Tag Archives: fellowship

February 13; Busy Hands. Joyful Hearts.

Exodus 33:7-36:7

I’m part of the sewing ministry at our church. And I don’t sew!

Our little group has made draw-string bags for several agencies, including homeless shelters, and the foster care system. We’ve made and filled diaper bags for the Pregnancy Support Center. We’ve made blankets for veterans going on Honor Flight, and wheelchair bags for nursing homes and the VA. We’ve even made dolls and wordless books for mission trips. And those are only the things I can think of off the top of my head.

I don’t sew. But I can string a bag with the best of them. (well, after learning how NOT to prick myself with the safety-pin)

Our group consists of between eight and twenty women who gather at the church once a month to work on the latest project. The sewers plug in their machines along the wall. Those who iron set their station up next to the kitchen. The rest of us sit around round tables with our scissors or string. And we keep busy for about two hours.

But if you walked in on us, you might think you’ve walked into a party. There is always laughter as we sit and talk to each other like schoolgirls.

Sometimes you might walk in and think you walked in on a church service, if someone is sharing a hurt. There’ve been tears shed at sewing, too.

That’s what I’m kind of picturing here as I read about the people creating the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Did the women put their spinning wheels in a circle and enjoy some laughter as they spun their yarn? Did the embroiders sit together and discuss parenting, or share a recipe or two while they worked? If they were anything like our sewing ministry, they most likely found joy in doing the work of the Lord together.

I think God gave us a pretty good picture of a healthy church here in Exodus: Individuals using their gifts collectively to do the work God had for them to do.

I hope you are busy doing what God asks of you. But may I suggest you not do it alone? Gather with other like-minded people and work together. The job certainly is the focus. But the fellowship is a bonus blessing.

Busy hands. Joyful hearts. It’s a pretty great combination.

May 1 – Come Together

2 Samuel 5:1-10, I Chronicles 11-12

The kingdom is being handed over to David. Thousands of mighty warriors are pledging their allegiance to their new king. Some believe so strongly that David is God’s chosen leader, they risk their lives to give David a drink of water.

I Chronicles 12:32 says the people “understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.”

That got my attention.

As Christians, do we understand our own times, or are we hiding our heads in the sand? We have so much information at our fingertips. Do we use it to find out what God is doing outside the four walls of our homes? Are we aware of how much control Satan is taking in our world? And, are we in God’s Word daily so that we have the knowledge of what the Church – you and I – should be doing?

Verses 38-30 of this chapter tell us the warriors came to David with “a perfect heart to make him king over all Israel.” Everyone was of one mind to make him king.

Wouldn’t that be incredible if that happened today, if all of us who call ourselves Christian would come together as one, with pure hearts, to make God our King – truly our King? If we put aside political agendas, denominational differences, music preferences, sin, control, and determined to follow God only?

The Bible tells us that these people, who came together to be with David, to fellowship with their king experienced joy. Oh, for the joy of corporate fellowship with the King of Kings!

Sure, these warriors were prepared for battle. So should we be. But that didn’t stop them from  coming together and enjoying the sweet fellowship with the king.

Let’s be warriors who, together with pure hearts, serve our own King as He deserves. There is joy for those who do.

Feb 14 – For Love

Leviticus 5-7

It’s Valentines Day. You hear the word “love” thrown around a lot today. Got me to thinking about what love is all about.

Ravi Zacharias said, “Love is as much a question of the will as it is of the emotion.” Do you remember the popular book from years ago, “Love Is A Choice”? And I’ll always remember a former pastor saying, “Love is something you do.”

So as I’m reading about all the sacrifices and how detailed were God’s instructions, a lightbulb went off. God gave these instructions for love.

Here’s God, separated from the people He created and who He loves with the strongest emotion possible. Here’s God wanting to fellowship with his children but cannot because of sin in their lives. Here’s God, bridging the gap so that sinners could be forgiven, and fellowship restored.

What I read today isn’t a list of arbitrary hoops for people to jump through. This was God, reaching out and saying, “Here’s how you can come to Me. Please come to Me!”

God wants them to ask Him for forgiveness. He’s anxious to do that. God wants them to shed blood on an altar so He can. God is rooting for them, cheering them on, calling to them, and gladly forgiving them when they ask.

These chapters I read today is about love. I think I’ve always read them as though they were about rules. But the message here is definitely love.

God is love. God demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son, Jesus, to bridge that gap created by sin, once and for all. And it’s the same God as the One who gave Moses these directions in these chapters in Leviticus. He’s still anxious to forgive us when we come to Him, He’s still rooting for us, calling to us.

So today, if love is something you do, I would challenge you to love God by doing what He’s asked us to do. Accept Jesus as Savior, repent of sin, live for the One who loved you and gave Himself for you.

Sure, love is an emotion. But that emotion is meaningless and empty if it doesn’t include choice, and action, and obedience.

Thank You, Lord, for demonstrating Your love for Your children by providing a way for them to be forgiven for sin. Thank you for loving those Old Testament people enough to want to fellowship with them. And thank You for Jesus, who is our perfect sacrifice here in the 21st Century. Thank You for love. Thank You for You.

Ripped

I was reading Mark 15 this morning, Peter’s account of Jesus’ crucification as told through Mark. It occurred to me that Peter set down the facts pretty much without much emotion: Jesus was hung on a cross, people mocked him, Pilate’s sign “King of the Jews” made the chief priests really mad, the sky darkened, people thought Jesus was calling for Elijah, then he died.

Concise and to the point.

Mark even includes a sentence that is easily overlooked: “Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”. (vs 38) Nothing more is said of this event in the book of Mark. Just the fact that it happened.

That blows me away. God ripped that veil in two like I might tear a piece of paper.

Have you ever held a mortgage or a car loan? You are enslaved to that piece of paper that holds the terms of the agreement. You think about it every month as you write that check, chipping away at the debt with every payment.

Then, one day you write the last check. The house or the car is finally yours. Debt paid! Did you take  your copy of the mortgage and rip it in two? How did that feel? Did you experience a sense of freedom, relief, joy?

Paid in full! That house, or that car, is mine!!!

I think that’s a little how God must have felt when he was finally able to rip that curtain apart. That curtain separated him from us. God could not have easy access to us until that curtain came down. But Jesus died on that cross, paid the full price, and now there is no more curtain. Until today I don’t think I ever considered the significance of that from God’s point of view.

What joy he must have experienced as he felt and heard that material rip apart.

Yes, the ripping of that curtain allows us to approach the throne of God. But it also allows God to live in us, walk with us, talk to us and guide us in a personal, precious way. God created us to fellowship with him, but sin separated us. In the Old Testament we read that God instructed Moses to put up a curtain so that we could get as close to God as possible while we still owed our debt. He could only communicate with his people through the prophets. And there were years when God didn’t communicate at all.

But when Jesus paid the price… in full… there was no need for the curtain. I think God must have been pretty excited about that.

As we prepare to celebrate Easter, Jesus death on the cross and his resurrection, let’s also be aware of the privilege that is ours through the ripping apart of that veil. God has access to me and I to him because my sin debt is paid.

Dearest Father, thank you for occasionally letting us in on what you are feeling. Sometimes we think it’s all about us and we forget that you have a stake in our lives, too. I thank you for Jesus, for his death on the cross, for what his sacrifice gives me. But let me remember what it gave you, too. You love us so completely. For thousands of years your dealings with us were from behind the curtain. It must have brought you great joy to rip that curtain in two. Thank you for wanting to walk with me so much. May I never take this privilege for granted.

Hard Work and Laughter

The rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem is one of my favorite Old Testament accounts. (Nehemiah 3-6) The Jews worked together, each taking a section, and the wall went up in 52 days. I hope they had fun.

When I was a teenager, my family would take part in the semi-annual church clean-up. Like many churches, the members of the fellowship would get together on a Saturday to paint and repair, spring clean and plant flowers around our church property. There were jobs for all of us to do, no matter what age we were. I remember laughter and teasing, a covered dish lunch, the smell of Endust and newly cut grass. We had fun.

Was it like that for the Jews as they worked shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors on rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem? Did they make it a game, a contest to see who could carry the largest boulder? Did they joke with each other? Did they stop for lunch together?

The Bible tells us bullies tried to intimidate them into stopping their work. Did the Jews talk about Sanballat and Tobiah as they took a break from their work in the hot sun over a cool drink of water? Did they encourage one another to ignore the threats? I know they determined to protect each other.

I think this is a picture of what our churches should look like. People working shoulder to shoulder to share Jesus in the neighborhood, encouraging one another, supporting one another.

And having fun doing it.

Does the neighborhood surrounding your church property see a group of people who love one another and who enjoy serving God together? I hope they see a pick-up soccer game in the parking lot once in a while. I hope they hear laughter and occasionally smell the fragrance of hamburgs on the grill. I hope they see a building cared for and loved by the people who call it their church home. And I hope they are drawn to your fellowship because of it.

The Jews rebuilt that wall in 52 days. Pretty amazing. God has amazing things for our church fellowships to do, too. May he find us faithful doing his work with joy.

Message in the Clouds

My sister teaches science to middle schoolers. She is a Christian woman with a very scientific mind. And, yes, those two are not mutually exclusive!

I was walking with her yesterday and she pointed out some wispy clouds in the sky. They were beautiful and delicate, just like lace. She told me those clouds indicated a storm was coming.

The sky was blue. The streaks of white painted a gorgeous picture. It looked anything but stormy. She told me about the different levels of atmosphere and fronts and why those clouds warned of impending rain. But I have to confess, I couldn’t see it. I only saw a breathtakingly beautiful blue sky.

This morning, at about 2:00, I was awakened by a clap of thunder. I listened as rain pelted my window. Those delicate clouds were not wrong.

David tells us in Psalm 19 that the heavens proclaim the glory of God. In fact, all of nature points to the Creator, his power and majesty. Whether enjoying a colorful sunrise, watching trees and flowers come to life in the spring, gazing at stars and realizing the enormity of space, or holding a newborn baby and marveling at the wonder of birth, God is evident in nature.

You can try to deny it. But denying God just makes you look foolish.(Psalm 14:1, 53:1; I Corinthians 1:23-24)

David reminds us that the heavens, although wordless, speak loudly of God’s glory and craftsmanship. The NLT translates Psalm 19:2-4  like this:

Day after day they continue to speak;

night after night they make him known.

They speak without a sound or word;

their voice is never heard.

Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,

and their words to all the world.

To think this powerful Creator wants to walk with me. With you. Do you know him? Have you accepted his Son Jesus as your Savior, repenting of sin and allowing him to free you? Then you can fellowship with the Creator David writes about in the Psalm.

Look to the sky. The clouds are shouting a message to you that God wants you to hear. He is real. He is the Creator. He loves you. And he wants to forgive you so he can walk with you today and in eternity.

My Creator, I praise you for this world that you designed for us to enjoy. I thank you for the warmth of the sun, the changing of the seasons, a cool breeze, or sparkling snow. I thank you for clouds and stars, the moon and blue skies, for rain and blooming flowers. And I thank you that your name is written all over creation. I pray for those reading this today. May we each recognize your power and craftsmanship and declare with nature that you are God. I pray that each of us will bow before you, repent of sin, accept Jesus’ grace, and walk with you today. What a privilege! Thank you, my Creator, for this beautiful world.