Category Archives: Fellowship

Amazed at Him

Luke 2:47  And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Even at a very young age, Jesus had a way about Him that amazed those with whom He had interactions.  There was just something about Him.  One can only guess what it would have been like to live around Him when He was only a child, but the Word tells us that even back then He was something else.

As Jesus visited the temple as a child, He asked questions of the experts and discussed heavy theological matters with them.  The people in that temple probably would have been impressed with an adult that had the knowledge and wisdom that Jesus displayed, but for it to be coming from a child… They’d never seen such a thing!  There they were discussing God with God face-to-face, and they didn’t even know it.

To experience Jesus is to be amazed by Him.  It’s impossible to encounter Him and keep going along without any change, without even blinking.  It’s impossible.  To be with Jesus elicits awe and amazement.  It makes one want to worship Him, not just carry on as usual.  He’s the manifestation of God, the Lord’s revelation of Himself to man.  How can we not be amazed when we see Him?

Walking in the light

1 John 1:5-10  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

One of the things that can most negatively affect our relationship with God and with other people is unconfessed sin.  If we hold onto the idea that we’ve done nothing wrong when in reality we’ve offended God with our thoughts and actions, we’re putting a barrier between Him and ourselves.  The same is true when we act as though we’ve not wronged others.  We can’t have true fellowship when we’re walking in a lie.

But if we confess our sins to the Lord, He’s not standing by waiting to strike us down with lightning; He’s ready to forgive us and to cleanse us.  When we’ve been cleansed by God, we’re then enabled to walk in the light.  If we have fellowship with God, we can’t be in the darkness, so it’s also fair to say that if we’re walking in darkness we’re not in fellowship with God.

Where are you right now? Are you walking in the light?  Are your relationships reflective of God’s work in you?  Or are you in broken relationships with other people and a broken fellowship with God?  The good news is that at any time we can turn to Him and admit our sins.  He’ll wash us clean with the blood of Christ, just like He took a big eraser and wiped out all of our wrongdoing to give us a fresh start.  He wants to do that for us.  The Good News is for believers too.

The Word of Life

1 John 1:1-4  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

The natural response to the joy we receive in Christ is to share it.  How could we, knowing that we have experienced new life in the Son of God, keep that to ourselves?  We should be overflowing with joy, ready to burst if we don’t share it.

John was among the apostles who walked with Jesus while He was here on this earth.  He writes in his first letter to the churches in Asia Minor that he wants them to share in the fellowship he and others have with God through Christ.  He proclaims all he witnessed with his own eyes, all he heard with his own ears, so that the joy of others might be made full.  He’s not willing to keep it all to himself.  What he was sharing was life.

Jesus is the Word of life and He made Himself known to mankind.  John was there when Jesus was present in the flesh, God incarnate sharing life with other people.  John knew that real life is in Jesus and in this he found his joy.  He also knew that his joy would be made all the more complete if he told others about the Word.  Notice his motive explained in verse 4, that “our” joy may be made complete.

Jesus is life.  If you’ve experience new life in Him, share it with everyone around you, so that they will have joy AND so that your joy would be made more complete.  If you haven’t experienced the life-giver, why not seek Him out?  Find out what this life is that others are talking about.  Ask God to reveal Jesus to you and make Him real to you.  He will.

Christ our Advocate

1 John 2:1-6   My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

If we claim to be Christians, there ought to be something to show for it.  If we aren’t walking a true Christian walk, obeying God, growing to be more like Christ, loving others; then we aren’t fooling anyone.  If we love God, we’ll follow Him in everything we do.

All that said, we can try to obey in all things, but we will fail at times.  We can’t be perfect, even though we should try to walk as closely to God as possible, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  We’ll fail, but the true test is whether or not we admit to wrongdoing and ask forgiveness.  If we say we don’t sin, again no one is fooled.  We have to have a heart that’s humble enough to confess that we’ve sinned.  This is what we’re called to as followers of Christ.

The best part is that we, as Christians, don’t receive God’s wrath for our sins, but we get forgiveness.  Jesus already died in our place, He already took on our sins so that we don’t have to suffer the consequences.  He made a way so that we have no reason to hold onto our sins as a secret and not admit to them.  If we’ll just confess them, He’s faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9).  Jesus stands in the gap, advocating on our behalf, making our case.  This isn’t just a message for seekers of truth; the gospel is for Christians too.

The importance of words

Our small group is doing an excellent study by Rick Warren, and our latest installment discussed truthfulness, forgiveness and patience. All hard things. All important things.

 

We all have the power to emotionally debilitate someone with our words; they are immensely powerful. We also have the power of providing infinite healing to others with the words that we choose.

 

I think that many people have been in a situation of uncomfortable confrontation. Sometimes warranted, sometimes not. At times, feelings of defensiveness, being misunderstood and hurt, and betrayal as the realization that the confronter has discussed your faults with others may abound.

 

The Bible calls us to care enough about others that confront one another when a person has a stronghold of sin in their life. In my experience, this is very difficult. We often imagine a twosome of classic dogooders, rightfully confronting in love, but bracing for the confrontee’s escape from their grasp. We pretend like it’s black and white, and that we ourselves can manage the situation with a co-confronter, and maybe a little elbow grease. We don’t like to do it, but bygolly, we’ve got to because the Bible says to do so. Why would damage come to the relationship if we are Biblical about our approach?

 

But what if we are wrong? What if the Bible is calling us for a different level of confrontation?

Ephesians 4:29 ESV 

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Please consider to do the following, when the burden to confront a friend arises:

 

Remember the effort. Validate that person for the effort and the cost that has been required in their situation and in their life. Give credit where credit is due within confrontation and outside of confrontation. Leave your pride at the door. Really. Every person has value- find it and pierce them with it. Even if it hurts you to do so.

 

Remember the emotion. A childhood victim of abuse must still suffer the consequence of any adult crimes that they commit. This is no excuse. But their experiences and their emotions are valid. Don’t forget to validate them. When we don’t validate emotion, we give people no other option than to defend themselves. When we don’t recognize their feelings, we slay them with judgement. The consequence must still come, and the confrontation must still come, but the circumstances are valid.

 

Proverbs 12:18

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

 

Recognize the exhaustion. A person who is treating an area of their life or another, is often hopeless and tired. Recognize it, name it, and put it away. The runner needs validation of the exhaustion of the race, even if they have lost their way. Validate, and help them to find the right path.

 

 

Validate the effort, validate the emotion, allow the hurt or pain to do the backstroke around the room, but don’t make excuses for the behavior.

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ESV 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; … 

A loving relationship requires much, but I encourage everyone to remember that it is difficult to confront in love and truth, if your words and actions don’t represent words and truth. When confrontation isn’t necessary, I continue to believe in the need to validate the effort, exhaustion, emotion and validate. The times in which we lay down our pride and get uncomfortable about reality may just be the times in which it is the most important. If we give credit where credit is due with our words in good times, then we will be heard when times are bad. If a person is recognized and knows that they are appreciated and heard, then they will likely be less likely to feel under appreciated, unheard or slayed when a confrontation arises. If we practice removing the layer of pride that we take everywhere with us, then the confrontation will feel more natural to both parties.

 

1 Thessalonians 2:1-20 ESV 

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. …

Through Thick and Thin

Philippians 4:14 “Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.”

Which one of your brothers or sisters in Christ are you sharing a difficulty with today? This is a tough world we live in. The apostle Paul states in Romans 8:23 “We believers also groan…for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.” As we learned last week, we can endure all things through Christ who gives us strength. That doesn’t mean we won’t suffer pain or difficulty, because surely we will. But just as God has brought together His church to accomplish great things, he also brought us together to love one another, deeper than we love ourselves. It’s great to share life with someone when they are celebrating victory, but it’s a far greater thing to endure with them when they experience loss.

As you’re drinking your morning coffee this morning, or better yet, when you’re spending some quiet time with The Lord, take a moment and think of who you could share a burden with today. Whether it’s lifting them up in prayer, offering encouragement, or just simply mourning with them. Nothing brings greater joy or glory to our Lord than when we love each other.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”

Romans: Sharing with Christ

Romans 8:17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

We, the adopted children of God, are now officially sons and daughters of the King of Kings.  And what does this mean beyond the fact that we are forgiven of our sins and brought into fellowship with God as part of His family?  It means we get everything.

Everything?  Yes, if we are children of God then we are heirs, just as Jesus Christ is the Heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2).  What’s His is ours.  That’s…the glory and the suffering.

We’re called to more than just living a good life here and now on this earth when we enter into God’s family.  We are given incredible gifts from the Father, but there is more to this life than what we receive.  We have the privilege now of sharing with Christ in His sufferings.

Because we’re children of God, those who aren’t may take offense to our disposition and seek to harm us, whether physically or just emotionally and spiritually.  We may not always be happy all the time because in this world there is evil and injustice that will not be eradicated until Christ returns.  Oh, but when He does, we get to share in His glory.  When that time comes, everything in this life will have been worth it.

Romans: Our Daddy

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

What is the greatest news you’ve ever been given?  Think really hard about it and give an honest answer to that question.  Now think about why it is that this was such great news.  Now, turn your attention for one moment to news that’s even better than the best news you can think of.

Because God loved the world He had created, He sent Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) to live a perfect, sinless life and to die a sinner’s death in our place.  We deserved to be treated with the cruelty He receive.  We earned the penalty that He paid.  He took on our sin and gave us instead His own righteousness, granting us access to God.  What news is this!

Not only are we forgiven by a just God, which is wonderful, but we are now His own children, adopted into His family.  Not only is He our Father, but the language used in this text is so intensely beautiful as the writer describes God as our “Abba,” which means “daddy.” God isn’t a harsh, demanding father who is waiting for us to mess up so He can punish us.  We’re not under Him as slaves, but as His children.  He’s our Daddy who loves us and cares about us.  We can approach Him without fearing His response.  What a perfect way to understand our relationship to our Creator and Redeemer.

Romans: Fulfillment of the Law

Romans 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

As Christians, it’s no longer our duty to live up to the Law.  The commands given to those under the old covenant are no longer our marching orders.  What then; do we throw away all of the commands as if they don’t matter?  No, we fulfill the Law by obeying our new command.

Jesus did not tell those under the new covenant to try and keep up the old.  Instead He gave a new command: to love.  (Romans 13:8-10)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

It’s really as simple as that.  You want to obey God? Love.  You want to please Him? Love.  You want to do what’s right? Love.  Freedom from the Law is freedom to walk in love, and in doing so to fulfill the Law.

Guided by Love to Unity

What sort of Christian, what sort of Disciple do we want to be? How do we want our faith and our hope in Christ to be expressed? How do we want it seen by the world around us, reflected from the deeper places in our hearts and our souls?

Those should be, when we stop to think about it, relatively easy questions to answer, shouldn’t they? After all, the Word of God, simple and beautiful by its very nature, is uncomplicated when it offers us the understanding we need to dwell in the knowledge of what it means to be one of Christ’s Disciples, to follow in the footsteps and the path of our blessed Savior. (1 Corinthians 1:11) Of all the commands that came before, the instructions and the laws that wove around the most ancient of covenants, His was unadorned by ritual and ceremony, by pomp and procedure. Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Triune God, (Matthew 28:16-20) showing them the path of faith and hope through a love that edifies, strengthens and nourishes those around us in the miracle that is His blessings. (John 13:34-35)

This is why He Himself, a poor carpenter from Galilee, born in the most meager of estates in Bethlehem, was viewed as so much of a threat. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from or where you had been, you were welcomed to Him. Yes, what God wanted, what God expected was important, but, in a wisdom that so often seems to elude the comprehension of men, He knew there was no rules that meant more to God than that we love Him, and that we love our one another with the full strength and full conviction of our hearts and our souls, our spirits and our minds. (Matthew 22:37-41) This was the blessing we could be by which all abundant life shined as a beacon to the world around us.

So often though we get tend to get bogged down by doctrine and the fights that it brings, we get so hung up on one or two passages in Scripture that we tend to let that define our faith more than anything else. We let ourselves become known for the things we are against as we let it serve as a wall surrounding us that keeps others out, rather than letting our faith and love serve as a door to let them in.

Now, to be clear, a proper understanding of Scripture should never be debased, nor should it be shied away from. The Word of God is meant to be studied, to be learned from, as it offers a path through its instruction to a righteous life. (2 Timothy 3:16) Yet nowhere in the Bible does it say “He who believes and is baptized, believing in all the right doctrine shall be saved.” Why? Because God transcends us in His wisdom and His hope for us even as He knows we aren’t going to completely understand or grasp it, telling us to dwell in unity with one another and turn from those who would tear us apart, who would destroy the fabric of harmony and peace between us. (Romans 16:17-18)

After all, in the end, it’s only God Himself who judges the hearts, the words and the deeds, the lifestyles and the choices of those souls that enter His Kingdom, not us. The path, if we believe the words of our blessed Savior, the Good Shepherd who guides and protects us, it is not a path that is paved through strictest adherence that abides in law, it is the path that has been paved by Him (John 14:6) in His tender mercy, His loving care, and His healing touch.

You can do more as a Disciple in the humble works of faith with a kindness to others, seeking to be a blessing in the world around you than you could ever do by hiding, locked away in a fortress of law and doctrine, shunning the world harshly for the offenses that it causes you. In that you have the capacity, through the power of the Spirit, to do more with the gift of grace that God has given you if you let yourself. It’s just a question of if you’ll let yourself, knowing that God will use you for more if your heart is truly open to love, hope and charity, and the wonders they can bring.

So again, what sort of Disciple do you want to be? What sort of blessings do you want to bring through your faith? It can be a blessing blossoming with the radiance of the truest beauty that springs forth from your soul, it’s just a matter of setting aside your pride and letting the Spirit nurture it to that point. After all, it is this love, this hope, in the principles of Christ’s blessed example that makes Scripture relevant, passing from age to age even to the present one.