What is Fellowship?

It bothers me when people use the word “fellowship” to describe an event focused on socializing, eating and playing games because that is not the biblical depiction. In God’s word, fellowship (koinonia) refers to the idea of being partakers, sharing in common, partnering with, communion, and contribution.

Here are some of the verses containing the idea of true koinonia:

  • All of the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals, and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. Acts 2:42-44
  • God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9
  • …that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Philippians 3:10
  • That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:3
  • If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But 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 cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:6-7
  • He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature 2 Peter 1:4

When I attended a ladies Bible study in Pennsylvania, one week we concluded by praying in pairs. I was new to the group as was the woman beside me. In fact, she had just moved to the United States from Burkina Faso (western Africa), and she barely spoke English. Rosine prayed in French and I prayed in English.  Even though we did not know what the other was saying, we communed with God together.

Koinonia may include sharing a meal together, but it encompasses so much more. Jesus invites us into this depth of fellowship with Him and one another. Rosine and I have remained close over the last 20 years. Here we are a few weeks ago at Katie’s wedding.

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Propping Up the Beast

Years ago, while studying the book of Daniel, I found a concept in a commentary by David Jeremiah that has remained with me. He asked, “Are you working to bring in God’s kingdom or merely propping up the beast?”

 In Chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar dreams about a huge statue made of gold, silver, bronze and iron. Daniel explains that this statue represents four kingdoms of the earth, but in the final days a stone, the final eternal kingdom “will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms but will itself endure forever.”

 In subsequent chapters, the kingdoms of the world are described as various animals.  A great and terrifying beast represents the fourth earthly kingdom. Dr. Jeremiah’s question challenges us to examine our motives.  I pondered, “How much of my time and energy is invested in the agendas of this world (propping up the beast) or am I fully devoted to the kingdom that will last throughout the ages?”

 In Matthew 16:23, Jesus told Peter, “You are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Like Peter, we can get confused and pour our passions into politics or humanitarian efforts. How much of my energy is spent defending a candidate or a cause? Am I consumed by longing for the day described in Zechariah 14:9 when “The Lord will be king over all the earth; and in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.” Unintentionally, our loyalties, as individuals and in churches, can become divided as we subtly develop a Jesus and (insert good cause here) mentality. Over and over in His word, the Lord tells us He will not share his glory with another.

 To clarify, I am not advocating living the life of a hermit by withdrawing from the world, not am I suggesting passivity. I merely want to caution anyone who feels passionately about a certain cause to not use scripture as a proof that your agenda is God’s agenda. Instead we must learn Biblical truth and let that guide which positions we uphold.

 So until the day when “the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as waters cover the sea,” (Habakkuk 2:14), “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6

Best Compliments Ever

Has someone ever told you something that made you feel really special? The other day my son, Daniel, told me that I am like a polaroid camera because I may be old but I’m still loved. I told him that was the most unusual compliment I have ever received.

If a compliment from another person makes us feel valued, how much more when receive honor from God? Unlike worldly accolades focused on fame, beauty, position, or wealth, God notices character and sacrifice. In looking through the Bible, here are some of what I consider the best compliments ever.

In Genesis 5:24, “Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him.” This verse seems to suggest that God enjoyed Enoch’s company so much He took him directly to heaven. He and Elijah are the only two men in the Bible who did not experience physical death.

In Daniel 9:23, an angel appears and tells Daniel that he is “highly esteemed.” Can you imagine a heavenly being calling you highly esteemed?

Matthew 15:8 Jesus told the Canaanite woman, “Your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And similarly, in Matthew 8:10, Jesus described the centurion saying, “I have not found such great faith with any one in Israel.” What faith they must have had for Jesus to praise!

Luke 1:30 The angel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.”  A young girl in a rural village found such favor with God that she was given the amazing privilege of becoming the mother of the Messiah. When we find favor with God, who can imagine the possibilities He has planned for us?

The Lord commended Mary of Bethany, who in the midst of all life’s demands, chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His words, “Mary has chosen the good part which shall not be taken away from her.”  Jesus commended Mary’s wise choice of priorities to seek Jesus over the tasks of the day.

Revelation 3:8 Jesus to the church in Philadelphia, “I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you and open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My words, and have not denied my name.” God took notice of the deeds of a small church and promised to open great opportunities and accomplish these by His own power.

And finally, in 1 Kings 9:4, the Lord describes David to his son Solomon, he “walked in integrity and uprightness.” In chapter 11, verse 4 the writer records that David’s heart was wholly devoted to the Lord.  For my heart to be completely His is one of my greatest desires.


Bitter Roots

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble and by it many are defiled. Hebrews 12:15

While living in Hawaii, we admired a plant called “Elephant Ears” that grew to have huge leaves. Not only are the leaves large, but the roots go deep into the soil. If the leaves are cut off eventually another leaf will sprout from the stem. Like the elephant ear, a root of bitterness may begin growing in our hearts and keep sprouting until we pull up the entire root.

elephant earsIn the Bait of Satan, John Bevere writes, “Many people are unable to function properly in God’s purpose and calling for their lives because of the wounds, hurts and offenses in their lives.”  He goes on to say that “Offended people bear much fruit.”

Unfortunately, when we harbor bitterness we may be the last one to recognize it. What are some of these fruits of bitterness? Broken relationships, inability to trust, establishing walls to protect ourselves, distance from God and anger with God are just a few. Bitterness can also manifest itself in our physical bodies.

In Chapter 23 of Exodus, the Israelites encounter bitter waters. While the people grumbled, Moses called out to the Lord. The Lord showed Moses a tree and told him to throw it into the waters. The waters became sweet and drinkable. Then the Lord identifies Himself as Jehovah Rapha “I am your healer.” Many believe this incident in Exodus points us to the cross of Jesus.

When we begin to view offenses, unfulfilled expectations, and disappointments through the lens of the cross, the sweetness of his grace and mercy allows us to release the circumstances of our past into God’s hands. We can respond not as our flesh desires but by the power of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Peter 2:23, Jesus models this for us. While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.

Chaos beneath the Shade, a book by Tracey Bickle, address the subject of how we uproot and stay free from bitterness. Here are some of her valuable insights:

  • “Unacknowledged disappointment makes us vulnerable to bitterness.”
  • “Be honest about your pain and acknowledge you are bitter.”
  • “Deal with your emotions in the presence of God.”
  • “Use your energy to be grateful and find blessings in today.”
  • “Trust God to bring justice in the end.”

As I studied bitterness to prepare this lesson for our small group, I came away thinking, “This is not wisdom for someone else, the Lord wants me to diligently address every root of bitterness in my own heart.” If the gentle admonition was not enough, the warning that my bitterness (even if I have not recognized it) will defile others prompts me to action.