Encouragement From The Word

Changing the world

Most of us don’t know who Robert Raikes was, but he changed the world.  He also article-2680751-1F6362C700000578-945_634x653changed the church – through children.

Robert Raikes was the founder of the Sunday School Movement back in the 1700s.

What most people don’t realize is that when Raikes began his effort, he was not exactly aided by the church.  The Englishman, whose efforts sought to rescue children from what was effectively slave labour, teach them to read, and disciple them, caught the attention of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who convened a bishops’ meeting to attempt to stop him.

They believed Raikes’ attempts to disciple children was a violation of the fourth commandment, that it broke the Sabbath.

As time went on, what were called “Sabbath School Societies” were begun across North America, particularly in the United States.  But where was the greatest opposition to these groups?  Clergy.  It was the pastors who were opposing ministry to children because they viewed it as a desecration of the Lord’s Day.  One Connecticut pastor even said of a class held in his church one Sunday, “You imps of Satan, doing the devil’s work.  I’ll have you set in the street!”

Remarkable, isn’t it?  That something we take for granted – ministry to children on Sunday – would have been met with such resistance initially!

So it is with so much change in the church today; it meets with initial resistance, but in the end, if God is in it, it changes the world.

Gamaliel was a learned Pharisee in Israel in the time of the early church.  When people would complain about what the apostles were doing in Jesus’ name, Gamaliel’s advice was sage:  “If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them.  You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” (Acts 5.38b-39, NLT).

When change comes, church leaders with integrity are bringing it in not for its own sake, but because they know that the change can help the church change the world for the glory of God.  And while that may initially be difficult to take, who wouldn’t want to get behind changing the world for the glory of God?

Biblical Messages

Sharing is caring

The story of Ananias and Sapphira often shakes us to our core because of its bluntness.  Two people conspired to lie to the apostles (thus to the Holy Spirit), and fell down dead as a result.  Sometimes we forget the earlier example, a better one, of Barnabas, who sold a field and gave the entire proceeds to the church.  What can these examples teach us as followers of Jesus today?  Based on Acts 4.32-5.11, you can listen to the message here, or watch the Facebook video (with or without an account) at the link below that.




Encouragement From The Word

Don’t hold back!

One of my favourite stories in the Bible is the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. If you don’t know it, click the link and read it.

Did you read it? I know what you might be thinking. That’s twisted!

Do you think so? Let’s think about it for a minute.

One of the key characteristics of the early church is that it cared for people. Modelled after the Jewish community from which the church arose, the early church was committed to looking after the needy, and the overall work of making disciples. And that didn’t happen in a vacuum. It wasn’t “somebody else” who undertook this. There was no government safety net available from Rome. Followers of Jesus and they alone tended to the needs of the church.

Those who belonged to that early Christian community were committed to funding the mandate of the church. People were selling their goods, and pooling what they had in common. Ananias and Sapphira were among them.

This couple, though, conspired to hold back some of what they said they were giving to the Lord’s work. The problem was that they said it was the whole amount of the proceeds of the property they sold. But it wasn’t. They were lying.

Getting zapped – ‘falling to the floor and dying’ is the rather more dignified way that Luke, the writer of Acts, puts it – seems an extreme punishment for fibbing. But think of what was at stake there.

What was at stake was the whole ministry and mandate of the Kingdom of God. To think about it in an extreme way, because Ananias and Sapphira held back some of the proceeds from the sale of property but said it was the entire amount, they were depriving others of hearing the gospel. They were depriving others who were in need of being fed. They were depriving others of getting what God wanted them to have.

A tough question, but it needs to be asked: are you depriving others of their God-given needs because you are holding something back?

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” (Malachi 3.10, NLT).