Fellowship – What is that?

Fellowship

In Christian circles we love to talk about fellowship.  When we announce church events, we often try to encourage everyone to attend by talking about the opportunity we will have to “have fellowship with one another.”  There is the weekly/monthly/annual fellowship meal.

Fellowship 2

And, of course, when summer comes we often have the church picnic.

Church picnic

Most every church has a fellowship hall.

fellowship hall

Or, a coffee bar.

coffee bar

According to Webster’s dictionary fellowship is:

a community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience; meaningful communication for building trust and fellowship

While this definition could be used for activities not related to church, we usually do not hear the secular world using this term.  When was the last time your coworkers invited you to join them after work at the local bar or restaurant so you could have “fellowship?”  When was the last time your boss offered a fellowship meal for the employees?

In the church world, we love this word.  But what do we really mean when we use this word?  What does the Bible mean when it uses this word?

The Greek word used in the Bible  for fellowship is “koinonia.”  It is usually translated in English to “communion,” “fellowship,” “sharing in common” and “partake.”  The Apostle John wrote a lot of fellowship in his epistle 1 John.  After recently doing a study on that book, I have come to believe we use the word “fellowship” too often and too lightly.  As I read what John had to say about this word, I realize that Biblical fellowship is more than just an informal social gathering.  It is more than just sharing an interest or having meaningful communication with others.

In the New Testament this word for fellowship is translated many different ways.  Its first appearance is in Acts 2:42

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

In his letter to the church at Corinth the Apostle Paul used the word in a slightly different way.

They will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution (koinonia) for them and for all others.

Then when Paul wrote to the church at Philippi he again used this word with a slightly different meaning.

That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share (koinonia) his sufferings, becoming like him in his death

Just as we lose some of the meaning of the word “love” when it is translated from Greek to English, I think we have lost some of the true sense the word “fellowship” carries.  Looking at just these three scriptures it appears what the Bible means by “fellowship” involves a relationship between God and other believers.  A relationship that is more than friendly words spoken over a common meal.  It involves identifying with the sufferings of Christ (and of others).  It is real participation in the lives of others rather than just an association with them.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ

John shared the good news that He had seen Jesus, been with Him, heard His teachings and he shared that good news so fellow believers  could have fellowship with John.  But he based that fellowship he wanted to share with others on his relationship with God.

 

Many Christians have concentrated on their fellowship with others.  They emphasize the need for fellowship dinners, the church gatherings, the social interaction with one another, but they leave out the importance of a close relationship with God.  This can lead to the church being nothing more than a social club.

On the other hand, many Christians concentrate on their fellowship with God.  They isolate themselves with their Bible, their prayers and their own personal relationship.  They have little interaction with other Christians, often saying “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.”

But John tells us in order to be the Christian God desires us to be we need both vertical and horizontal fellowship.

Relationaships

Only as we begin to have more than just a social interaction with others, to really weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, will we experience that fellowship God intended for the church.

Only as we spend time drawing closer to God and allowing His word, His spirit to direct our lives will we experience that fellowship God desires for us.

So, I ask you:

How’s your relationship with other Christians?  Do you have any fellowship, any bonds with other beleivers?

How’s your relationship with God?  Are you taking the time to grow in your relationship with Him?

We have often heard the expression, “You can’t have it both ways.”  But in this instance, I think it is true, “You must have it both ways.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Little Word “If”

If

Definition of if

a – in the event that
b – allowing that
c – on the assumption that
d – on condition that
Doing a study on 1 John in the Bible, I noticed how many times John used the word “if.”  That started me thinking about all the “ifs” in the Word of God.  It seems to me that there are many promises of God that we claim without taking into account the “if” that is associated with it.
It is clear that we can never earn our salvation.  We can never do enough good on our own to earn that gift of eternal life.  John 3:16 makes it clear that if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, he grants us forgiveness and eternal life.  Paul the Apostle also stated very plainly in Ephesians 2:8-9 that:
 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
But once we begin that walk with the Lord, it is clear that if our relationship is to grow and we are to develop as true disciples, there are conditions to be met.
The “ifs” seem to indicate that there is something required from us.  How we respond to these “ifs” will determine our receiving from God what He has offered.
Here are just a few for you to consider:

For IF you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you…Matthew 6:14

forgiveness

We talk a lot about how God forgives us if we ask.  But we must remember that forgiveness is tied to our forgiving others.

IF you are faithful to what I have said, you are truly my disciples…John 8:31

OObeying Word

So — if we are not faithful to God’s Word, how can we claim to be His disciple?  And how can we be faithful to His Word, if we never read it, never study it, never really know what it says?

 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, IF you love one another…John 13:35

 

One another

Interesting – the mark of a disciple according to Jesus is not all the great sacrifices we might make, the many talents we might use, but the love that we have for others.

IF anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him and We will come to him and make Our abode with him…John 14:23

obeying

We love to talk about desiring the presence of the Lord in our life, in our family, in our church.  Many of our worship songs are all about how much we love God.  But again, that big little word “if” says we only really love God and we only can expect His presence, if we keep His Word.

One of the biggest IF’s I think is found in Matthew 16:24

IF anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.

cross

Again, we love to talk about our commitment to Christ, but we are only committed when we truly deny our-self, take up the cross and follow Christ.  The idea about a cross is really lost to most in our society.  To us a cross is a decoration on the wall of the church or on the steeple.  It is a piece of jewelry we wear or hang on the wall of our home.  But to the society to which Jesus spoke these words, the cross represented death.  To truly follow Jesus requires a willingness to die to our own desires and be led by Him.

But one of the greatest “ifs” in the Bible is found in Revelation when Jesus said

Behold I stand at the door and knock.  IF anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and sup with him.

jesus_christ_image_117

What a great promise!  To open the door – to invite Him into our life, that is all we have to do and He will be glad to come in, to have a relationship with us.  Notice that we are the ones to open the door.  He is a gentleman and does not force Himself on us.  But he extends that wonderful invitation.

If you have not done so, I encourage you to open the door.

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Persecuted?

It’s that time of year again!!!!

Temperatures are dropping as the leaves on the trees also fall to earth.  Clocks have been set back an hour and the evenings get dark so much earlier than before.  In the stores some are already putting up Christmas decorations, even playing Christmas music.  Many of my friends love this time and think it is never too early to begin playing Christmas music.  Others feel we should at least get through Thanksgiving before playing the carols.

And the annual debate begins again!

Is it:

mc

OR is it:

thCAGYR1QJ

NO – this post is not about that.  

I have written plenty about that in the past.  Let’s not beat a dead horse.  If you really want to know what I think about that debate you can visit my earlier posts on the subject.

Do we “Keep Christ in Christmas” or “Keep Christmas in Christ?”

But every year as I hear how Christians in America are being persecuted I hear things like:

  • People are saying “Happy Holidays” to me instead of  “Merry Christmas.”
  • They have taken prayer out of the schools (I think the Bible is clear prayer belongs in the home and I always wonder if those complaining about no prayer in the schools actually pray with their children at home).
  • They want to take “In God we trust” off our money.  Is your trust in God based on  having that on your money?  (And who uses money anyway these days.)

But is this really persecution?

Let me share some real persecution that is happening around the world.

  • There are reports from North Korea of forced starvation of Christians and forced abortion. Some Christians have been hung on crosses over fire, and others have been crushed by steamrollers. Protestants and Catholics are ranked among those least sympathetic to the state, which limits their access to food, education, and health care. Christianity is linked with American influence, and Christians are executed as spies.
  • In Sudan, the government’s pursuit of an extremist Islamist agenda led to orders to tear down Christian churches. Christians are arrested for alleged proselytism, and women face fines for wearing “obscene” or immodest dress. The government stripped citizenship rights of people with origins outside Sudan, leading many to leave for their ancestral homelands in South Sudan. Many had lived in their homes for three decades or more.
  • In Pakistan, banned fundamentalist cells pose a great threat to Christians, but some charge that the government’s failure to crack down on these groups worsens the problem of violence. On Easter Sunday 2016 as many as 24 Christians were killed in targeted violence in Lahore. A faction of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • Christians in Egypt suffered a major suicide bombing attack in December 2016 and again on Palm Sunday in April 2017. Dozens were killed and more injured in both attacks, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.
Marks of Christ

Here’s what real persecution looks like!

If you want to know the story of this smiling young man check out my post from last year:

“Miracle Boy”

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

Still feeling persecuted?

As we enter into the holiday season and begin decorating our homes, buying presents, planning parties and family events and baking dozens and dozens of cookies, I want to challenge you to spent some time thinking of those who are really being persecuted for their faith.  Let’s follow the apostle Paul’s admonition and

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

My prayer is that all my readers will have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and friends enjoying all the blessings we have as Christians in the United States, but that you will also take some time to remember those who are really being persecuted for Christ.

 

 

Can I Get An Amen?

blessings

Thank God for music!

I love music!  My best times of devotion are when I listen first to a praise song and sit and meditate on God’s presence before I pick up my Bible or my devotional book.  In times of great joy or great sorrow in my life I have often gone to my piano and played a song expressing that joy, that sorrow.

One of my favorite musical groups is Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.  This morning listening to one of their songs, “So You Would Know,” once again my mind roamed back to all the times God has been there for me in times of great sorrow or tragedy.

Thank God for help in times of great need!

I have shared in other blogs many of those times God helped!

The Day That Changed My Life

Coincidence or An Act of God?

I’m thankful for those times when God’s presence and help were so needed – and He was there.  Those times when I was weak and He carried me.  Those nights when he wiped my tears away.  Those times when pain racked my body and He sent healing down to me.

When you walked on this problem
Didn’t I step right in on time
When you got weak along life’s journey
My angel carried you

When the pains were racking your body
Didn’t I send a healing down to you

How many days must I be a fence all around you
How many nights must I wipe your tears away
How many storms must I bring you safely through
For you to know just how much I love you

Thank God for the everyday blessings!

However, while I thank God for help in difficult times, sometimes I forget to thank Him for day-to-day blessings, the many things I take for granted.

Didn’t I wake you up this morning
Were you clothed in your right mind
Didn’t I put food on your able
Show UP! when your bills were due

So today I thank God

  • that I woke up this morning still in my “right mind.”  (And at my age, that is a blessing!)
  • that I was able to walk all by myself
  • that I was able to see the colorful fall trees
  • that I was able to hear as I watched the news and now as I listen to the music
  • that I had plenty of food to choose from for breakfast:  bagels, cereal, bacon and eggs
  • that I had a hot cup of coffee waiting for me fixed by my loving husband (and at our age, to still have my husband alive and well is a blessing!)
  • that I have a warm house and warm clothes as these fall days turn colder
  • that while I am not rich by any means, all my bills are paid
  • that I have clean, running water

And the list could go on and on.  Things I just take for granted.  Things that a majority of the world does not have.

Today can I get an Amen?

I want to encourage anyone who reads this to take a few minutes to think about all the things God has blessed you with.  And recognize how many times we complain about our very blessings.

  • We complain about our “busy” schedules instead of thanking God for the children we have or the friends we have that take up so much of our time.  That we have a house to clean or a grocery store and money to buy food for our family.
  • We complain about the weather instead of thanking God for the air conditioning and heating that makes life so comfortable on those hot or freezing cold days.
  • We complain about our jobs instead of thanking God that we have employment (if we are still young enough to work) OR
  • We complain about our aches and pains and loss of energy as we age in retirement instead of thanking God that we have lived long enough to be retired.

Thank God for the greatest gift of all!

But the greatest blessing in my life is not that He delivered me from cancer, He strengthened me when my husband died or all the material blessings He has given me.  The greatest blessing is that as a young child He helped me to see my need of Him and to understand how much He loves me.

When you were lost in sin and sorrow
I died to set you free
So you would know just how much I love you

Can I get an Amen?

Join with me in praising God today for His blessings – both the BIG ones in times of GREAT need but also the EVERY DAY blessings we take for granted.  And as you count your blessings, let it be a reminder of HOW MUCH GOD LOVES YOU!!!

 

Am I Really Desperate?

desparate

I’m desperate! Or, am I?

In Sunday’s worship we sang a Michael W Smith song entitled “Breathe.”  This is a song I love.

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me

And I –  I’m desperate for you
And I –  I’m lost without you

When I hear it I sometimes become quite emotional.  Tears may fill my eyes and my heart is filled with a great longing and love for the Lord.  Memories will flood my mind as I remember all the times I was desperate for the Lord – and He was there.

  • When my parents were divorced
  • When my husband was killed in an accident
  • When my grandchildren died
  • When my husband had a heart attack
  • When I was diagnosed with cancer

Oh yes, I was desperate then!

But as I sang that song Sunday, I questioned myself.  Am I only desperate for the presence of the Lord when I am in a crisis?  And, if so, is that really being desperate for the Lord – or desperate for Him to help me?

The dictionary says the word desperate means

feeling, showing, or involving a hopeless sense that a situation is so bad as to be impossible to deal with.

With that definition I was desperate in those situations because they seemed hopeless and impossible to deal with.  That is why my eyes often feel with tears and a great sense of love for God fills my heart because I remember how He was there in those times of desperation.

But as I listen to those words, I think am I desperate for God for more than just deliverance from a hopeless situation?  Do I really realize how desperate my life would be without His presence – not just in difficult situations but in every day, every aspect of my life?  Do I really grasp how much I need Him?

Does my daily actions reveal my need for Him?  Questions run through my mind:

  • How much time do I spend seeking His presence?
  • How much time do I study His Word to know His will in my life?

It’s easy to sing how lost I would be without Him in church on Sunday morning surrounded by fellow believers.  But the question really is:   Does my life Monday through Saturday reflect that sense of need for Him?

May I like the Psalmist truly say:

I am always aware of the Lord‘s presence;
    he is near, and nothing can shake me.

May I like the Psalmist truly say:

As a deer longs for a stream of cool water,
    so I long for you, O God.

May I truly be desperate for God not in the sense of wanting someone to help me out of a difficult situation – but desperate in the awareness of how truly lost I would be without His presence.

All those “One anothers”

One another

 

 

 

 

I have been planning with some of the women in my church for a game night.  Just a time for us to get together and have fun with one another getting to know each other better.

  • Not a time of Bible study
  • Not a time to do a service project
  • Not a time to fix a meal for the church
  • Not a time to “do” anything

Just a time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

So many times when we go to church (or to any other type of meeting) we sit in our same spot, talk to those who sit near us or who are in our small circle of friends and only give a nod and “hi” or “how are you” to the rest.  We know each other’s names, but do we really know each other?  I must confess that after attending my church for almost three years (and it is a small church) there are a couple of women whose name I still do not know.  At this point, I’m embarrassed to ask them their name, to admit that I have been attending church with them week after week and I don’t even know their name.

We can get so busy with our own concerns and often our prayers consist of “bless me, my four and no more.”  It’s not that we are selfish people.  It’s not that we don’t love others.  It’s just when we know people only by their face and their name and little more, it becomes harder to remember to pray for them, to be concerned for them.  We have no idea what their needs might be.

This month I have asked God to help me be more aware of those around me and not so consumed with my own issues.  I have asked God to help me see people not just as the lady who sits behind me in church or the woman who checks me out at the grocery store, but a person who, just like me, may be tired, sick, worried and could use a smile and a friend.

Looking at the Word of God, I see how important the Lord felt those “others” should be to me.

There are 59 “One Anothers” in the New Testament.

1. “…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)

2. “…Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)

3. “…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

4. “…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

5. “…Love one another…” (John 13:35)

6. “…Love one another…” (John 15:12)

7. “…Love one another” (John 15:17)

8. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)

9. “…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

10. “Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16)

11. “…Love one another…” (Romans 13:8)

12. “…Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)

13. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7)

14. “…Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)

15. “Greet one another with a holy kiss…” (Romans 16:16)

16. “…When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)

17. “…Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)

18. “…Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)

19. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)

20. “…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

21. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

22. “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)

23. “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)

24. “…Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

25. “Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32)

26. “…Forgiving each other…” (Ephesians 4:32)

27. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)

28. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

29. “…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

30. “Do not lie to each other…” (Colossians 3:9)

31. “Bear with each other…” (Colossians 3:13)

32. “…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)

33. “Teach…[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)

34. “…Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

35. “…Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)

36. “…Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)

37. “…Encourage each other…”(I Thessalonians 4:18)

38. “…Encourage each other…” I Thessalonians 5:11)

39. “…Build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)

40. “Encourage one another daily…” Hebrews 3:13)

41. “…Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

42. “…Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

43. “…Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)

44. “Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9)

45. “Confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16)

46. “…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)

47. “…Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)

48. “…Live in harmony with one another…” (I Peter 3:8)

49. “…Love each other deeply…” (I Peter 4:8)

50. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)

51. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” (I Peter 4:10)

52. “…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”(I Peter 5:5)

53. “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)

54. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:11)

55. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:23)

56. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:7)

57. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:11)

58. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:12)

59. “…Love one another.” (II John 5)

John apparently really thought the most important “one another” was love as he kept saying it in two of his letters.    In his gospel he also told us that Jesus said

They will know you are my disciples if you have love one to another

Interesting that the mark of a disciple was not now much scripture you could quote or how much money you gave or any of the many things we often judge others by – but by love.

My goal is to put these “one anothers”  where I can see them each day and then ask God to help me truly keep these “one anothers.”

How about you?  Want to join me in this?

 

 

 

 

Who reads the church’s bulletin?

bulleti

I do the weekly church bulletin and monthly newsletter for my church.  It is a job that I take seriously.  Each week I try to promote the various programs of my church, enlist volunteers as needed and share words that I hope will encourage and challenge our church family.

My husband helps greet and pass out the bulletins each week.  I notice basically three groups of people who are offered a bulletin.  One group seems happy to get it, opens it and reads it.  Sometimes they even tell me how they enjoy the bulletins.  Another group takes one but clearly just puts it in their purse or bible to be discarded without actually reading.  A small group even refuses one clearly not interested in anything that might be in the bulletin.  While I am do not mind people not taking or not reading the bulletin, I just find it interesting that later many will say they did not know about an event coming up that was in the bulletin.

Since we do not take a lot of time from our worship or sharing of the Word to make announcements, my pastor has tried to encourage those who do not read the bulletin to begin using it so they are better informed about what is going on in the church.  To encourage this, he has offered to give $5.00 to anyone who finds a typo in the bulletin.  Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I strive to make sure there are no typos.

However, last week I made a mistake in announcing a women’s event.  I listed the event as being on Saturday rather than Friday.  One of our young girls spotted the mistake (for which I am grateful so we did not have people missing on Friday and showing up on Saturday) and claimed the $5.00.

This started me thinking about all the bulletin bloopers I have seen over the years.  As one who has done bulletins for years, I tend to spot mistakes in church bulletins when I visit other churches.  I have collected some of the funniest and I thought you might enjoy a good laugh so I will share a few.

DISCLAIMER:  Not all of these are ones I personally saw – several are ones that have been posted in other blogs and articles.  I do not mean to plagiarize but since I do not know who to give credit for the ones that are not my own originals, please let me know if you know who should be given credit for these.

Enjoy and have a laugh!

laughing

Oh – yeah — and if you go to church, read your bulletin!

  1. For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery down stairs.
  2. Thursday night: Potluck Supper – Prayer and medication will follow.
  3. Evening massage – 6 p.m.
  4. Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 to 8:30 p.m. Please use the back door.
  5. Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It is a good chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
  6. The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.
  7. The ‘Over 60s Choir’ will be disbanded for the summer with the thanks of the entire church.
  8. Applications are now being accepted for 2 year-old nursery workers.
  9. A new loudspeaker system has been installed in the church. It was given by one of our members in honor of his wife.