Wednesday, October 1, 2014

10/2/14- Day 5 40 Days of Fellowship Strengthen Others

10/2- Thursday- Luke 22:32- But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

Bonhoeffer “We enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients…we do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us.”

Thoughts: I like Simon Peter for he succeeds with gusto calling Jesus “the Christ the Son of the living Lord” and he fails with gusto- not wanting Jesus to go to the cross in his next statement (to which Jesus said “get behind me Satan!).  He gets out of the boat in gusto but sinks in the waves in fear.  He claims to follow Christ anywhere but then denies Jesus three times.  But Jesus was always praying for him- as He prays for us.  Jesus knows when we will fail him and when we will come back.  His advice to Peter was that when he came back to “strengthen your brothers.”  Peter answered this call, and led the early church in encouragement.  This is our call as well- to not just strengthen myself- but in love to strengthen the brothers and sisters of our fellowship. 

Prayer: Lord save me from myself that I may be used by you.  Help me to strengthen others with the strength and grace you give me.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

10-1 Forty Days of Fellowship Day 4

10/1- Wednesday- Matthew 23:8- "Don't let anyone call you 'Rabbi,' for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. (NLT)

Bonhoeffer: “Only he who gives thanks for little things receives big things.”

Thoughts: To join a fellowship is to humble yourself.  We do not come to church to be honored.  The natural pull of humans is to seek human acclaim, approval, and greatness.  But to be great in God’s kingdom we must learn to serve.  Worship is a service to God.  It is giving our time and attention to Him, acknowledging that we need more of Him in our lives.  The beautiful thing about the early church, and the beautiful thing about church in general is that we are all equal.  In the early church there were people of tremendous wealth from Caesar’s household, and next to them slaves who had nothing.  But they were all one in Christ.  All we have is a gift from God to be received with thanksgiving.  The fellowship is a place to join together in thanksgiving to our Lord who provides life and teaches us to love each other as brothers and sisters- irrespective of worldly status.  Death is said to be the great equalizer, but the real equalizer is the God who made us.  This God joins us as brothers and sisters to each other- binding us with the tie of love that binds us to God and to each other.  

Prayer: Lord, as I see how great you are, I am reminded of my own smallness and need for others.  Let me live a life seeking thanksgiving instead of self-praise. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

40 Days day 3 Malachi 3:16

9/30- Tuesday- Malachi 3:16- Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

Bonhoeffer: “It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament.”

Thoughts: When we talk together, the Lord listens.  This is the beauty of the fellowship: where two or three gather, there He is. Jesus said if we agree on earth it will be done by my Father in heaven (Mt. 18:18-20).  God does not want us alone in silence all the time- with a TV, computer, IPAD, tablet, or cell phone. These are helpful tools, but they can never take the place of fellowship.  These are like eating fellowship junk food.  Junk food may help you in a crunch but it can never replace a nutritious meal.  Seek a small group where you can talk together- it may be choir, or working at GOoDWorks, or a committee, or a circle, Bible study, or Sunday School.  Be in a place where you can share and hear- and God will be there too.

Prayer: Lord, thank you that you listen and hear us.  Thank you for your love and the promises of care for us.  

Kickoff Celebration LMPC Sunday night

9/29- 40 DAYS DAY 2- Ps. 119:63

9/29- Monday- Psalm 119:63 I am united with all who fear you, and with everyone who keeps your precepts. (ISV)

Bonhoeffer Quote: “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ.  No Christian community is more or less than this.” 

Thoughts: There is a “tie that binds” in love with God.  It is like a triangle with God at the top and us at the bottom.  The closer we get to God the closer we get to each other.  When we are on the same path together, there is fellowship.  Fellowship is a way.  It is a way of faith and it is a way of living.  If we took Jesus Christ out of our church, we would not just have a missing ingredient- we would wither on the vine.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  But it is this respect for God and His Word that brings a common focus in the fellowship. Jesus Christ creates the church, and He sustains it.  He gives us faith and He calls us to unite together in respect and honor of Him.  The English “worship” comes from the old English “worthy-ship.”  He is worthy of our respect and listening. 

Prayer: In the busy-ness of life, help me to respect you above myself.  Give me listening ears.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

9/28/14 Life Together: Forty Days of Fellowship Day 1

For the next forty days, the theme of this devotional on faith, hope, and love will be on Fellowship.  We will as always have scripture, thought, and prayer but add a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book, "Life Together."  

FORTY DAYS OF FELLOWSHIP IN THE FALL- LIFE TOGETHER  9/28- 11/5  Theme: Hebrews 10:24,25
9/28- Unity in Community
10/5- Fellowship with Others
10/12- Fellowship with God
10/19- Fellowship as Ministry
10/26- Fellowship of Forgiveness
11/2- Kirkin of the Tartan- Communion of the Saints
9/28- Sunday- (Theme: “UNITY IN COMMUNITY”- Read “Life Together Intro and Chapter 1)
Hebrews 10:24-25 24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. 

Bonhoeffer Quote:”The prisoner, the sick person, the Christian in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God…but if there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter of brother with brother, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God’s will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians!”

Thoughts: Fellowship is intended to stimulate us to do good and to love.  There are people who in church who inspire us by their quiet, steady, kind and godly ways.  There are also people who sharpen us as iron sharpens iron.  This passage is a clear call, encouragement, and imperative to not forsake gathering together.  Even in the early church, some “got out of the habit” of going and stayed in the “habit” of not going.  Just being together in worship of the Lord- no matter how bad the sermon, how off key the music, how irritating the announcement- just gathering is a huge encouragement in and of itself.   I believe this passage is indicating that when times are especially evil and dark it is that much more important to gather together. 
    Bonhoeffer in his book speaks of the need to be “face to face.”  He mentions Paul’s longing to see Timothy face to face (2 Tim. 1:4), and longing to see the face of believers in Thessalonia (1 Th. 3:10).  Clearly those restricted from worship by sickness, prison, persecution or exile long for the presence and we should not take that for granted. 

Prayer: Lord, stimulate me, encourage me to love you and neighbor more.  Call me out of myself to join others in the harmony of worship.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

9-27-14 Ephesians

1“To the angela of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Thoughts: There are some who see the seven churches as representative of seven ages in church history.  But nowhere in the text itself does it indicate that this is the way we should interpret these texts.  The seven churches are seven real locations in Asia Minor- and places that John had visited.  In some ways, these are the most practical verses of the whole book.  We can learn from the examples and mistakes of these churches in our own day.
     The church in Ephesus worked hard and persevered under persecution.  It was in Ephesus that Paul was arrested. The rioters shouted, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians- for the Temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the world.  The Ephesians were also good and commended for guarding the faith and not tolerating heretics and wicked people.  Paul had warned them to "keep watch over the flock" (Acts 20:28).  However, their love and enthusiasm for Christ had grown cold.  Their call by God was to repent and do the things they did at first.  What were these things?  Acts tells us they burned millions of dollars worth of sorcery scolls and magical charms.  We are called by this passage to evaluate our love for Christ and see how it compares to our love when we first believed.  

Prayer: Lord, may my love for you be renewed and grow stronger instead of fading with time. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Revelation 1 9-26-14

17When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
19“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angelse of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Revelation 1)

Thoughts: The key to interpreting this book is found in 1:19.  He is writing about two things- what he sees now and what will take place later.  So some of what John sees pertains to the Roman empire period, and some of it pertains to the end of the world.  It implies there are similarities between the Roman time and the time of the end.  If you stand on top of Mt. Mitchell- the highest mountain in the Appalachians, and look east on a clear day, you can see Charlotte- about 100 miles away.  It may seem that this big city is closer than it really is- and that one mountain a mile away is close to the city a hundred miles away.  Prophecy may seem to merge the near present to the far future.  At no time does this imply there is no future/predictive/supernatural element to these words of prophecy that are to be sealed up for later.  Yet there is also a present meaning for John and his colleagues. 

Prayer: Lord, give me grace to not add anything or take away anything from your Word.  Rather, Help me to listen to its present and its future.