The New Testament Church
The gospel story starts quickly in the New Testament with the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Matthew and Luke contain accounts of the events leading to the birth of Jesus, the visit by the wise men and glimpes into Jesus' childhood. The vast majority of the gospels is devoted to Jesus' ministry and teachings. And wonderful, inspirational teachings they are - the essence of our Christian beliefs and faith.
There is another story that unfolds in the New Testament - that of the early Church. Jesus said "On this rock I will build my church" - Matthew 16:18. But the NT does not give us a neat chronological sequence in which this took place. Luke's book, The Acts, provides insight and the Letters of Paul and others are helpful, but to get a real history of the beginnings of our great church, you have to be willing to some digging.
Not any longer. Author Frank Viola has done it for us in his book, The Untold Story of the New Testament Church. From the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost through the planting of churches from Antioch to Rome. Viola gives us a history of how the miracle of the Church unfolded and how it fits into God's plan. He tells us how God's purpose is laid out in five phases - or Motions. 1. Godís eternal plan is conceived in eternity past. 2. God sends His Son to lay the groundwork for His eternal plan. Jesus and the Twelve prefigure Godís eternal plan in Galilee 3. The Church is born, and Godís eternal plan finds visible expression on the earth. 4. God sends His Son back to earth to consummate His eternal plan. 5. Godís eternal plan resumes in eternity future.
Each Motion is referenced to NT scripture. The establishment of God's Church is seen as an inevitable and necessary part of His purpose. Viola tells the story in a way that provides context and understanding. The events that followed the birth of the Church and its subsequent development come to life. For example, knowing the circumstances surrounding Paul's letter to the Roman church is important in getting through some otherwise complicated scripture. Why he wrote what he did, when and to whom tells us what Paul and the early churches were
facing. Viola uses his narrative to provide a unique study guide for the reader as you are prompted to read the books of the NT in the setting in which they were written, in the order of their writing.
This ď"big picture" approach reveals an unbroken pattern of Godís ultimate goal - to have a community on earth that expresses His nature in a visible way. This theme of a God-ordained community constitutes a unifying thread that runs throughout the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
There are many ways to study the Bible. Our method surely depends a lot on our needs and interests. If we are interested in how God's Church was born, then Viola's book and his method is certainly worthy of consideration.
From Pastor Sandra
At this time last year many of us were concerned about the election of a president for our country. It could not be the incumbent as he had served two terms, so we Americans had choices to make. Life is about choices and decisions, and letís not forget attitudes.
The Lord God gives us tests all through life. These tests are to judge our faith, our trust, and our willingness to follow the Will of God for our lives. We have choices and decisions to make each day. Many times it is difficult to reconcile ourselves to "what am I to do?" Not to make a decision is to make a decision, for the longer we linger in making choices, the more difficult a decision becomes.
We all have situations that can be thought of as "stumbling blocks," as Jesus stated to Peter in Matthew 16: 23 as Peter questioned Jesusí description of the great suffering he must undergo at the hands of "religious" Jews: Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get thee behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me." Jesus had spoken these same words to Satan during the 40 days in the wilderness as Jesus was tested.
Life is a series of stumbling blocks or stepping stones. Each decision, each choice we make in our lives is either a stumbling block or a stepping stone. Why let an illness be a stumbling block; let it be a stepping stone as we learn empathy for others. Why let conflict be a stumbling block in our relationship with another; let it be a stepping stone to accepting the value of other opinions? Why let negativity have control of our lives; let those feelings be replaced with love thy neighbor as thyself?
Max Lucado noted: "When we work, we work; but when we pray, God works." We can do no greater work than praying for the Almighty God to work in our lives. Let us be guided by the Word of God as we strive to strengthen our personal relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We pray for wisdom as we make choices, decisions in life, with an attitude of humility.
Grace and Peace,