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How’s Your Fellowship?

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
I John 1:3

Through the writings of John in his first epistle, we can see his desire for believers to enjoy the unity that fellowship in the spirit of Christ can produce. Philosophy, methodology and personal ambition within the body of Christ will almost always be divisive, but true worship of the person of Christ will bring believers to a common point of focus and will draw our attention away from those things that would divide us.

John testified in the verses preceding this one, of what he had seen and heard as he experienced Christ. Fellowship with Christ should always cause us to reach out for fellowship with others. We can experience Christ through the revelation fo His written word and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The doctrine of Christ becomes the central basis for fellowship with both God and other believers. If there is not agreement on the doctrine of Christ, there is no basis for the type of fellowship that is described here.

There is a progression of fellowship. We begin with our own fellowship with Christ. Then we relate what we have learned of Christ with other believers. This ultimately leads to simultaneous fellowship with Christ and believers. Anytime believers are together, focused upon Christ, this level of fellowship can take place, Matthew 18:20. This presence of God is via the indwelling Holy Spirit. As believers, our fellowship should always manifest the presence of God. The Greek word koinonia describes this fellowship as literally being communion with God.

Personal fellowship with other believers happens on three levels: 1) the idle, shallow chit-chat that characterizes so much of our discussion of the inconsequential. 2) An intermediate level where things of common interest are discussed. 3) A deeper level of fellowship that is based upon a discussion of the things of God. This is fellowship that is focused upon worshipping God through His Word. It is at this level that koinonia occurs. Sadly, many believers spend very little time at this level of fellowship. It seems that most of the time we are bogged down in the first two.

This fellowship is never negative. Interaction between believers that includes gossip, criticism, ungodliness, deceit, or immorality does not fit the biblical description of koinonia. If it is not koinonia, then Christ is not a part of it.

We should always remember that grace is the basis of our fellowship with the Father. The work that Jesus did on Calvary was to bring us to a place of unity with the Father. We should let that same grace of God extend through our hearts to others by the Holy Spirit.

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Check Out These Blogs

Let me give a shout out to some good blogs that have been a blessing to me recently.

Puritan Belief, from the Land Down Under, has some inspiring reads and thoughts from Puritan literature.

T.A. Blankenship, has been giving a series of sermons focused upon images of Christ in the book of Genesis. This series will bless you.

Joe’s Jottings is the site where you will find the thoughts of a Florida worship leader. He has some good stuff on worship as well as some good humor.

Bonnie Calhoun will have you rolling in the floor with some of her humor.

Check out the story of Kristi’s hunting trip in Texas. Unlike another Texas hunting trip I recently wrote about, no lawyers were injured.

Everyone have a blessed weekend. I have my wife’s family coming in today so I have to get going.

On Mission Celebration Report

What a week! Our local Baptist association held an On Mission Celebration from Sunday through Wednesday. Twenty-two missionaries visited us, rotating between churches each night.

As I mentioned recently, I love missionaries. They are my heroes. I love to listen to them and just be around them. We were blessed to have some of the most outstanding I have ever met with us.

Bro. Tim Bissell is a church planter serving in Syracuse, NY. He was with us Sunday morning and kicked us off in a great way.

On Sunday night, we heard from Dr. Fayiz Saknini. Dr. Saknini was born and raised in Nazareth, Israel. In his ministry, he started the First Baptist Church of Tripoli, Lebanon and also pastored the First Baptist Church of Beirut, Lebanon for 16 years. Needless to say, he had some stories to tell! Please pray for Dr. Saknini, at the age of 78, he is preparing to start the first Arabic speaking seminary in America. This will be instrumental in training those from Arabic backgrounds who have come to know the Lord to be able to reach their families and countrymen (especially Muslims).

We also were visited by Dr. Michael Bennett who is a church planter in Macara, Venezuela. Dr. Bennett was an attorney in Nashville, TN for 25 years before he and his wife felt the call of God to the mission field. They responded and are preparing to start their third church.

Bro. Gary Matthis was with us Tuesday evening sharing about his ministry in Charleston, SC. He is actually involved in a number of various ministries such as Disaster Relief (he has been very busy in Pascagoula, MS) and also an outreach to merchant seamen who visit the Port of Charleston. This gives him the opportunity to share the Gospel with hundreds of men each year from foreign countries who would ordinarily never think about their need of Christ.

Tonight we were blessed to hear from Mrs. Emilia Saknini. Originally, another missionary was supposed to be with us but their schedule changed. Mrs. Saknini (the wife of Dr. Saknini) graciously agreed to come and share her testimony. The way God has worked in the life of this lady is nothing short of amazing. As she spoke, I became aware of why her husband has been able to remain so faithful to the ministry. She is a wonderful asset to him.

Perhaps the greatest blessing was the fellowship we enjoyed. I am not speaking of the shallow chit-chat that we so often call fellowship, but of genuine koinonia. These people were all deeply passionate about serving the Lord and that love for God touched me in a very special way.

As you may can tell, my heart is full right now. I can honestly say I am more motivated to serve God than I have been at any point in my life. Thank you for allowing me to share with you the blessings of this week.

My First Olympic Post

It suddenly occurred to me that we are well into the second week of the Olympics and I have posted hardly anything about them yet. Then it also occurred to me that maybe there was nothing that was all that inspiring to write about.

Until tonight.

I am not a big figure-skating fan. As a fan of NASCAR, college football, hunting and fishing, I don’t even consider it a real sport. A nice display to be sure, but the criteria for winning are too subjective to be truly considered a sport. I watch it with my wife because it makes her happy for me to do so.

So as I sat tonight, watching the women’s short program, I really didn’t expect to find anything extraordinary. Then Emily Hughes stepped on the ice.

Emily, you will recall, is the younger sister of previous gold-medalist Sara. She is also a last-minute replacement for skating superstar Michelle Kwan who withdrew with an injury. While the expectations of others may not have been high, there is still enormous pressure. This is the Olympics, for goodness’ sakes, you are the younger sister of a gold-medalist, and the replacement of one who was one of the favorites going in.

Just the pressure of skating on ice without falling on my behind would have been enough to send me scurrying to the nearest tree stand.

This little girl with a big heart ignored the pressure, went out there on the ice (without falling down, mind you) and had a ball. She was not the most spectacular skater there tonight, but I was blown away by the fire that Emily showed. “No fear and a lot of fun,” seemed to be her motto. The announcers seemed to think that she hit all of her “elements” strongly. I still don’t know a loop from a salchow, but it looked good to me.

I was impressed.

I am a fan.

Now if we can just get NASCAR included as a Summer Olympics event.

P.S. Our On Mission Celebration concludes tomorrow night. I will post a full report then. It has been awesome. I love missionaries, they are my heroes.

On Mission Celebration

Our church is participating in an association-wide, On Mission Celebration this week. We are having different missionaries each night with several activities during the day. This is not leaving me much time for blogging over the next day or two. I will try to sneak a post in later tonight if I can get the time.

The Most Satanic Sin

What is the sin that most defines the character of Satan? What is at the heart of his hatred toward God? What is at the heart of all temptations that he presents to mankind? What is the core of every sin?

Pride.

Let me give an obligatory disclaimer. I am writing this as a learner, not a master of humility. Often when one preaches or teaches on the sin of pride, people accuse the preacher/teacher of lacking humility themselves. I will be the first to admit that at times I struggle with pride. Actually it would be more accurate to say, “all the time”. We all do as it is the very heart of the sin nature.

It was pride that caused Lucifer to become jealous of the Son of God. It was pride that caused him to lead a rebellion against the very throne of God. It was pride that caused him to attack that which was created in the image of God. It was pride that led him to believe he could kill Jesus.

He is the father of all the children of pride.

I believe that every sin is symptomatic of pride. It is pride that causes someone to devalue another person’s life to the point of murder. It is pride that leads someone to ignore the feelings of others in the pursuit of self-gratification. It is pride that would have us believe that we don’t have to submit ourselves to the sovereignty of God. It is pride that drives us to deceive others.

We are never acting more satanically than when we act in pride.

How then do we conquer pride? For a long time I believed that I could overcome pride by acting with a false sense of humility. I would act embarassed when someone would pay me a compliment. I would yield up my personal rights in regard to others for the sake of “humbling myself”. I developed what I thought was a sense of humility–and I became proud of it. I fooled myself into thinking I was humble, I may have been able to persuade others around me (maybe), but I couldn’t fool God.

I have come to realize that since pride is at the heart of the sin nature, I cannot produce humility by myself. I realize that it must be something that God produces through me. “Perhaps it is the work of the Spirit?” I thought. Do you realize that “humility” is not even listed as one of the spiritual fruits of Galatians 5:22,23?

I have been learning that the opposite of pride is not humility, it is love. Satan’s nature is the antithesis of everything that God is. If pride is Satan’s most defining characteristic, then it will be the diametric opposite of God’s most defining attribute.

God is love.

Consider these words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans do the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

Do you see how Jesus describes the most complete demonstration of Godliness in our lives? Love. I can demonstrate acts of humility towards others without loving them. But I cannot love others to the degree that God loves them with loving them as much as I love myself. Love produces humility, and love is produced by the Spirit.

We are never acting more satanically than when we act in pride.

We are never acting more Godly than when we act in love.

May God help me to love others as He has loved me.

Overcoming Temptation–Part III

We know that we will be tempted to sin on a daily basis. That is a fact of the sinful, fleshly nature that we possess as well as the world in which we live.

It is a blessing to know that we do not have to live a life of defeat in the face of temptation. I am convinced that Satan defeats many Christians with a sense of pseudo-guilt over the fact of temptation itself. It is not necessary to feel this way. The sin is in the yielding, not in the temptation.

Yesterday we saw two examples of biblical figures dealing with tempation. Since Eve was such a colossal failure in this, we will rather focus upon Jesus and His method of dealing with the temptations that Satan brought before Him.

There are three elements in the answers of Christ that would indicate that we can be victorious on a consistent and even continual basis. I am not speaking of the eradication of the fleshly nature. What I am referring to is the ongoing choice to rely on the power of Christ rather than our own strength.

The first element of victory is the Word of God. In each temptation, Jesus used the Scriptures to combat the statements of the devil. As I mentioned in the previous post, we cannot afford to “dialogue” with evil. Even our Savior stood solely on the Word. His first answer, however, speaks directly to the importance of the Word in overcoming the tempations of the flesh.

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. Luke 4:4
This reveals to us the conflict between spiritual and fleshly natures. The flesh feeds upon its own lusts to the detriment of the spiritual. Jesus places importance upon the Word for feeding the spiritual. It is through the Scripture that we find the path by which we can “walk in the Spirit” and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
The second element is Worship of God. Satan presented a tempting sight to the eyes of Jesus, the kingdoms of the world. He promised these to Jesus if He would only worship him. Jesus responded:
Get thee behind me Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Luke 4:8
Worship has much to do with focus. It is with the eyes of the spirit that our attention is drawn to God. If Satan can draw our attention onto the things of this world, he can divert our worship from God to materialistic idols. The old hymn comes to mind:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Are you having trouble battling the temptations of the lusts of the eyes? Start focusing upon Jesus and you will find strength.
As a side note, what Satan offered was a lie–Jesus was already promised the kingdom of this world by His Father. Satan can offer us nothing that compares to what we have in Christ.
The final element of victory is Fear of God. When Satan tried to tempt Jesus to frivolously use divine power to simply have a wonderful experience, Jesus replied thusly:
It is said, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Luke 4:12b
We must never take the grace of God lightly. As one who believes in the eternal security of the believer I am sometimes asked, “Does that mean I can do anything I want and still be saved?” I believe that a person who is truly converted will desire to be obedient to God. Romans 6:1-2 provides a strict prohibition against sinning and assuming that God will overlook it in grace. We must live in the recognition that God is holy. He loves His children and He will not allow them to live in sin without chastising them.
As God’s children, we are to live a life that is reflective of the grace of God. We know that it is possible to do so because “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” I John 4:4
I pray that you have a blessed and victorious weekend.

Overcoming Temptation–Part II

The first record of man being tempted by sin is in the third chapter of Genesis. Satan takes possession of the serpent and begins a “dialogue” with Eve. I am sure you are probably aware of the progressive tactics Satan used in regard to the Word of God so I will not elaborate on that here. I would like to focus upon verse 6.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Notice the tragic effect of her conversation with Satan, her perspective was altered. Let me say that if we want to be victorious over temptation, there is absolutely no room for compromise. Our position of power is rooted in the Word of God, nothing else. This was not the first time that Eve had seen the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but it was the first time that she saw it with a view other than that which was in line with God’s command.
See the three-fold temptation that presented itself to Eve. (Remember the description of temptation discussed in the previous post?)
1. She saw that the tree was good for food–the lust of the flesh.
2. It was pleasant to the eyes–the lust of the eyes.
3. It was desired to make one wise–the pride of life.
Eve failed on all three points of temptation. As she disregarded what God had said, her body, soul and spirit were all contaminated by the awfulness of sin.
What about the temptation of Christ? Hebrews 4:15 tells us that He was tempted in all points as we are (without sin, of course). He too was tempted after the same pattern as Eve.
1. Turn the stones into bread–the lust of the flesh.
2. The pinnacle of the temple–the pride of life.
3. The kingdoms of the world–the lust of the eyes.
There are aspects of the latter two which overlap, but the point remains that He was tempted on all fronts. The difference between Jesus and Eve is that while Eve disregarded the Word of God, Jesus relied solely upon it for His defence. Certainly the authority of the Scripture is vital to our success as Christians.
What are the temptations you face? Tomorrow we will see how we can be overcomers in this life. I’ll bet you already know.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

As I have scanned several news items the past couple of days, so many things stood out that I feel compelled to comment upon them. These range from the ridiculous to the incredible, to the outrageous.

The Good
Two research projects reveal interesting, though otherwise useless, bits of information.

One states that old lovers look alike. Research suggests that personality and appearance are related, thus we tend to develop relationships with people who are like us. The older we get the more similar we become in appearance with our mate. This is good news for me, bad news for my wife. (I have also noted this tendency in people and their pets, too.)

Another project reveals that in the state of Utah, Mormons outweigh non-Mormons by an average of 4.6 pounds. It seems that Mormons are not content with having more wives than everyone else, they also have to be the biggest. (I am referring to Mormons in general being the biggest, not just the wives.)

My conclusion on both of these is that somebody has way too much time on their hands. (And probably too much government funding as well.)

The Bad
Has anyone noticed those Olympic medals? They have these huge holes in them! Has the IOC decided to trim the budget a little? You might as well hang a donut around their neck. Seriously, though, I doubt the athletes mind. It takes a lot of work and discipline to even get to the Olympics, let alone win. Congratulations to all the winners.

Speaking of the Olympics, that fall the girl, Zhang Dan, in the Chinese figure-skating pair took the other night was very bad. When I saw that she was going to continue, I told my wife, “She doesn’t need to do this, she has nothing to prove.” Boy, was I wrong! She and her partner came back and won the silver. If all of the Chinese people have half of this girl’s heart, maybe there is hope for the eventual overthrow of socialism in the People’s Republic.

The Ugly
Muslim protests against the Danish cartoons of Mohammed continue to spread around the world. If Islam is truly the religion of peace, why haven’t the “peaceful majority” stepped in and said, “Hey, this is enough. You are making us look bad.”

It is bad enough that they are burning embassies, but day before yesterday, protestors burned down a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Pakistan. This is getting out of hand! Somebody better stop them before they destroy civilization as we know it.

The ugliest thing in the news this week, though, has to be Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, expelling evangelical missionaries from his country. We need to seriously pray for this country that the indigenous Christians will be able to carry on the spreading of the gospel.

Tomorrow we will get back to the series on tempation. Have a blessed day!

Overcoming Temptation

Temptation is something we deal with on an ongoing basis. Christians must constantly be aware that the enemy seeks to pull us away from holy and victorious living. We don’t have to yield to temptation, however, as God promises his grace to help us overcome it.

I am going to post three articles on dealing with tempation. I could do it in one, but that would make it a very loooooooonng post and I don’t want to do that. We will begin in I John 2:15-17 discussing the nature of temptation. We will then compare the temptations of Eve and Christ. Finally we will look at how we can rely on Christ to overcome our own temptations.

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of the God abideth forever.

As we make verse 16 the focus of our discussion, let us keep in mind that man is made up of three parts: body, spirit and soul. This is a reflection of being made in the image of God. Thus, the world has an appeal to all three parts.

The lust of the flesh is referring to the excesses of fleshly desire. There are many fleshly desires that are not intrinsically wrong, yet when carried to excess they become sin. For instance, the flesh can become hungry. Eating is not wrong, but gluttony is. Being tired causes us to desire rest. This is not wrong unless it leads to slothfulness. Even desire for sexual gratification is not wrong unless it causes us to cross God’s moral boundaries. The fact is, our flesh is completely corrupted by the sin curse and has no strength of its own to withstand temptation. It is there that we are most vulnerable and thus we must also guard against the other temptations.

The lust of the eyes is the temptation of our spirit. When we gaze upon something and begin to covet. When we see something that we allow to provoke us to ungodly imaginations. When we desire something because we think it will make us better than someone else. Jealousy and envy also come into play here. The epistle of Galatians teaches us much about overcoming this aspect of temptation. We must realize that God, through His Spirit, will work in our Spirit if we will submit it to Him. This helps us to walk in sanctification, subduing both the spirit and the flesh to the will of God.

The pride of life is another matter. This is more than fleshly or even spiritual pride. It is a level of self-awareness and esteem that causes us to lift ourselves up against God. It is the same pride that motivated Lucifer to rebel against the Son of God. This is the deepest and most critical temptation. This is literally the temptation for our soul. Until we yield our soul to God through salvation, we will be powerless to overcome the temptations of the spirit and flesh. Failing in the temptations of flesh and spirit affect our fellowship with God, failing in this temptation affects our relationship with God.

Having said that, let me say that a true believer has irrevocably overcome the latter temptation. Those who have been born again are secure in their relationship with God. This places upon us the responsibility of overcoming the temptations of the flesh and spirit.

In the next post in this series, we will see the parallels between what we have discussed today and the temptations of Eve and Christ.