Week of Jan. 31

The Hazard of Driving on an Under-Inflated Ministry

Read: Exodus 12-13; Psalm 21; Acts 1

“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
Acts 1:14, ESV


One of the great expectations of the Christian life rests on the truth that what began at the Ascension of Christ will be completed upon his glorious return. In the meantime, we have an assignment from him (Acts 1:8). Please bear with me because this devotional is desperately needed in our current day. Gratefully, we have been left with a wonderful account of the early church in the Book of Acts that provides us with an example of how we may flourish today in service to Christ.

Let’s See What the Bible Says

Perspective is important, and this claim holds true when we examine Acts. The Book of Acts should be seen as both a parallel to Luke's gospel and the completion of the entire account that he sought to present (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1). The first book ends in Jerusalem and the second book ends in Rome, but both writings frame one total picture (cf. Matthew 28:18-20, “make disciples of all the nations”). We have before us a piece of fine art, as it were, so let’s examine carefully this painting on life in a healthy church.

It is likely that we have previously interpreted Acts based upon the geographic mandate of Christ in Acts 1:8. This is indeed a good approach. However, I have more recently followed another method of understanding Luke’s approach to the book. It is interesting to learn that Luke sets up six summary statements or “progress reports” (6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20; and 28:31). Each of these statements concludes its own “panel” (section) of material (EBC). Three panels include the beginning of the church and its mission to the Jewish world, and the final three panels focus on the expansion of the church through the Gentile mission. Our attention will surely be piqued by this writing style, but our goal today is to find points of application that will help us to grow as Christians!

I have discovered some core meaningful practices in Acts, chapter 1, that have benefited me as I provided pastoral leadership to churches and seminary education to ministers in training. At the risk of oversimplification, I think that it is powerfully important for the Church (local and universal) to be birthed on the promise of the Savior to send the Spirit as a guide (1:4). Too many local churches have been born out of human conflict rather than the calling of the Spirit!

Furthermore, there should be a unique missional purpose behind the organization of any body of believers that calls itself “Christ’s Church.” This requires a mandate, and we have one (1:8).

Allow me a short digression for a moment. I am all for “Great Commission” churches, but we have fumbled and stumbled over ourselves because we fail to adopt Christ’s other commands and put them into practice. Friends, we do have other commands from Christ (e.g., John 13:14, wash the feet of one another [serve]; vv. 34-35, “love one another”; 15:4, abide in Christ; 17:11, be one, even as Jesus and Father are one; Luke 10:36-37, be neighborly)! Thirdly, a firm resolve to move only as led by Christ’s Spirit must be at the heart of the Church. It will be fueled by patient prayer (1:12-14) and power from on high (2:1-4).

One part of the opening chapter provides a vital link to the success of all that the church strives to be and do—“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer” (1:14). The church had become unified around the common purpose of praying and waiting on the Lord. Praying was a hallmark of the early church (1:24; 2:42; 3:1; 4:24; 6:6; NAC). This begs a question: How much concerted effort does your church place upon “Scripture-guided prayer” (see 1:16a, 24)? Hmm. Let’s apply this to our own discipleship.

Let’s Deepen Our Walk

Our adult daughter called to share the news one day that she had had a flat tire. My heart sank as I began to imagine all sorts of trouble that she may have had following that incident. She, however, was happy to report that she had changed it because I had taught her how to do it when she was learning to drive a car. She helped me to remember that we had actually practiced the process. That practical education became useful when it was applied at a critical time of need.

Here's the point for spiritual formation. Too many churches are attempting to advance, so to speak, on an under-inflated ministry. Scriptural instruction is limited or lacking, and committed prayer is absent, both of which makes the way forward unsure and hazardous. Mature Christians and churches invite the Spirit to breathe life into every forward movement.

Let’s Think and Discuss

1. Take time today to consider doing more than “reading” the Bible passage and devotional. I cannot help but notice that all of the jockeying for position among the disciples prior to the resurrection was noticeably absent when they gathered, prayed in one accord, and waited on the Holy Spirit. The invitation involves “being” what the Bible passage describes. Outline steps to the Spirit re-inflating your life and church.

2. For families: Help your child to learn better how to pray each day. With a magic marker, write five letters on the inside of their fingertips and thumb, spelling FACES.The letter F is for family and friends. A is for authority (God, parents, teachers, policemen, government leaders). C is for our church, and for all of the churches around the world. E is for evangelism, or sharing with people who do not yet know Jesus. S is for self (asking God to forgive us when we disobey, and for help and wisdom). Help your child to pray through their FACES every night at bedtime. If your children can develop a strong prayer life now, they will be firmly grounded as they mature in Christ and be able, as Luke noted, to “devote themselves to prayer.” What a powerful legacy to leave our children!

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock