Friday, October 31, 2014

11/1- Forgiveness and All Saints

11/1- Saturday  Luke 23:34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Bonhoeffer: “Anybody who has once been horrified by the dreadfulness of his own sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross will no longer be horrified by even the rankest sins of a brother.  Looking at the Cross of Jesus, he knows the human heart.  He knows how utterly lost it is in sin and weakness…and he also knows that it is accepted in grace and mercy.”

Thoughts: This is just an amazing statement.  In some ways those who crucified Christ knew they were doing wrong.  Jesus was an innocent man (declared so by Pilate the judge).  Yet they perhaps did not fully know the evil they were doing.  In some ways, we never understand the full implications of the evil we do.  The ripples in the stream run wide and long.  The gracious thing is that God is able to forgive more evil than we can comprehend.  The amazing thing is that Jesus is willing to do this work of forgiveness even in the midst of our giving him torture and pain and sorrow.
       The communion of the saints is possible because of the grace and forgiveness of Christ  On this All Saints Day, we recognize that we will be with all the saints in heaven not because we deserve and earned our way there, but because He forgave us.  The great news is that Christ forgives us even when we know what we are doing- as long as we look to Him in faith to forgive us.  He also forgives us when we do not realize the full extent of our sin.  It is because He forgives that we can be one with each other.  It is His forgiveness that elicits forgiveness from us.  

Prayer: Lord, may I follow your wonderful example of forgiveness.  May I believe in the power to forgive.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

10/31- Forgiving the Unthinkable

10/31- Friday Genesis 45:5-15 5“Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6“For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8“Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9“Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, “God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10“You shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have. 11“There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, and you and your household and all that you have would be impoverished.”’ 12“Behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth which is speaking to you. 13“Now you must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and all that you have seen; and you must hurry and bring my father down here.” 14Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. 15He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.

Bonhoeffer: “Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception.  A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person…In the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.

Thoughts: Joseph brought back the sin of his brothers.  He did not ignore it.  The mere mention that “You sold me here” (vs. 5) is a reminder that they had sold their brother as a slave.  But God is able to turn evil into good.  But turning evil into good is not complete unless there is also forgiveness.  It is not that the wrong done against their brother didn’t matter.   It is that God can turn evil into blessing and salvation.  When we admit our sin in the presence of our brother/sister we are allowing blessing to be given in the face of wrong.  When we forgive our brother or sister who would sell us away or get rid of us- then we are the ones who are a blessing- as Joseph was to his brothers.

Prayer: Lord, turn the evil once more into good- as you did the cross into the resurrection.  Give me grace to forgive the evil and to be made whole.   

Extra Thoughts: On this Halloween Day- The brothers thought they had seen a ghost when Joseph revealed himself to them.  They thought he was dead and gone.  Joseph was not one to haunt them, but one who saw this as an opportunity to help them and forgive them.  This was grace spurred by faith in a gracious God who Joseph knew rescued him time and again.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

10/30- Turning the Cheek

10/30- Thursday 1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

 Bonhoeffer: “In confession occurs the break-through to the Cross.  The root of all sin is pride: ‘I want to be my own law, I have a right to my self, my hatred and my desires, my life and my death…Jesus Christ was not ashamed to be crucified for us as an evildoer.  It is nothing else but our fellowship with Jesus Christ that leads us to the ignominious dying that comes in confession, in order that we may in truth share in his Cross.  The Cross of Jesus Christ destroys all pride.”

Thoughts: The Bible at one point speaks of fairness- “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”  This command was given so that we do not take revenge too far- “two eyes for one eye or a life for a tooth.”  As someone said, “The problem with this idea of fairness is that we will all end up blind and toothless.”  Fairness is good, but forgiveness is best.  The turning of the other cheek is found in these verses in 1 Peter.   When we are degraded or cut down by another, let us seek to encourage.  This is harder than it looks on the surface.  There are always bullies.  Bullies in a place of authority or who use their office to put down others is hard to swallow.  For Christians, this is not just a good idea.  It is a hope.  God sees us when others persecute us or torture us and He rewards those who are a blessing in the face of such torment.  This does not just involve some kind of selfish idea of reward- but it involves the idea that in the end good will win.  It takes this confidence and faith to really consistently turn the other cheek.  The confidence that good will win is not just wishful or positive thinking – it is a tenure of faith in a good God who created all goodness and will bless those who are a blessing.   

Prayer:  Give me confidence in you, Lord, that I may have the grace to repay evil with good today.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

10/29- Ephesians 4:32

10/29- Wednesday Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Bonhoeffer: “Since the confession of sin is made in the presence of a Christian brother, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned. The sinner surrenders; he gives up all his evil.  He gives his heart to God, and he finds the forgiveness of all his sin in the fellowship of Jesus Christ and his brother.

Thoughts: Assurance of forgiveness is found when we receive kindness and compassion that we do not deserve.  Assurance that we have been restored into fellowship is found in the relationship we have with others and with Jesus Christ.  Making excuses and justifying our selves breaks the fellowship with others and turns us inward in pride.  It is Christike to be kind and compassionate.  It is Christlike to forgive.  Without forgiveness three is no hope of restoration in any relationship- a friendship, a marriage, a community, a group or a church.  Forgiveness also keeps us from being stuck in bitterness, anger, grudges or the past sins of others or of ourselves.  Christ desires freedom from sin, and this comes  only from forgiveness.

Prayer: Give me grace to follow in your footsteps.  Thank you for your forgiveness offered through the cross and on the cross.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

10/28- Answering God's Call

10/28- Tuesday 1 Corinthians 4:12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;

Bonhoeffer:”Prayer should not be hindered by work, but neither should work be hindered by prayer…Work plunges the Christian in the world of impersonal things- ‘the it.’ …The breakthrough is made [when] the unity of prayer and work, the unity of the day is discovered.  For to find, back of the “it” of the day’s work, the “Thou,” which is God, is what Paul calls ‘praying without ceasing.’

Thoughts: We do not leave our faith behind at the door to the sanctuary.  The way we answer our calling is important.  If you are a student- do your work to the best of your ability.  If you are a full time parent, work hard to balance love and teaching what is right.  If you are retired, do not use your opportunity of extra hours to waste your life.  In our society, we are dependent on our retirees to volunteer where many young people cannot.  If your call is to work at a job, then put God in your work, and pray about your decisions as they come.  In whatever you do, you will interact with people.  In some ways this interaction is a test and part of your eternal work for our Lord.  Be a blessing to those around you- even if they are a bit ornery today. 

Prayer: Lord, may what I do today please you.  Give me grace and strength to show your love to those around me.    

Sunday, October 26, 2014

10/27- Cost of Forgiveness

10/27- Monday Luke 17:3-4 3So watch yourselves.  “If your brother or sistera sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

Bonhoeffer: “In confession the break through to community takes place.  Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community.  The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous the isolation.”

Thoughts: Forgiveness is the means to restoration from isolation.  Jesus knew this and was willing to encourage us to forgive again and again and again and again and again and again and again in order for us to restore our love for the other person.  The point is not the number seven  as opposed to eight, but the spirit of forgiveness and the cost of abuse paid by the one taking advantage of forgiveness.  Forgiveness always costs something.  It may cost our pride; it may cost giving up something to the other person who took what was not theirs; it may mean giving up our reputation to the Lord to someone who sullied it; it may mean turning the other cheek.  The ultimate price paid for forgiveness is the cross of Christ. 

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to be willing to pay the cost of forgiveness.  Help me to bear my cross as I forgive another today.

Mission: Who has a grudge against you today?  Who must you forgive in your heart today?   

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.  

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 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Day 17 10/14/14- Peace with Others by Peace with God

10/14- Tuesday- Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

Bonhoeffer: [Meditation] lets us be alone with the Word.  And in so doing it gives us solid ground on which to stand and clear direction as to the steps we must take.” 

Thoughts: There is a joy and peace that flows from within when we have met with God alone.  Luther used to say that when he faced his busiest days he knew he needed to spend more time in prayer that day.  I would agree with Him.  We need God’s strength and peace at the beginning of the day in order to organize, handle, and bless the coming day with the hope of God.  Encouragement of others, agreement with others, peace with God-others- and within begins not with the rush of a decision- but with time alone with God.  It is like making a plan for the day.  It is like the coach making a game plan.  It is like a teacher making a lesson plan. It is like a doctor making a surgical plan.  Plan to make a plan by meeting with God at the beginning of the day and then plan on being an encourager, a peacemaker, a person of joy, a person who spreads agreement.  We are better able to make peace with others when we have made Peace with the Great Peacemaker- the Prince of Peace.  

Prayer: Lord, fill me with your presence and love.  Show me clearly what you want me to do this day.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Day 16- 10/13 Fellowship with God

10/13- Monday John 14:23- Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

Bonhoeffer: “Silence is nothing else but waiting for God’s Word and coming from God’s Word with a blessing.”

Thoughts: Fellowship with God comes from a desire to do His will.  If we enter into a relationship with God saying to ourselves that God must do or allow what we want- we make our will more important and more powerful than the will and importance of Almighty God.  The passage above uses great language of God's fellowship- God makes His home with us.  That is the word "Immanuel"- God with us.  It is not so much that we abide with God- but when we seek to do His will- He abides with us.  If God is at home with us- then we are in the same home with others who also are seeking to do God's will.  We do not have to wait until we get to heaven to have fellowship.  God's presence and love abides right now- in this life- with those who seek to do His will.  

Prayer: Immanuel, may my heart abide with you- may my will be knit with your will..  May my true home be found in you- and may you be at home in me.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

10-12-14 Day 15 of 40 Days of Fellowship- Mark 9:37

10/12- Sunday (New Theme: “FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD” Read LT- Chapter 3) Mark 9:37 "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

Bonhoeffer: “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community.  He will only do harm to himself and to the community…But the reverse is also true: Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.”

Thoughts: A little child shall lead us.  Lead us where?  Children, for the most part, seem to have this innocence- an ability to trust and rely on others.  It is more than their having to be dependent that enables them to trust others.  It is not being scarred, jaded, and made careful that enables them to trust others- but also to trust God.  As we become hardened, we give up on trusting others but we also tend to give up on trusting God.  Children remind us of the need for that innocence and invite us back to faith just by their existence.  Too often churches only want to be for a certain age group- all old, all young, all middle but not inter-generational.  Sometimes populations- like at retirement areas are meant to be one generational.  But mostly we are called to learn from each generation- to learn patience.  Children can teach us to trust.  Older folks can teach us the wisdom of the Lord.  In the middle is energy and the strength of the church.  Together- as a family- as a fellowship we grow and please God.
    As we get older we get more and more busy and self-important. Our busy-ness gives us the illusion of control and strength.  But real purpose is not in productivity but in fulfilling God’s will- sometimes that may include facing our crosses with bravery and grace. 

Prayer: Help me to live like a little child.  To follow you in trust to and through my crosses.