The Point of Christian Fellowship

Wrote this today as I pondered what’s the point of our worship gatherings. Hope it blesses you.

The Fellowship of the Believers Acts 2

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

What is the point of Christian fellowship? Sometimes I look around at church and it seems like a big party. Even our small groups seem like a party at times. People show up for the snacks and want to hang out and make friends, some are spouse shopping or looking for a friend. All those things are good things. They are great things! God wants us to enjoy each other and have a good time. The problem comes when we believe that is all church is for. It’s one big party where people are supposed to make us feel good. What can we learn from the first church see passage above.
 

1.       They adhered to the teachings of the apostles. We can spend our entire lives in church and still miss God. How? If we are not applying and adhering to His teachings we are just taking up space on Sunday.

2.       They prayed together. Prayer is vital. Not one person praying but they all prayed together.

3.       They had everything in common. This means unity of spirit. They weren’t bickering, fighting, filled with offense, and strife. They had God in common and focused their attention on Him.

4.       They gave sacrificially to those in need. The Acts church sold their possessions to care for those who did not have. They were outward focused. Each person connected to each other. They didn’t come to be served. They came to serve.

5.       They ate together and fellowshipped outside of church. They viewed church as family.

6.       They praised God together. Worship was a part of everyday life.

7.       Point each other to Jesus (added by me). Part of community is pointing another person to Jesus. Jesus never agreed with the disciples sin or went along with their poor behavior. He corrected in love. He used every moment as a teaching moment.

I had someone tell me in community that she didn’t want me pointing out areas for improvement based on the Bible for her life. She wanted to me to hang out and simply agree with any sin she partook in. Well, I will tell you part of Christian community is pointing each other to Jesus and the Bible. Any person who knows Jesus and refuses to point you to Him, doesn’t love you. Sin leads to death. And while Jesus paid for the eternal consequences of our sin, the sins we commit still impact us and those around us.

I am thankful for people who will point me to Jesus in a loving way. The Bible is the blueprint they use for correction, not their own opinions. And I am thankful for any person who wants me to be more like Christ.

Are you in a community that’s like the Acts church? Are you fellowshipping with people who point you to Jesus, sacrificially give, promote unity, share, love, and serve together? Are you in a community that challenges you to be become more like Jesus? There’s no perfect church or pastor or leader. However, I believe the Acts church had it right. The point of our worship gatherings isn’t to just have one big party. Each member of the Body of Christ is called to do their part to encourage and build up the other members so as one unit we become more like Christ. Our pastors aren’t there to spoon feed us the word and then we go home. We are called as members of God’s body to seek Him for ourselves, to know God for ourselves, to join forces in unity to represent Him as a whole. That is what Christ died for, a Bride that functions as one unit. As Bill Johnson says, “Jesus is returning for a church who’s body is in equal proportion to her head (Jesus).”
 
May God bless you friends. And may we all take our place within the Body of Christ to be who we were called to be. Each member is crucial to the functioning of the church. We weren’t called to sit on the bench. Every part is needed in order for us to fulfill God’s will in the earth. You are valuable. Get out there and seize the day!

 

 

Jewel in His Crown (Identity in Christ Part 1)

MP900432897

The LORD their God will save them on that day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in His land like jewels in a crown, Zech 9:16

Do you know how valuable you are? Do you? The value or worth of something is determined by how much someone is willing to pay for it. God thought you were worth dying for. Jesus paid the ultimate price for you. So that you could live life abundantly. He paid the highest price for you. And He would do it again to save you, rescue you, free you, and be your friend.

I believe so many of the problems in the world are rooted in a lack of people knowing who they are and how valuable they are. From the time we exit the womb the world has these expectations for us. Some people define their worth by their beauty, some by their relationship or status (married vs. single), some by their wealth, their friends, who they know, their academic achievements, or their ability to perform (talents, skills). Bottom line. None of those things make a person more valuable than another. Looks will fade, money can be lost, friends may leave or move, relationships can be lost, someone will come along and out shine you. There will always be someone who does it better than we can. But there is only one of us.

God’s love isn’t blanket love. You know what blanket love is right, “I love everyone, the end.” God’s love is specific to each individual person. He is the reason we are valuable. You are alive today because God wanted you to be. You are alive today because God’s love is the force that holds the universe together. He is in all things and all things came from Him. You were made in the image of God. Set apart to be holy, royal, a gem in His crown. You are not less than or better than. You are equal to those around you, all made in His image. All deeply loved.

You are a gem, hand-cut, designed as a master original. You are not to be compared to anyone. Your worth isn’t in what you look like, what you have, or what you do. Your worth has already been deemed priceless by the King of the Universe. Live in that love. Live from that place. Know that your true identity is in Christ. It’s not about you and what you do. It’s not about what others think of you or even what you think of yourself. It’s about God and what He longs to do through you. No need for jealousy in the Kingdom. No need for comparisons, striving, or low self-esteem. God doesn’t make junk, and His resources are unlimited. He loves you. God makes priceless gems and puts them on display for all the world to see His splendor! You are deeply loved, today and forever!

Garbage in=Garbage Out

Philippians 4:8
New International Version (NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

God is so smart. Some people find Him in nature. I often find Him in science. In engineering we have a principle called a mass balance. Essentially what goes into a system comes out of a system. Even things that are absorbed during the process of chemical reactions impact the system. What you put in, is what will eventually come out. This also works for our minds.

I heard TD Jakes say, “rarely do people have fantasies of righteousness, dreams of good things happening, or the best outcome, or doing things to save the world. Most of the times our minds are filled with worry, doubt, unbelief, fantasies of sinning, anger, bad thoughts about people, dreams of how we can better our own lives instead of the world.” Why is that?

Garbage in=garbage out. What we watch, listen to, engage in, and open our minds and spirits to affects us. Listen to gossip for a long enough time, you will begin to gossip. Watch movies filled with lustful scenes all the time, you will begin to lust. What you take in, is what will come out. It’s inevitable. The passage above tells us to think on things that are good, pure, noble, praiseworthy,….the only way we are able to that is if we are purposefully filling our minds with good things. If we are purposefully spending time with God allowing Him to speak into our lives. If we are purposefully taking every thought captive and making it obedient to the Word of God. I am not saying you only read the Word, only spend time worshiping, or become a Monk. I am saying that whatever you repeatedly hear, you will begin to believe. What we open our minds to over and over plants seeds. Those seeds whether truth or lies, impact our spirits.

Fearful and worried thoughts are not from God. For there is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.

Lustful thoughts are not from God. For love does not seeks its own pleasure but longs to do what is best for the other person. Lust seeks to take. Love seeks to give.∙        

Hateful thoughts are not from God. For love does not hate. Love rejoices with the truth, but loves those who sin. Love convicts, but does not condemn.        

Jealous and envious thoughts are not from God. For love is not jealous or envious. Love rejoices when someone else is blessed.

Rebellious thoughts are not from God. For love delights in doing the will of the Father. Submitting out of love and not obligation.        

Vengeful and spiteful thoughts are not from God. For love desires restoration to the Father over revenge.        

Controlling thoughts are not from God. For loves gives freedom and does not insist on its own way.

So, dear ones, may we guard our minds. The place where sin can easily creep in and begins to set up camp. May we take every thought captive and measure it against the Word. It’s seems like a painful task, but it is easier to demolish a thought, than a stronghold. Once we have dwelt on a lie or allowed sinful thoughts to take root in our minds, they are far more difficult to remove. May we put His Word in, and may His word come alive in us, working through us so we are transformed into the image of His glorious Son. In Jesus name, Amen.

Identity in Christ (Intro)

 

Who Are You? That is the question.

If you ask most people about themselves, they will tell you what they do for a living. They will tell you who they are married to. They will tell you where they live. They will tell you about their kids. Most people find their identity in what they have or what they do. If you dig a little deeper you will find some people who find their identity in their appearance, titles they have earned, or the opinions of other people. Guess what? All of those things can be taken away or their significance lessened. There will always be the potential that someone else has something or someone slightly more appealing. Then what is a person to do? What some Americans do, try to keep up with everyone else. The one up syndrome. Well, your car is nice, but mine is better. Oh, you got a new job, I have an amazing husband. And the nonsense continues. All the superficial things lead us to live shallow lives rooted in insecurity.

Insecurity is dangerous and limiting. When we find our identity in things that are unstable, can change like the wind, and aren’t certain, we live in constant fear that we aren’t good enough.

Insecurity  leads to:

  • Jealousy (someone is getting attention I deserve)
  • Envy/Coveting (I want what others have and don’t want them to have it)
  • Pride ( I am better than or less than others based on what I have or who I am)
  • Control/Rebellion ( I must be in control, because if I’m not, then I am afraid of the outcome)
  • Manipulation ( I don’t trust that people will do right by me so I must manipulate them to)
  • Allowing yourself to be mistreated (I am not valuable so I deserve whatever people offer)
  • Offense and misunderstanding
  • Fear of rejection/People pleasing (I must do what others want so they like me)
  • Competing and comparison (I must be better than others to prove my worth)
  • Guilt, shame, condemnation (I associate my doing with my being. If I do something improper that makes me bad instead of I did something bad)
  • Gossip, slander, backbiting, overly critical (If I don’t feel good about me, then I feel better putting others down)
  • Self hatred, Self-loathing.
  • Bragging/One upping (I must one up everyone’s story)
  • Need to be the center of attention (I only feel valued if everyone’s attention is on me)
  • Clingy, overly needy ( If people ask for space or take space I perceive it as rejection)
  • Materialism (I must have the best of everything to prove my worth)
  • Overachieving/Perfectionism (I must be perfect to be worthwhile or I am not worth anything)
  • Inability to receive love (I am not valuable therefore no one could love me)
  • Abusive relationships (Insecure men tend to verbally, physically, emotionally or sexually abuse women to show they are powerful. Insecure women tend to end up the target of abusers.)

All these things are the fruit of a lack of identity in Christ. Jesus died to give us a new identity in Him. When we received Christ we were given a new identity. The old man passed away.

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17.

When you accepted Christ you were transformed into a new person, your name written in the Lamb’s book of life. You were given a new nature and redeemed nature. You were given the mind of Christ and full access to God. Over the next few weeks we will explore what this new nature is. We will explore why since we are made new, we still behave like the old, sinful man. We will talk about authority in Christ and all you have in Him. You are not what you do, who you are married to, or what you have. You are so much more. You are ROYAL! You are the King’s kid.  He does not base your worth on what you do, but on what Jesus has done. It’s the only secure identity.

Here’s what Paul tells us about our identity in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-10):

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonshipthrough Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, hemade known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

New Series Coming!

Hey friends,

I’ve talked about relationships for quite some time now. I think we’ve covered everything. If not, shoot me a message, and we’ll cover it later.

This week I will start a new series called Identity in Christ. I’m excited. I believe it will help with some of the relational issues as well. Once we know who we are in Christ and fully accept the truth of our identity, dealing with other people becomes easier.

If you want a jump start on the series start reading the book of Ephesians.

Prayer to start us off:

Abba I pray for every person who reads this blog to have an encounter with You and Your truth. May we have a deeper understanding of all Jesus paid to give us, and help us walk in our true identities as co-heirs with Christ. In Jesus name, Amen.

If you’re interested in teachings about the Father, check out http://ithoughtiknewwhatlovewas.com. God=Love.

Healthy Relationships (Part 2)

Life is a highway…okay so you can’t hear me singing right now which is a good thing. We talked last time about the fundamentals of a healthy relationship; love, honor, respect, trust…

Friendship Does Not Equal Marriage.

So, I wanted to talk about something I see more with women than men. Women tend to treat friendship like it is a marriage… til death do us part. I have seen and been a part of many a cat fight over who is who’s best friend. Men tend to go with the flow. Women can become possessive, jealous, controlling, and down right vicious in relationships. All of these things are rooted in insecurity. There is this fear of loss of attention, or significance, or control…And it’s not healthy.

Recently, I had to tell a group of people I can not promise them life long friendship. Why? because I could move across the world (which is an option), or meet new people that require my time, or simply can’t fulfill that promise. I’ve found it’s better not to make a promise than not keep one. Also, you run into the problem of how to deal with that promise if the relationship get’s toxic. How do you get out when you’ve promised life-long friendship to someone who treats you poorly yet wants to remain friends? I can write about these things because I have suffered the consequences of befriending people only to find out they gossiped, lied, and treated me pretty bad. Trying to gracefully exit the relationship led to more drama as strangers were dragged into it, mutual friends, and it was a mess. How did I get there? Well, I will befriend anyone and once I do I will give 100% until it’s obvious the person is taking advantage. Even still, I will try (not always successful) to be kind even when kindness isn’t returned. I’ve learned though this “promise of friendship,” is a trap. None of us can even guarantee we will awaken in the morning let alone be friends with someone forever. Life changes. People change. Circumstances change. We cannot promise anything. Only God can because He cannot violate His Word.

And women, we must stop with the possesiveness, back-biting, you stole my friend, jealousy, etc…non-sense. It’s ridiculous. If we are good to people, they will stick around. If we are not, then we cannot expect them to stay. It’s that simple. People are not Jesus, and cannot promise someone they will take whatever the other person dishes out for eternity. Not only is that not loving, it’s not God’s will. If you dated someone and they cheated on you, lied, and treated you poorly, you’d break up with them. If the relationship wasn’t healthy, you’d part ways. Women will cling to relationships that are killing them emotionally, and spiritually because of this “promise of friendship.”

Make Room For More:

If I had every friend I ever made, I would have no time alone, no ability to meet new people, and it wouldn’t make sense. Now I do have friends from high school and college that I’ve known a long time, but we can’t spend every waking moment together. It isn’t feasible or possible. They made new friends and so did I. I am not saying every time someone new comes along you ditch another friend. I am saying that your life will be overfull if you try to maintain 20+ friendships. Time is precious. Spend it on the people who you want to invest in, and don’t feel guilty about it.

Mutual friendship. If you’re the only one giving in your relationship, it’s not a relationship. Here me out. There are seasons where one person cannot give anything. However, if all the time it’s you giving and someone else taking, you are not in a relationship. You are someone’s care giver. You are in a parental role. You are not in a healthy relationship. The world is full of givers and takers. Most people like to receive. The problem comes when you are in a relationship with someone who only cares about themself; their needs, their wants, their agenda. Those relationships are not good for you mentally, spiritually, or emotionally.

Here are some questions I have begun to ask about people to determine if I should be in a relationship with them:

Does the person take responsiblity for their actions or is it always someone else’s fault or a misunderstanding?

Does the person fight fair or resort to name calling, blame shifting, and shouting?

Does the person have integrity?

Can the person keep a secret or confidence? Do they tell other people’s business?

Does the person have the capability to have compassion and empathy?

Is the person honest, even if it has the potential to make them look bad?

Will the person stand up for what’s right? If someone else is trying to hurt you, will they take a stand.

Will the person protect my reputation, my confidence, and my heart?

Is the person selfish and self-centered? Can they put another’s needs above their own?

Is the person controlling, manipulative, or possessive?

Does the person inspire me to be a better person? Are they an encourager or discourager?

Does the person have other close friends? A lack of close friends is a warning sign.

How does the person treat people who have nothing to other them?

Are they gracious, kind, and loving?

Could this person be trusted to know my greatest challenges without judging or criticizing?

The list gets longer as I get older. You also realize it’s not the quantity of friends you have, but the quality of friends you have that matters. My mum used to always tell me, “If you have one good friend you can trust that’s better than 10 you can’t trust.” She was right. If you have one person you could trust with your life, you’re richer than most. And don’t feel bad if you don’t mesh well with everyone. We can’t be friends with every person on the planet. Even FB puts a limit on how many friends you can have. 😉

Healthy Relationships

Are your relationships healthy?

It’s easy while in a dysfunctional relationship to think that it is healthy. There is nothing to compare it to. It seems normal, so it must be normal. Lynne Foote, MA, LPC stated that a healthy relationship is built on respect, friendship, and trust. In her article Creating the Foundation for Healthy Relationships, she lays out some important information. I’d like to build upon what she wrote.

Respect: Honoring another person even if they disagree with you. We live in a society where we are quick to verbally annihilate anyone who does not think the same way we do. We are trained to defend our positions, and our pride says, “I am right.” In order to respect other people there comes a time where we have to agree to disagree, and honor another person even if they are not agreeing with us. Respect is rooted in honor.

Friendship: Friends are people who have something in common, but not all friendships are created equal. A friend is someone who looks out for your best interest. A person who loves you, in spite of you. A person who gives you the freedom to be who you are, but is willing to tell you when you’re headed for disaster. A friend is someone you can rely on in good times and bad times. Friendship is like a garden, it grows because someone is tending to it.

Trust: Trust is the glue that holds it all together. When you trust someone, you feel safe with them. You know that your heart is safe with them. Trust is something that grows over time. If it is broken, it takes awhile to rebuild and sometimes it is never fully repaired.

Here are some other things that I have found over the years that have been a good indication of health in a relationship.

1. Free of control and manipulation. The desire to control people isn’t godly. God gives people free will. He does not try to control or manipulate. If you’re with someone and they try to control or manipulate you, it’s not a good sign.

2. Free of verbal abuse or abuse of any kind. Any person who puts you down, uses excessive sarcasm, hits you, or any form of abuse is unhealthy. Get out and seek help if necessary.

3. Free of blame shifting. In a healthy relationship each person takes responsibility for their actions. They don’t blame others or make excuses. They take full responsibility and ownership for their parts of the problem.

4. Free of co-dependence. Each person is responsible for themselves. In co-dependency there is normally one enabler/care-giver and one person who is continually being rescued or excuses made for them. Instead of two independent people, there’s co-dependency.

5. Free of gossip. A person you can not trust to keep your private matters private is not a friend. If a person gossips to you, they will gossip about you.

6. Keeps their word. The person who says they will be there for you and never is, is probably not the best choice of a friend. If their yes is yes until something better comes along, then investigate the relationship.

7. Free of gross selfishness. All relationships have some level of self focus. However, if you are with someone and they are only concerned about themselves, then it’s not healthy. Relationships are supposed to be give and take. A one-sided relationship is one normally shared between a parent and small child and not an adult to adult, unless the other person simply cannot give anything due to mental illness or physical illness.

8. Full of forgiveness and grace. It’s inevitable when you’re in a relationship with another person that they will do something to hurt you and sometimes unknowingly. We are always called to forgive. Restoration may take time depending on the damage done.

9. Does what the other person likes. This one is my favorite. It’s great to have people to spend time with, but there is something about the person who will do what they know you like. That person is a keeper. It’s easy to do the bare minimum in relationships and coast through them, so, the person willing to go the extra mile is appreciated.

10. Is filled with love. Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy or boast. Love is not proud, selfish, or self-seeking. Love rejoices with the truth. Love protects. Love never fails… 1 Cor. 13. Love as the world defines it or most people define it, is not how God defines it. A healthy relationship is rooted in love.

I wrote this post because over the years my friend Joi has mocked me because she’s said, “All your ‘friends’ are not your friends. You are a good friend to people, but how many of those people would you consider a really good friend? If I don’t trust a person enough to have my bank account information, they are not in my friend circle.” While she exaggerates, as I have a few good friends, I still have far more people who call me their best friend than I would return the statement. She also minimal to no relationship drama as the people she interacts with love her purely and vice versa. I’ve learned the hard way that not all relationships are healthy or good, and I must do my part to be healthy and cultivate healthy ones. I hope your relationships are built on love, respect, friendship, and trust. Mostly, I hope God is at the center of them, for without Him it’s far more challenging. Love, Erin.