“With every prayer and request, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be alert with all perseverance and every request for all the saints, and pray in my behalf, that speech may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:18-20)
God’s word clearly shows that faith and prayer are essential for us Christians. First, Paul the apostle said: “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3) Also, James said: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, (James 1:5-7)
And most importantly, let’s remember what our Lord Jesus Christ said: “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.” (Luke 17:6) Then Jesus later adds: “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) Well, let’s hope and pray that he does brothers and sisters in Christ, for without faith we can’t please God.
“Now he was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart" (Luke 18:1)
According to Jesus, we should always be in an attitude of prayer. Paul the apostle said the same thing by saying: “Pray without ceasing.” (1Thessalonians 5:17). Jude as well said: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 1:20-21) And finally we have James telling us to: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” (James 5:16)
So, through faith and prayer we can partner with God and change not only our own lives, but the lives of others as well. But as mentioned earlier, our lacking in this can have a negative effect. We can see this to be true when the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast the devil out of a man’s son. For Jesus said: “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. (Matthew 17:20) However, Jesus also said: “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29) Therefore, the disciples couldn’t cast the devil out because of their lacking in both faith and prayer. Thankfully, Jesus came to their rescue and delivered the man’s son.
“And he said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)
Here above, we have Jesus telling us to ask God to send out fellow Christians to share the Gospel. For the world is full of lost souls who are in desperate need to know God’s saving grace. Therefore, we need to bring the message of the gospel to them so that they may have eternal life as well. And let's also remember that Jesus himself prayed not only for his disciples, but for us who will believe their report. For Jesus said: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:20-21) So again, this is a call for action on our part today as well.
Paul said to Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2) So, first and foremost, we as a church are to pray for everyone. This would not only be for loved ones and friends, but for government officials and for those who hate us and mistreat us as well. For Jesus said: “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
For it’s true that our God is a miracle working God who can open the eyes of the most stubborn heart. Therefore, let’s take the time to always be in an attitude of prayer, asking God to work and intervene not only in our own lives, but the lives of others as well. Amen.
(Below is an excerpt From: Torrey, R.A. “The Power of Prayer.”)
“You will find these seven words in James 4:2, the seven closing words of the verse, ‘Ye have not, because ye ask not.’ These seven words contain the secret of the poverty and powerlessness of the average Christian, of the average minister, and of the average church.”
“Why is it, many a Christian is asking, ‘that I make such poor progress in my Christian life? Why do I have so little victory over sin? Why do I win so few souls to Christ? Why do I grow so slowly into the likeness of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?’ And God answers in the words of the text: ‘Neglect of prayer. You have not, because you ask not.’”
“Why is it, many a minister is asking, ‘that I see so little fruit from my ministry? Why are there so few conversions? Why does my church grow so slowly? Why are the members of my church so little helped by my ministry, and built up so little in Christian knowledge and life?’ And again, God replies: ‘Neglect of prayer. You have not, because you ask not.’”
“Why is it, both ministers and churches are asking, ‘that the church of Jesus Christ is making such slow progress in the world today? Why does it make so little headway against sin, against unbelief, against error in all its forms? Why does it have so little victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil.’”
“Why is the average church member living on such a low plane of Christian living? Why does the Lord Jesus Christ get so little honor from the state of the church today? And, again, God replies: ‘Neglect of prayer. You have not, because you ask not.’”
So, how much time do we on a personal level spend in prayer? Or, even on a corporate level as a church, how often do we get together and go to prayer before God? Could it be true, that we Christians put other church activities and agendas before prayer? For according to God’s word, prayer should not be a weekly or bye weekly thing for us Christians, but a daily activity. For I can tell you from my own personal experience that there is nothing more important than our time in prayer. For even in my own life, I felt the results of brothers and sisters in Christ praying for me. And let’s remember that it was our prayer to God that helped changed our own lives in the first place.
So, I encourage all of you to go through the bible and read for yourselves the prayers of God’s Saints such as Solomon, Daniel, Hannah, Abraham’s servant, and Nehemiah to name a few. For all of these through faith, not only impacted their own lives, but the lives of others as well. And most importantly, let’s not forget about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:7-10)
Yes, Jesus was heard and became victorious, and let’s praise God for that. So, if Jesus being our Lord and Messiah needed to pray to God the Father, shouldn’t we his disciples be doing the same on a daily basis? God help us always to be a people of prayer. Amen.
“For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:11-13)
According to that passage above, there is to be no divisions within the body of Christ. We are to be the one true Church, and this would include all our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. But unfortunately, we have created so many Denominations and Associations within the body of Christ. And why is that? Could it be because we think our fellowship is better than those down the road? Paul the apostle summed it up best when he said: “I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:2-4 NKJV)
Now, it may be true that we love our God from the heart. We may also be totally sincere in our faith as Christians, praying and reaching out to the lost and other believers as well. However, at the same time we are building these invisible walls of separation by labeling ourselves. And the sad part of it all, we do it in plain view of the world who is watching and maybe even mocking us. (See Romans 2:23-24) If we would examine most of the early churches in the New Testament, we would see that they were only referred to according to their locality such as a name of the city or of a person who owned the house. So, these types of labeling were not to show a distinction from one another but to aid the reader to understand their locality. (See Romans 16:3-5, 1Corinthians 1:11, 16:19, 2 Thessalonians 1:1, Philemon 1:2)
Therefore, God calls us to be one in Christ and to dwell in unity with fellow believers. Jesus prayed for this Christian unity so that the world may see our love for one another. And not only that, but he also prayed for oneness so that the world would recognize that he truly came from the Father. For Jesus said: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:20-21) And this unity can only be accomplished if we obey God by breaking down these dividing walls that we have made. Because let’s face it, if we don’t do it, God may do it in such a way that would surprise us all.
The Syrian Christians were praying for revival and believing that God would do a great work in their land. They like us had their churches along with their different denominations. And then came the war with its bombings and terrorists. Churches were destroyed and down came their denominational barriers that separated believers. Those Syrian Christians groups who at one time may have questioned each other’s salvation are now gathering together. This they are doing with weekly prayers, asking God to move in their nation and in their churches. Now, these same Christians continue to spread hope in the face of hopelessness, holding high not a political or denominational banner but the banner of Jesus Christ.
And let’s not forget what happened when persecution broke out against the early church as described in the book of Acts. For we read that: “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” (Acts 8:3-4 NKJV) So, even though Saul at the beginning (who later in life converted to Christianity) caused havoc for these Christians, it worked out for the good. For we read that these believers were scattered everywhere, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.
We cannot put God in our own little theological box. Yes, sometimes we get up on our little “soap box” and act like we know everything. (See 1 Corinthians 8:2) However, we know that God’s ways and thoughts are much higher than ours. For we read: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ASV) So, instead of causing divisions, let’s just humble ourselves before God and be the body of Christ. For we must embrace one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and seek unity in God’s Church. Amen.
Let’s us who are in Christ, always keep our eyes stayed on the Lord and be led by the Holy Spirit into all truth. And let’s remember the words of Jesus who said: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:20-23) Therefore, sense the Father and the Son are one, we his church should be as well. Amen, so let it be.
There’s a world of people out there who need to hear the gospel. For we are to be salt and a light to them by sharing the love of Jesus. Isn’t that what we’re called to do? Aren’t we supposed to be spreading the good news (the Gospel) to the lost out there in order for them to have eternal life as well? So, let us fulfill the great commission which Jesus told us to do. For he said: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Below are some references concerning what was mentioned above:
(Scriptures are taken from the KJV unless noted)
“Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.” (Colossians 4:15)
Some people may think that a church is the building which holds all its occupants. However, this is not true. For a church is an assembly of people who are gathered together in one place or another. This would include a beautiful cathedral, someone’s house, a barn, a rented building, or even out in an open field. For the word church in the Greek means a “gathering” or an “assembly” of people. For we read in the book of Acts: “And Barnabas went forth to Tarsus, to seek for Saul, and having found him, he brought him to Antioch, and it came to pass that they a whole year did assemble together in the assembly, and taught a great multitude, the disciples also were divinely called first in Antioch Christians.” (Acts 11:25-26) So that word “assembly” in the Young’s Literal Translation is the same Greek word translate as church in the King James translation. So again, whether it’s translated as a “church,” or the more understandable word “assembly,” we see that it’s not a building but a gathered of God’s people.
So, as mentioned above, anywhere we Christians are gathered for worship, there you would have a church. And within these gatherings we should first be setting our hearts on God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Also, our time together should be all about prayer, worship and some words of encouragement. This can easily take place in someone’s home or even in a small, rented building. I say this because in these smaller groups you would have more interaction by asking questions as we read and study the Bible together. Also, personnel prayer needs can be easier met as well. Not to mention that a small, rented building has a cheaper overhead with less staff and not some big mortgage to be meet. This is even more true when you’re meeting in someone’s home. Therefore, a church shouldn’t look like some social club with its live band and key motivational speaker that talks for an hour and out you go.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not encouraging anyone to imediatly abandon their traditional church. For this could be difficult, especially if you have already established some relationships with fellow members. Also, there may be those traditional assemblies that gather during the week in separate groups or in people’s homes as well. These same groups can focus on prayer and group interactions as well. However, because of mortgages and a large staff relying on money, I do believe a church that gathers in a smaller rented building or in members’ homes is an ideal church to be in. I say this because I do find that some larger organized church’s water down the truth. Now, whether this is intentional or not, it's keeping people from hearing the truth. For if the word did get spoken as it should, they may end up losing a good portion of their attendees.
Let’s remember that our forerunner, Jesus Christ didn’t pull any punches when it came down to speaking the truth. For at one point his preaching drove almost all his disciples away. For he said: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56) This of course offended many for we also read: “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’” (John 6:60) And what was the outcome? “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:66-69) Therefore, let’s make sure we’re not in a church that’s more concerned about the quantity of its attendees than the quality of the message that must be preached. For our message shouldn’t be watered down to appeal to the masses, but one that will prick the hearts of many as we can see below.
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:36-38)
Below are some scriptures concerning Christian assembling in people’s homes:
Now, a church should be an active group of people who are practicing their gifts of the Spirit. Therefore, our coming together is not for a live band entertainment, but for the building up of each other’s faith. Paul the apostle said: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Colossians 3:15-17)
So then, the church exists to equip one another with the tools and strength needed to spread the gospel to the world. This would be true even in the face of persecution and possibly even for some, death. Because if we’re not being persecuted in one form or another, then are we really living our life according to the bible (yes, I’m preaching also to myself as well)? Paul said to Timothy: “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra - what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:10-12)
Therefore, let’s make sure that we as a church are not watering down the gospel to make it more appealing, comfortable and safe. Therefore, I encourage you to read through the New Testament, especially in the book of Act. There you will find an active church who was preaching the grace of God, even when faced with persecution. Yes, even our forerunner Jesus Christ suffered persecution and even died for our salvation. For: “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:19-20) Amen.
Below are a few scriptures of an active church:
So, if you’re in a church where you can get easily lost in the crowd; where you sing a few songs, hear an hour-long sermon and out the door you go. Then I would encourage you to consider finding a new Church. For how many churches have you been to that actually practices what Paul the apostle commanded. For he said: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6)
Therefore, focusing on God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ should be the main event in every church gathering. This then should be followed by prayer, worship and a message of exhortation. Now something to consider: Imagine if an unbeliever stepped into your church and found you praising God along with weeping and pleading for your families, congregation, community, governing leaders, our nation and for all those that are lost in this world. Then you encourage one another to go out and share the love of Christ with the community around you. Wouldn’t this unbeliever realize that God is alive in you and in this place?
Some basics that we should expect from an assembly of the Saints:
What we should expect from one another:
The bible is clear that women cannot be Leaders (Elders) in the assembly of the saints. For we first read: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35) Next, we read: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. (1 Timothy 2:11-14)
The bible is also clear on what should be the standard for these leaders in the Church. For we read: “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:2-7, Titus 1:5-9)
Now, those who are leaders should keep the gatherings organized and focused on Christ. For when Christ ascended on high: “he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).Also, leaders are to remove anyone within the assembly that refuses to put away their sin after being warned. (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). This is because: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” (Galatians 5:9)
And yes, leaders should also bring us words of exhortation and encouragement from God’s word as well. However, it’s the Holy Spirit (not the church leaders) who teaches us all things. For Jesus himself said: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26) As well as: “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” (John 6:45) Also, John the apostle said: “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie - just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1 John 2:27)
Therefore, we are to test everything, even what our church leaders say to us. This is what those of Berea did, for we read: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11) Pray to God that we all be as noble as they.
Many of the requirements of the Elders are to be the standard for the Deacons. However, there is one exception. For we do read that a woman can be Deacons in the church as well. First, we read: “In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. (1 Timothy 3:8-10 NIV) Next, we read concerning women deacons *(see note below). “The women likewise must be serious, no slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. (1 Timothy 3:11) As well as: “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” (1 Timothy 3:12) And last of all we read: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cen'chre-ae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well.” (Romans 16:1-2)
*Please note: many translations read “wives” instead of women. This is because there is no specific word for wives in the Greek. Thus, this word can mean any women in general. However, because this requirement of an obedient wife is not placed upon the Elders (which you would think should be more so), I believe it’s not talking about Deacon’s “wives,” but women Deacons in the church. But that all being said, a man and his wife could serve together in the church and be both referred to as deacons. Which one may argue is why they claim it means “their wives” as well.
So, if you haven’t already, I hope and pray that you would find a church that would bless you. And if you’re already part of a church, I hope you’re in one that reflects the ones laid out for us in God’s word. Therefore, let’s obey the words of Jesus who told us to: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
God bless you as you seek to do his will. Amen.