Fellowship

 

Fellowship is a misunderstood word. If you listen to the way most people use the word fellowship, you’ll notice they use it to mean a time of eating and hanging out together. We often say we are “fellowshipping with other believers”. And there is a reason for that. Luke does write in the book of Acts about the believers gathering together for meals. But you can share a meal with someone and not have true fellowship. Fellowship is not just sharing a meal. It’s ultimately sharing a purpose. You are “fellow” something. You are saying, “We gather together because are both ________.” For those of us who are followers of “The Way” as early Christians called walk of following Jesus, that is what we have fellowship over. And it’s a necessity. The gathering of God’s people is essential to the health of the body of Christ. The idea of “I can get as much of God in a tree stand or on a boat fishing” is based on a lie. Not because time alone with God isn’t important. But because we are never called to forsake the assembly and replace that time with being alone with God. Your walk needs both. You need alone time with God but you also need to assemble. God tells us through the writing of Hebrews to “not forsake the assembling of yourselves as some are in the habit of doing”. I see so many misunderstandings about church today. We think having a personal relationship with Jesus means we don’t need other people. And while that sounds right, it’s entirely unbiblical. Even before sin was brought into the world by Adam, God looked and commented that it wasn’t good for man to be alone. That’s not to say that all will be given in marriage, but we are all called to relationships. Even Paul kept the fellowship going with other believers while he was in prison. Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” We don’t have fellowship because we are perfect. We may at times get on each other’s nerves. But we have fellowship because we are fellow heirs. Fellow sons and daughters. We have one common purpose, to glorify the LORD.

An Open Door

On Sunday mornings recently we have been learning how to make the correct shifts to follow God’s will. One important verse we have looked at is a verse in the book of Joshua which says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  God calls us to be courageous when walking in His will. Part of following God’s will is being aware of the opportunities that God brings to you. Most of us call these opportunities “an open door”. Open doors are exciting. It can be something new that you’ve never thought about before. Or it can be something you’ve prayed and planned for, for many years. But will quickly become discouraged, which is the opposite of courageous, if we believe that an open door guarantees ease.

God recently opened a door up for me in regards to a career opportunity and not long after it happened, God brought me to a verse in the book of Corinthians, “for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” Paul is saying that God has opened a door for him to share the gospel. The door is open for “effective work”. This is very exciting. But there’s more to the verse. “and there are many adversaries.”  Just because God opens the door doesn’t mean there won’t be adversaries. Enemies will come against you as you try to obey God’s will for your life. Not all who disagree with you are wrong and not all resistance is bad. In fact, you need people who can wisely advise you when you may be rushing into a bad situation. Some opportunities are not open doors from God but temptations from Satan. But if you are following God’s will, there will be people against you. We know this because there were people against Jesus. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” Do not be discouraged. Be courageous. Paul says this in the book of Romans, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 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.” 

Let’s follow God’s will. Let’s walk through open doors  He gives us, courageously. Let’s not be discouraged when adversaries come. We will suffer with Him but we will also be glorified with Him.

We’ve been praying upside-down.

Tonight in prayer meeting we looked a some passages of scripture that showed how Christians or believers in great need prayed. We looked in Acts 4 and Nehemiah 9. If you look in those passages, you will see that the prayers start with acknowledging who God is and what He has done in an act of worship and praise. Whether it’s the Israelites in Nehemiah’s day or the Jewish followers of Jesus in Acts 4, we see a pattern of praise before petition.

Brian asked us what can we learn when we look at out own prayer pattern in light of this biblical pattern. The agreement is that we and most people spend just a little time praising God for what He has done and a lot of time praying about our problems.

This is what I learned looking as the Holy Spirit searched my heart. I often pray with a level of doubt and a lack of expectancy. There’s a common phrase often used in prayers that while is righteous and awesome, being prayed by Jesus Himself, it often leads us to hold back hope. “But not my will, but Your will be done.” This is an awesome prayer that I believe only Jesus prayed perfectly. I so often fail when I engage in that type of prayer. It comes out “Not my will, but Yours.”, but in my heart it’s more like “Not my will, but Yours, but it probably isn’t Your will or it very well could not be” The last part of my version has some truth to it but taken down a sinful path in can produce doubt and even despair.

You see, the reason why it’s good to flip our prayers around is to see that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift as the James tell us in his letter. We can acknowledge that God delights in giving His children good things. Are we promised there will be trouble in this world? Yes we are. Jesus Himself made that promise. But we are not promised only trouble. A follower of Jesus will not have an easy life. And often God will give us the request of our prayers in a way we don’t understand at the time and may not understand until we are in heaven, if even then. But He promises that if we trust in His will, He will provide exactly what we need at the right time. That may be what we ask for here on Earth or the comfort needed in the promise of the future glory of  being with Jesus in the New Heaven and New Earth. Sometimes He won’t just give us our request in a different way than we thought, but  He will actually just say no. Like a parent who says “No” to the child who asks for candy and the parent knows the child does not need the candy. God knows your need. He richly provides. He “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us”.

Pray for boldness in sharing the gospel.

Sharing the gospel can be scary. In fact it’s way easier to find a way out of sharing than it is to find a way to share. As a follower of Jesus who would love to evangelize to be both individuals and groups, I know the fear that can come. Public speaking does not frighten may. The idea of telling a person about Jesus just out of the blue, really freaks me out. Maybe for you, public speaking isn’t your thing. Maybe you’ve been given an opportunity to share with a group of people but you’re extremely scared to stand in front of a group of people and speak.

The apostles dealt with a different type of fear. In their situation, sharing the gospel could mean being arrested or killed. It’s no wonder that they felt the need to pray for boldness.  Take a look at the situation they were dealing with as told in the book of Acts :

Peter and John Before the Council

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

The Believers Pray for Boldness

23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,[d]said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
    and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers were gathered together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed’[e]

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

A day is coming where it will be just as tough to share the gospel as it was for these believers. We have an obligation to share. But we not go boldly into the world, without prayer. No amount of music or preaching will can empower you to go into the world and preach the gospel. To be filled with Holy Spirit which results in boldness, we must pray for God to give us boldness. We know the task that must be done. Our hearts hopefully feel the conviction. What we need now is boldness. Take every opportunity for private and corporate prayer. A bold gospel-sharing soul-capturing church will first be a praying church.

Reminders from God

This Sunday, Brian is going to be teaching from the 2 Peter. In this letter, Peter is reminding the churches of things they already know about their relationship with God. 

We live in a culture that believes what is new is more morally correct. The big call is to not “be on the wrong side of history”. Of course, there are improvements that come to cultures and even God’s people have had to repent of things and change the way they believe and act. But we are in dangerous territory when we throw away the the doctrines of how holy God is, how sinful man is, and how big God’s grace is. When culture wants to make amendments to the definition of marriage, or life or wants to throw away doctrines of sexual purity or wants to distort the design of manhood and womanhood, a weakened biblical worldview will not sustain you. We need reminders. We need to spend time in God’s word. Every day we should be so prepared for the devil’s schemes we can be like Jesus in the wilderness, always having the right scripture at the right time.

 If you were at Ferris Hill on the Sunday Roy preached about the armor of God  or listened to the podcast you learned about the sword of the Spirit. The sword is God’s word. As we learned or were reminded of that day, the sword is a dagger. Being used to cut right where it needs to. The bible verses we memorize into our heart will be the sword in times of temptation. When you are tempted to give into what the world says is right, what “everyone’s” doing, be reminded of what God’s word says. When trials come as Jesus said they would when you resist the world’s ways, be reminded He has “overcome the world”.

Spend time in God’s word. Be reminded of His holiness, be reminded of your sinfulness, and be reminded of His love and grace.

 

 

 

 

Seeking Him

wise_men_still_seek_him_by_kevron2001-d5ox6fv

“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel” (Proverbs 1:5) “A wise man is strong, and a man of knowledge increases power.” (Proverbs 24:5) “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Always seeking God and His kingdom will ensure you are walking the path of an authentic follower of Christ.  The book of Timothy calls us to “Pursue righteous” this means to walk in the ways of Christ and pattern our lives after Him.  Of course we will fail for we all fall short of the glory of God, but it is the pursuit and our heart that matter to God.  The person who pleases Jesus is the one who knows he sins, admits it, repents and genuinely tries to do better.  Above all always seeking God and always seeking righteous.  Wise men seek God and righteous for the rest of their lives, it does not stop once they are saved.

Bread

 

bread

Do you ever have a time when you feel something is out of balance with your life? Something is out of sync and you can’t quite put your finger on it? When our body gets that way, we have doctors to go to who can perform tests and examinations and tell us exactly what it wrong. But when we just get to feeling a little off it is up to us to examine our lives and determine what is wrong. Just as the doctor can determine our sugar levels are off or our enzymes are out of balance and need adjustment, we can be out of adjustment with our spiritual life.

The sample prayer that Jesus gives us to pray includes: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) Yes I do believe He is referring to the bread we eat, but as I pray each day using this prayer as my guide I am mindful that our Jesus is our “bread”; “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’ (John 6:35)  He says again: “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:48) and again “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (John 6:51)

Jesus IS the bread of our lives.  He is what holds us together what bridges the gap and what fills us up.  God gave His people manna (or bread) in the desert: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you.’ (Exodus 16:4) and God gives us Jesus for our bread now for our daily consumption.  We have to grab onto Jesus and His word and cling tightly to His promises.  He loves us.  He will return for us.  He is our bread.  If we don’t feed ourselves, daily, we can find ourselves out of balance, confused, and lost. For this reason we must be sure to feed ourselves on the Bread of Life just as surely as we eat our fruits, vegetables, and cereals. Otherwise, our spiritual being will starve and be out of balance, just as easily as our body can be, if we don’t properly feed it.