Saturday, October 25, 2014

10/26- Need to forgive

10/26- Sunday (New Theme: FELLOWSHIP OF FORGIVENESS; Read LT Chapter 5) Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

Bonhoeffer: “The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner.  So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship.  We dare not be sinners.  Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous.  So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.  The fact is that we are sinners!”

Thoughts: A whole section of the forty days is devoted to forgiveness.  This is a priority for the Christian far more than the atheist, the Muslim, the Jew, the Buddhist or Hindu.  Forgiveness as a priority- even over worship and prayer- alone in the Christian tradition.   For many forgiveness doesn’t make sense.  But holding grudges or allowing yourself to be eaten up with anger or revenge is self-destructive behavior too.  Bitterness and grudge keeping hurts ourselves far more than the one who may have injured us.  Our passage reminds us that we have been forgiven by God- not because we have earned that forgiveness with right living.  In this passage even repentance is not required for forgiveness.  When someone injures you then moves away- you must forgive them not for their protection but for your own good.  The Father’s grace elicits repentance- but sometimes we may not have time to repent.  The person who is going to apologize but dies on the way is surely offered forgiveness by God.  God’s grace is amazing, and we are called to be gracious to those who do not deserve our forgiveness either.  In the end- God is glorified by His great mercy, and we are helped in our relationship with the merciful God when we join in showing forgiveness and mercy.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see how much I need your forgiveness.  Give me grace to forgive as you have forgiven me. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

October 25- Luke 22:27

10/25- Saturday Luke 22:27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Bonhoeffer: “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.  God will be constantly crossing our paths and caneling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.”

Thoughts: Jesus taught us to serve.  It is in His kindness and service that helps us to love and admire Jesus.  Jesus was different from so many other leaders in that He did not seek privilege but sought the Father and love.  Jesus, as a servant, was interrupted, torn from his own agenda and comfort, and giving toward those He sought to help.  We too should seek to not have our agenda or will done but God’s will and agenda achieved.  So we should ask not what the church can do for us, but what we can do for the church.  However, there is a ghost and hidden motivation here.  For when we serve the visible church, we are serving the invisible Lord.  The church is His body- the visible representation of the invisible Lord.  

Prayer: May my ministry today reflect your love and service.  Give me grace to treat others as you would have me treat them today.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DAY 25- The Fellowship's Task

10/24- Friday- Matthew 28:18-20 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Bonhoeffer: “We speak to one another on the basis of the help we both need.  We admonish one another to go the way that Christ bids us to go.  We warn one another against disobedience that is our common destruction.  We are gentle and we are severe with one another, for we know both God’s kindness and God’s severity…Who wants to be accountable for having been silent when he should have spoken?”

Thoughts: The fellowship does not exist to serve itself or its own comforts.  When a Christian fellowship is self-serving, then it is surely dying.  But when the fellowship seeks to serve the Lord and reach out to others with the love  and fellowship of God, then it starts bearing fruit- in the lives of the fellowship and in the lives of others outside the fellowship.  Our task is to reach out to others.  But just to invite others into the fellowship is not enough.  We are to invite them to follow the teachings of Jesus- which are found in the scriptures. 

Prayer: Jesus, give me grace to reach out in your name with your love as a witness for you. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 24- 1 Corinthians 15:58- to the work of the Lord

10/22- Wednesday 1 Corinthians 15:58  58Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Bonhoeffer: “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.  God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.”

Thoughts: The work of the Lord is the work that God brings to us.  It is not necessarily the work we plan to do.  Sometimes our problems and crosses surprise us.  Sometimes there is a need that we must attend to for the honor of God.  Whatever our call for God- planned or last minute- we should give ourselves to the work of the Lord wholeheartedly.  Many times, we must deal with evil, hurt, and heartaches that we had no intentions of handling.  Such things are our calling- but we should not be so distracted by the urgent good or the distracting evil to focus on what is most important.  The balance is to remain steadfast- giving ourselves to God’s work no matter what it is.  Sometimes the work of God is hard but the work of God has eternal rewards. 

Prayer: Help me to not grow weary or distracted in doing your work, Lord.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Day 23 Endurance in the Fellowship

10/21- Tuesday Romans 15:1-6- 1We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. 3For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. 5May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bonhoeffer- He who would learn to serve must first learn to think little of himself...It is extreme-- but we must forgo self- conceit and associate with the lowly. 

Thoughts: Part of being in the fellowship is to learn from each other.  We can learn from the failures of others, and also from the successes of others.  So Biblical literacy is important- to know the content of the Bible that we may learn from those who have gone before us- their successes and failures.  Some things we may learn from others are endurance and encouragement.  Christ, did not please himself, but endured insults for the sake of others. We can see how people persevered and were blessed and how we can encourage one another to not give up.  We should try to think of each other as Christ things of us.  We are someone for whom Christ came for and died for.  We are valuable in God’s eyes as His child.  No one should put another down, nor should they degrade or judge someone in the church.

Prayer: Lord, give me your eyes to see others as you see them.  Help me to have the grace and strength I need to treat others as you treat me.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day 22 Accept One another

10/20- Monday Romans 14:1-12 1Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. 5One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.  10You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ”12  So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
Bonhoeffer: “He who would learn to serve must first learn to think little of himself.”
Thoughts: Part of Christian fellowship is helping one another when we are weak.  Ironically, it is those who think they do not need any help that detract and can even destroy the fellowship.  The weak in this case are people who are wrapped up in rules.  This could be people who are legalistic on the right (don’t drink, smoke, chew or go with girls who do- or other traditional rules), or people on the left (you must recycle, eat right, always tolerate).  Rules are not made for ourselves as individuals but for the good of all.  So obeying rules, while not a requirement for heaven, may be helpful for the fellowship family.  While we are accountable and judged by God, we are also called to be considerate of our family.  Those who are into rule keeping must be careful not to judge those they differ with (vs. 10).   

Prayer: Lord, may my love and kindness toward others be my ministry for you this day.  

A handshake in our day of Ebola fear is a sign of acceptance and welcome.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 21- All Members of One Body

10/19- Sunday (New Theme: FELLOWSHIP AS MINISTRY; Read LT Chapter 4) Romans 12:1-8 1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with yourafaith; 7if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,b do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Bonhoeffer: “God did not make this person as I would have made him.  He did not give him to me as a brother for me to dominate and control, but in order that I might find above him the Creator.”

Thoughts: This is truly a great passage.  Ministers and teachers often divide it up and study it piecemeal.  But the progression of the thought of Paul (and leading of the Spirit) is helpful to see.  Paul had, in Romans 11 said that all those who really believe (the true Israel) will be saved and he writes a wonderful doxology in praise of God’s wisdom and riches.  Then he says the wonderful transition word “therefore.”  In view of God’s grace and mercy to save us, we should offer ourselves as living sacrifices- knowing nothing can truly harm us- and nothing can take away God’s mercy.  We do not need to be moved or molded by the ways of the world because God is merciful and will save us.  In fact, instead of being molded by the world, we should mold and shape the world bringing the kingdom from heaven to earth. 
     This is the context for Paul’s great verses on fellowship- 1) Do not think of yourself too highly- you are a part of a larger picture and a larger body.  Everyone is an important part- but we are just a part.  2) Together we make one functioning body- one moving machine.  Each of us has been given a specialty- a gift.  Whatever our passion, our talents, we should use it for the glory of God to the best of our ability.  He lists various gifts- speaking forth the Word (prophesying), being a servant to others, explaining the Word, encouraging others in their journey, giving to other people the time- talents and money we have’ leading- making a path for others to follow; being merciful and compassionate to those in need.  All of these are important gifts.  If all led we would be in trouble.  If all showed mercy and none led we would likewise be in trouble.  We need each other.  We need to work together as a body sacrificing our worldly space, time, bodies in light of God’s great love and sacrifice for us. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to respond to your love by carefully but diligently using the gift you have given me. Help me to do this in coordination, in cooperation, with the body of Christ- my fellowship.  

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to know my place and play my part.  Help me to see the importance of my part in the body of Christ, but let me understand it is YOUR body.