the early church was devoted to. It doesn’t mean they didn’t talk about the things of this world, but they played a lesser part in their lives and conversations. Can we do this under the current restrictions, of course we can.

The third devotion was to the breaking of bread, to the taking of communion, a simple ritual that the Lord put in place to be a constant reminder of the message of the cross, not just of what Jesus did for us, but a reminder to pick up our cross daily and follow in his footsteps. This devotion was seen as so central that it wasn’t saved just for the Sabbath, it was something believers did whenever they met together. It is the constant refocusing of the mind that once more helps us to fix our eyes and thoughts on Jesus. Are we able to continue to take communion, yes we are.

The final devotion of the early church was to prayer, this is far more than telling God what we want, it’s about seeking Him and His will for our lives. This is a fundamental pillar of the church, for when prayer starts to die, no matter how charismatic and dynamic we may think we are, we are spiritually dead. For the prayer life of the church is the life blood of the servant hearted Christian, for without instruction from the Lord how do we know what to do. Are we restricted from praying? No!

So we see that these four key devotions, the fundamentals of church life are all available to us today even with the current restrictions in place. So what are the things that stop us going forwards? Strangely just like the Passover supper example, it is all the extras we have added on and consider to be essential.

If we wrote Acts 2v42 today it would read something like:

The church devoted itself to the singing of Choruses, the provision of child care facilities, to the distribution of tea and coffee and the encouragement that comes from motivational speakers.

Our devotion has moved away from the ways of the early church, that require self sacrifice and discipline and instead we have added the things that make church more comfortable for us and allow us to spend less time doing the things we should be devoted to. Someone recently said to me that they could not imagine church without music. If we are to follow in the footsteps of Christ we should make music as he did… except it only mentions Jesus singing a hymn once with his disciples just before he went up Gethsemane. If we look through the instruction that the apostles gave to the church, what percentage is spent on singing? Almost nothing! Likewise the other things that are now viewed as being so important to modern church life.

The restrictions that have been put on us may be the greatest message from God himself to get our focus back on the things that matter.

How much of our Sunday service is spent in prayer? How much is taken up by the breaking of bread? Of true fellowship in the Lord and in the apostles teaching, the sharing and reading and teaching of the Word of God?

Rather than complaining about the restrictions that have been put on us let us use them as a health check of our services and get things back in their proper priorities. We may need to be brutally honest, as Romans 12v3 says: having sober judgement.

Why is music and congregational singing so much more important than prayer? Have we forgotten how to pray? Why do we have so much of the world to share, yet so little of what the Lord is doing? These are tough questions that need to be asked. Yet if we will ask them and turn ourselves once more to the old ways, being led by the Holy Spirit rather than our emotions, then once again the Lord will move and the realities and blessings of the early church can be reinstated in the church today.

Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2v43-47

The Spiritual Man

The Spiritual Man "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed."
Romans 8v19

So often we talk about walking according to the Spirit or being led by the Spirit when we really have little idea what these terms mean.

This short book looks at some of our attitudes and behaviours and challenges what is being led of the Holy Spirit and what is being led of the flesh and how can we change how we are led.

ISBN: 9780957698819

Author: Simon Coward

Number of Pages: 42

Click to Download or Order

A Walk in the Park

A Walk in the Park An easy to read book covering the basics of Christianity in short chapters. ideal for new believers or those wondering what Christianity is all about.

ISBN: 9780957698802

Author: Simon Coward

Number of Pages: 44

Click to Download or Order

The Blessings of Restrictions

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
Moreover, we have al... (read more)

Letter 14: Living within the walls

When Nehemiah made his initial survey of the city walls (Nehemiah 2v17-18) the task to rebuild must have seemed huge. The destruction, the rubble that lay in the way, the ruined materials and the need to build new gates would in themselves all... (read more)

Letter 13: Rebuilding the walls Part 3

Exodus 13v1-16

This week we will continue look at some of the issues around rebuilding of the spiritual walls of our lives and in turn the church, but before we look at some of the problems that can arise, we need to take a close look at o... (read more)

Letter 12: Rebuilding the walls Part 2

Last week we started to look at the idea of building walls and their purpose of keeping the enemy out of the city, figuratively our lives and our churches. We saw how Jerusalem was seen to be in great trouble and distress (Nehemiah 1v3) because thes... (read more)