Tag Archives: God

Fellowship: the core of a local church

Fellowship hall, fellowship time, fellowship church, fellowship app, academic fellowship, fellowship college, right hand of fellowship ….

Just what is Fellowship?IMG_1634

With the help of the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary and Merriam Webster I would define fellowship as:

  • Joining in membership with a local church
  • Communion together at the Lord’s Supper 
  • Giving of tithes and offerings
  • Ministering to the saints
  • Suffering together

 


Join in membership with a local church [Hebrews 10:24-25]

First let me qualify that my look at fellowship is only from the view of a church member. With that in mind, I think everyone needs to join a local church to enjoy the fellowship of a church. Thom Rainer outlined very well what it means to be a church member in his great little book I Am A Church Member. Thom says a healthy church member will:

  • Be a functioning church member

By studying God’s word, praying, eating, serving, sacrificing, giving, sharing, and ministering with other church members.

  • Seek unity in my church
  • Not let my church be about my preferences and desires
  • Pray for my church leaders
  • Lead my family to be healthy church members
  • Treasure church membership as a gift

 

Communion together at the Lord’s Supper [1Corinthians 10:16-17]

To take the Lord’s Supper you need to have professed faith in Jesus. So for those who take the supper together; we are saying to one another that we have accepted the same gift of life eternal through the sacrifice of Jesus, have given our life to the service of Jesus, and are together in observing the sacrifice He made for me.

 

Giving of tithes and offerings [2Corinthians 9:6-15]

God says we should give generously. The Old Testament gave the guideline 10% of our first fruits (earnings) are to be given back to Him. The New Testament says to be a generous cheerful giver. Does that mean only 10% – no I say 10% is only a starting point. Give to make God pleased, as much and as often as you can.

 

Ministering to the saints [Hebrews 6:10-12]

Who else in this world will come to the aide of Christians – only other Christians. It is our duty to love and help our fellow brothers and sisters. We need to minister to Christians by listening to them, helping them financially, mentally and spiritually, and praying for them.

We should be ministering not only to the other members in our church, but should be lifting up other churches. There again – who will help a failing church … only another church. We should also be ministering to the missionaries who go and who live to spread the Gospel in places other than their local community.

 

Suffering together [Philippians 3:7-11]

Are we going to suffer here on earth – you bet. Jesus suffered … why would we avoid such? When we suffer we need fellow Christians surrounding us to listen and guide. When you are the one suffering you know it makes things easier if we have a friend to share the burden with. Our burdens range from being uncomfortable all the way to the point of death.

Where should we come along and share a burden with a friend – whenever you feel led that they need support. I don’t know about you, but the problem I have with that is that I need to be more in tune with God to be able to listen when He says go and suffer with someone.

Part of praying to God is to listen, and by listening I can be directed to go suffer with someone.

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This Ain’t Heaven

Man life sure can be tough some times.

Amen?

Amen (I’ll go ahead and credit you that one).

Just recently I have spoken with friends and relatives who have been through tough times:

cancer, job loss, marital infidelity, death of a loved one, friend whose parent is sick, job cut back, lay off, loss of trust from a friend, family corruption, drugs, alcohol, disease, unwanted pregnancy, heart problems, broken bones, mower won’t start, car wreck, and the list could just go on…

Some people have asked me and I could tell some were thinking it but just did not ask – why does God let bad things happen?  Some will even ask – why does God let bad things happen to good people?

I submit there is a simple answer that is hard for some to believe or even accept.IMG_5262

In Genesis 2 God told Adam and Eve to work and watch over the garden of Eden, but not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  In Genesis 3 we see their disobedience and followed the advice of satan by eating the forbidden fruit.  And we assume sin entered earth then.  But the more difficult question if you think about it is this – where did that serpent come from?  How did satan get to the middle of the garden that God made to tempt humans?  If satan had not tempted, then maybe humans would not have sinned and we would be in a much better place.  Maybe so.

But the fact of the matter, is that God did create all things – even satan himself.  Now why on earth would God do that?  And even more so why did He allow him here on earth?

I think the answer to many of the questions I have asked here can be answered by three words.

   This ain’t Heaven.

In Heaven there is no sin.  There is no pain.  There is no death!  There are no wasps, snakes, hornets or skunks.  There are no jobs, and our only desire will be God!  Man that is heaven!

But this earth just ain’t Heaven.  Do you see?  Do you agree?  Here on our 3rd rock from our sun we have a lot of things that make us uncomfortable.  And they will always be here on earth.  We do however, have a comforter here who is the Holy Spirit.  He will guide us and help us in our daily walk – while we inhabit this earthly vessel we call a body.  But one day this body will expire for all of us.

And when it does – we will all end up in one of two places.       Heaven or Hell         That choice is ours to make while we are still living and breathing in this earthly vessel.

Mary pondered these things in her heart: the art of pondering

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”  So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.  When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.  And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.  The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Luke 2:7-20 (NASB)

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is that part in verse 19 where it said that Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

What did it mean for her to ponder in her heart?

Ponder means to consider.  It means to take what you know, and consider what might be.

Pondering

So what do you think Mary may have pondered in her heart?

I think she pondered the fact that God had spoke to her and that she would no doubt hear Him again.  God had been silent in the Bible for 400 years until the arrival of Jesus.  So the God of the universe had spoke to Mary, gave her a baby, and now these shepherds were witnesses to the authenticity.  I think she just pondered what would be next.  Where would these events take her life next?  Who else would come to visit the baby and how did they know of Him?  Would there be a different way of raising this God child?  She had no idea what would be next, but I think her mind would race with expectations.

I think she pondered on the fact that the birth of our Savior was real.  The witness of the shepherds certainly provided a much needed witness.  She had no doubt heard the reading of the scripture about the promise of the Savior.  She had to have known He would come, but now realizing that those promises were fulfilled in her.  If those parts of the scripture were now confirmed, how much more of the scripture she knew must have totally new meaning.  It was not just tradition and religion, but now it was real!  He was REAL!

I also think she certainly pondered on what the future of Jesus would hold.  With what she knew from the scripture, she knew what was told to her by the angel, and she also knew what had happened with Elizabeth and Zacharia’s son John.  She knew that His life would be much different than any of the other children she knew.  Would they someday live in a different lifestyle?  What would God do with Him?  What exactly would become of this son of hers?  What would be required of him?

What a wonder as Mary pondered and treasured all those things in her heart.

May this Christmas allow you the time to ponder what wonder Jesus holds for your your life!

Christmas lessons from the shepherds

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”  So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.  When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.  And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.  The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Luke 2:7-20 (NASB)

Flock by night

The Shepherds

During Christmas time I like to read the story given to us in the Gospel of Luke.  He tells of the story giving a highlight to the shepherds who were watching over their flock at night.  We are not told how many there were, but I picture three to five shepherds of sheep.

I noticed the shepherds did three things during this event that I believe would do us all well to follow.

First we see that when the angel appeared they were afraid.  Can you blame them?!?  Here are these shepherds doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing when an angel appears with the glory of the Lord shining, and of course they have never seen this their life!  I can imagine how they probably wanted to run for their lives.  But the angel spoke and said to not be afraid – good news was to follow.  What a tense moment they had to have experienced as they decided in their minds to stay still and listen to the angel.

We see next that the shepherds did in fact stay still and listen to what the angel had to say.  These are startled shepherds and I am sure that the details of what was being said had to be hard for them to remember in their state of uncertainty.  I think the angel waited long enough for them to gain composure and listen intently.  We are not told, but I have my thoughts.

Then after the angel had told them the good news of the Savior’s birth, they were obedient.  They got up and went in search of this baby in Bethlehem.  Notice they did not get their affairs in order, but the went just as they were told.

Two lessons from the Shepherds

I think there are two lesson we can learn from the actions of these untrained shepherds.

We all become afraid at times.  Some people do not like to admit this emotion, but we all have times we fear for our health, finances, death, family or future.  Some people fear these kind of situations on a constant unhealthy basis and some of us just fear them quietly in our heads.  I think the key is to recognize the emotion and determine it’s source.

Then like the shepherds we should take these fears and let the glory of the Lord shine on them.  For us that simply would look like committing it to prayer.  Ask God just what I need to do with this fear.  Is there truth in the sources of the emotion?

Once we consult and hear from God, then we need to follow the example of these shepherds and take action.  Take positive action just as God lays out for you.  Don’t add your thoughts to it, but be obedient to the Lord.

I think if we follow these two steps from a time of fear, then we also would be blessed by our actions.  The shepherds were blessed beyond measure by being a witness to Mary about the message they heard from the angel about the baby Jesus.  Then they were one of the first on this planet to lay eyes on God who had come in the form of a human to be it’s Savior!  Wow – how they were blessed!

My thanksgivings

Thanksgiving table

It should go without saying that I am thankful, but then again sometimes it should go with saying that I am thankful and just what I am thankful for.  I find it healthy to verbalize these things and to give thanks to God for the rich blessings He has given me.

So today I made a short list of some of the things I am thankful for:

First off I am thankful for my Savior Jesus who came to this earth as a man, lived a perfect life as an example for me, and then sacrificed His life for my salvation.

To be able to see the variety of God’s wonderful creation and all the beautiful places I have been fortunate enough to visit.Guatemala volcano

To be able to tell my family “I love you” to their face, and be so open to them.  Also for the great family that surrounds me.

Friends who are truly friends no matter what, and will be there for me under any circumstance.  I count just a few people in the world with this description.  I also love it when I can call one of these guys up after a long break from seeing each other and start off cutting up like we just spoke yesterday.

The special friends who showed me what it was like to follow Jesus at an early age, and those who still do it today.

Those people who tell me they are thankful for me.

The mistakes I have made – now that they are behind me.  I have learned so much from them and they have formed me to be the man I am today.

The gifts and talents God has blessed me with and the times I am fortunate enough to use them.

I hope you will take some time today to give thanks for the blessings in your life as well.

Happy Thanksgiving yall!

The Rest We All Need

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.  Genesis 2:1-3

I read this scripture again a few weeks ago and realized something significant – God rested.  Wow!  The creator of our universe, who is without boundaries or limitations rested.  Why on earth would God do that?

I think he rested to provide an example for us to follow in our lives.  We have to rest or our body will shut down on its own.  Sometimes we think there is no time for rest because there is so much to do.  Or does that just happen to me?

I’ll admit, I have so much to do at times that I really feel rest is a waste of time.  It doesn’t get me anywhere.  It just lets me, well ……. wind down –  recharge  –   refocus.              Oh yeah … rest.

I need rest in my life for no other reason that to refocus at times.  I get so wound up with the things in my life I think must be accomplished.  I also am a bit of a perfectionist at times.  I think some things I do have to be absolutely finished and completely right before I can stop or let it go.  Now sometimes that is a good thing of course, but sometimes it just drives me to the end of my physical and mental usefulness.

River
Peace like a River

Three kinds of rest we need

Daily

I don’t know about you, but my body needs 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep every day.  It would be awesome if I could keep a consistent rhythm of getting that much sleep every day, but I usually don’t.  And when I get behind on a good night sleep it seems to affect me in a lot of ways.  I find it hard at times to just quit what I am doing and go to bed – I have so much more to do!  But what I make up in productive activity … I lose in rest.  My body will suffer as a result.  So only when I get wise do I lay things down and get a good nights rest.

Weekly

Here is the Biblical example we are given – to take a weekly rest.  Some call it a Sabbath day, the Lord’s day or even the day of rest.  For my family it is Sunday.  That is the day we set aside to rest from work and worship our Savior.  I will do everything I can to keep this day set aside and not work.  I don’t like to do business on this day if I can help it.  I also like to spend Sundays visiting with family.  We usually eat lunch with family members on Sunday and it is so good to recharge those relationships during those times.  I also like to get in a good Sunday afternoon nap.  For me that nap gives my body  that extra rest that I missed during the week.  It also gives me peace knowing all is well with my family that I can check out for an hour or so to just rest.

Yearly

One of the best ways we rest is with a good vacation.

Think about the best vacation you have ever had.  Was it a fun vacation?  Was it a restful vacation?  Usually the two are not the same.  During the season of our lives when we have young kids – rest is the furthest thing from a vacation.  However, I have felt the releasing of tension from work and my hustle/bustle life.  I may not have rested in the sense I would like, but my mind let go long enough to recalibrate the priorities in life.  Like spending time with family.

So for six days God worked.  I hope I showed you last week that work is actually a good thing.  Then God rested.  So let’s think about a couple of things.  God cannot be a part of anything evil.  So if God is in rest, then it must be a wonderful thing.  Notice that God blessed and sanctified the seventh day.  What God did was declare the seventh day good and set apart.  Since work was also good, God gave a separate time and weight to resting.

For me God speaks to me and says that I need that same time of rest.  I need a break from work to let my mind and body separate the activities.  Both work and rest are good and they both are something we all need.

Note to reader:  I finished this blog one night and thought I had it complete.  I went to bed and after resting had some more insight to this topic.  So I included it this morning before posting.  The overnight rest gave me a more clear picture to describe rest.  I hope this topic is as beneficial to you as it has been for me.

Are you heartily at work?

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men – Colossians 3:23

Before sin came to our world there was work. Did you ever think of that?

In Genesis 2:15 we see that God put man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. This means that gathering fruit and vegetables was work, but in a good way. Imagine loving to do work! It brought Adam joy, food for life and a sense of accomplishment.

Digging work
Digging work

Then when sin came along that same work became toilsome. In Genesis 3:17-19 God said that the ground then would produce thorns and thistles.  You know what they are – competition for healthy plants. God also said that work then would cause us to sweat and make us exert a lot of effort.  Sometimes work is physically hard and sometimes it is just mentally draining.

Most people in our American society look at work as something that is hard and a duty they don’t look forward to. Commercials, TV shows and movies all give work a bad name. But we should realize that God created us for work, and by realizing that is part of our human design accept work as a way of glorifying God!

In Colossians 3:23 we are instructed to work heartily – just as if working for the Lord instead of humans.  To work heartily means with all your heart, to work genuinely, sincerely and warmly.  Is there anything in your life you do this way?  I know of people with a commitment to a team or cause with this kind of zeal, but not usually to work.  If you think of it, the matter comes down to a heart issue.  I think we need to work from our heart just as we love, play, sing or dance.

So when you work in retail you are obviously serving a customer, but you are also working to please God. If your job is to make widgets, then make them as if God paid you. At staff meetings, sales conferences, deliveries and while answering the phone see to it that you are pleasing God with your efforts.  If mowing, cleaning, chores and the like is your thing – then do them all in a way that would be pleasing to God!

One of my favorite quotes gives a great description of what somebody looks like who is working heartily:

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.     – James A. Michener

So – how heartily are you at your work today?