What Matters Now

 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.  (Acts 5:42)
 
1  I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  (John 15:1-2)
Yesterday, we looked at the Gamaliel Principle and reflected that the Lord has used the Covid-19 pandemic to reveal what was manmade and what was God-initiated in his Church. Whatever was manmade, he has allowed to die off during the pandemic. Whatever was God-initiated, he has sustained and caused to flourish amidst the storm.

On one level, it is sad that some churches have closed their doors forever. It is sad that certain Christian ministries have floundered amidst the troubles of the past year and a half. It is sad that, even in our own church, certain things that we were doing before the pandemic have needed to change or stop altogether. But Jesus tells us in John 15 that we are to embrace this as ‘the pruning of God’s vine’. Whatever is not fruitful, the Lord cuts off from the vine. Even that which is fruitful does not escape God’s loving secateurs. Jesus tells us that his Father prunes whatever is fruitful so that it may become even more fruitful still. I believe that this is what the Lord is doing right now at Everyday Church and, although I feel some sadness along with you, I also encourage you to rejoice in God’s pruning of our church for greater fruitfulness.

We are told in Acts 5:42 that the life of the first church in Jerusalem revolved around three simple things. These are things that the Lord has pruned us back to as well, so that we can bear fruit more together after lockdown. The first thing to which the early Christians devoted themselves was to being together every day. This doesn’t mean that we have to have church services seven days a week, but it does mean that we are to pursue a daily connection with our church family. You are doing that already by reading these Everyday Devotions. You can also do it by joining with others at one of our daily prayer gatherings on Zoom. You can also do it by creating a Whatsapp group for the people in your Life Group and by sending one another encouragements each day.

The second thing to which the early Christians devoted themselves was coming together for the big gathering in the Temple courtyards. Our Sunday services really matter, which is why we are excited that they have begun again. If you are able to come to one of our in-person services but you haven’t yet done so after the easing of lockdown, then can I ask you why you haven’t? Let’s be eager to get back in the room together!

The third thing to which the early Christians devoted themselves was coming together for the small group gathering. For us, this means Life Groups, which have flourished during lockdown. We always knew that they were important but Covid-19 has really taught us why the early Christians saw the small gathering of believers as essential alongside the big Sunday gathering. If you haven’t already joined a Life Group, then you are missing out on a great gift that God has given you. If you have, then make time together one of your biggest priorities as things begin to open up again after lockdown.

God is a gardener who prunes the churches that he loves. As we regather back all together after lockdown,  we will see many signs of his loving pruning across our church. There will be some sadness in that, but let’s learn to rejoice in the Lord’s wisdom. He has pruned us back to the big, to the small and to the every day so that he can equip us to go out and be more fruitful in reaching the lost, the least and the lonely – just like the first church in Jerusalem.
1)   Acts 5:42 tells us that the early Christians connected with one another “every day”. What would that look like for you in a post-lockdown world?

2)   It also tells us that they gathered together for big gatherings in the “temple courts”. How can you make this your weekly, undistracted habit after lockdown too?

3)   Acts 5:42 also tells us that the early Christians connected with one another “from house to house”? Which Life Group are you part of, and how can you grow in your devotion to one another as Covid restrictions end?
Father God, I thank you that you are a wise gardener. You know how to prune the vine that is your people. I’ll be honest, Lord, that I find pruning painful, but I thank you Lord for your pruning hand on my church right now. Help us to strip things back to what really matters and to grow in our relationship with you. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were brought to you by Phil Moore, who leads our team of whole-church elders.

If you have time, consider carrying on your conversation with God using one of our helpful Prayer Pathways.

Today’s Everyday Devotions have also inspired a devotional video that you can watch on our YouTube channel.

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