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.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Day 20- The Hope of Fellowship

10/18- Saturday Rev. 21:3,4 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Bonhoeffer: “He will send the shy to show He can speak through anyone…the struggle of the natural man [is] for self-justification.  They find it through comparing themselves to others, and condemning and judging others.  Self-justification and judging go together.” 

Thoughts: God dwells with us now.  But when the will of God is totally fulfilled He will dwell with His people face to face.  Now we see through a mirror dimly- but then face to face.  At the end of life it will be clear that God is a God of presence, of grace, and of love.  All the doubts will fly away when we see God face to face.  Death will end.  It is God’s will that death will one day come to an end.  It is God’s will that evil, hurt, and harm will one day end.  It is God’s will that sadness will stop.  It is God’s will that one day pain will hurt us no more.  This life and its pain, death, sadness will not go on forever.  God puts an end to the heartaches of life.  The hope of the fellowship unites the fellowship.  Our hope is to work for what will last and to be on the side that works to end pain with healing; to end sadness with comfort; to end evil with good; to end aloneness with fellowship and love. There is a hope involved in Christian fellowship unlike any other hope in the world.  It is the hope of eternal love, eternal fellowship, and eternal life. 

Prayer: May I never lose sight of the hope of your conquering the sadness found in this life, 

Together forever- 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day 19- Forty Days of Fellowship; 10-16-14

10/17- Friday Psalm 5:4-8, 11- 4For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
with you, evil people are not welcome. 5The arrogant cannot stand in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong; 6you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful
you, Lord, detest. 7But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple. 8Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make your way straight before me. 11But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Bonhoeffer: “Repeatedly in Psalm 5 there are two voices, bringing the same concern to God. Is this not a hint that one who prays never prays alone?”

Thoughts: To be able to downplay evil as if it does not matter what we do is to miss the importance of the holiness of God.  Some things do not please God.  Which things?  God, as the Creator, has the right to decide what is wicked and what is good.  The things that go along with His design and His creation are good.  The bloodthirsty who kill thinking they are doing good- think ISIS- are wrong.  The lying and deceiving who try to disguise the reality of life in order to achieve more selfishness are wrong.  But it is by God’s great love that we are brought into fellowship with Him.  It is by God’s great love that we know we should be reverent and humble before Him instead of arrogant and selfish.  The prayer is that God will lead us in His way of fellowship and love because there are those who would persecute or make fun of those who would try to be selfless instead of selfish.  There are the arrogant who would use their power to overwhelm the weak and humble.  The two voices Bonhoeffer describes are the “I” and the “we.”  No individual prays apart from the fellowship.  The selfless are never alone.

Prayer: Lord, as I give myself to you and others, may I find that you are there with me and others are as well. 

Crowd cheering a racer on. 
The Fellowship cheers us on the straight and narrow path to the finish line.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Day 18- Devotion as a Part of Fellowship

10/16- Thursday- Psalm 73:25-27 25Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.26My flesh and my heart may fail,  but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Bonhoeffer: “The Psalter is the great school of prayer. Here we learn first what prayer means…second what we should pray…and third teach us to pray as a fellowship.”

Thoughts: This verse defines devotion.  The heart of the Psalmist is devoted, dedicated, and focused on God.  To the writer, God is more important than anything or anyone in heaven or on earth.  Jesus said is like this, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things shall be added to you.”   Moses put it like this, “You shall have no other gods before me.”  But this is not an imperative or a command but a heart speaking in love.  If we really focus on the love and care of God all other desires may fade.  To the secular everything is god but God, and all the distractions of life come before the Creator and all-important purpose-giver in life.  God’s love is greater than any human love. God’s grace is better than any human graciousness. God’s hope is unlimited compared to any human hope.  God’s strength is Almighty compared to the mightiest ruler or strongest human.  He is worthy of all our love- heart, mind, soul, strength.  If we can say this kind of love is our goal, our fellowship with both God and each other will be increased and blessed.

Prayer: May my heart be as your heart. May my heart be yours.  May my love be one with your love, and may my love not be distracted by anything else.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Day 18- 10/15/14 1 John 1 Test of Fellowship

10/15- Wednesday- 3We 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. 4We write this to make oura joy complete.  5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:3-7)

Bonhoeffer: “Every day brings to the Christian many hours in which he will be alone in an unchristian environment. These are the times of testing.  This is the test of true meditation and true Christian community.”

Thoughts: You will face a test today of your faith.  You will face a decision to walk with God in the light or to leave God behind and go your own way.  Do not lie to yourself and say your behavior doesn’t matter as long as you have faith.  Do not abuse God’s grace by purposefully deciding now to give into your temptation or rationalizing it away.  Walk by faith- trust in God.  If you take a risk and do what is right in your day, you will experience a deep blessing and fellowship with the Lord.  The joy of the Christian fellowship is made more complete when you are deciding to do the right thing for the glory of God- even in tough circumstances.  You are then being a light- shining the light of Jesus which is the light of the fellowship. How deep the light of fellowship you have with God and the fellowship of believers shows in how you handle facing the darkness.  

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to not hide my light but to walk in your light- being a light