Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rich Fellowship

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35 ESV)
Their giving was just a symptom, a sign of something deeper. The very first phrase needs to sink in - "the full number of those who believed" - all of them were of one heart. No one was being selfish. They distributed, they "fellow-shipped" whatever was a genuine need, with joyful hearts. They were rich not because they had so much, but because they were unified in purpose - to live life in testimony to Christ, to allow His grace to rule and reign. This gave the apostles liberty to preach and have their message backed up by the lives of those who received it. Let us live out the gospel.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Fellowship of Finances

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. (2 Corinthians 8:1-8 ESV)
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit unites believers in many ways. We share in the forgiveness Christ has accomplished, a common faith, the gifts he has bestowed on us to use in the Body, and the joys of seeing Him at work in and through us. Paul says there is one more way that we demonstrate this oneness: sharing generously with one another when there is a genuine need. There is no rule that says we need to do this, except the law of love written in our hearts. It was something the earliest Christians demonstrated without force or even suggestion. These believers at Corinth needed a little nudge, and that concerned Paul. Our selfishness in this area should concern us as well. We should love the opportunity to give, to share, as an expression of our being a part of God's family and fellowship. May we excel at it.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Fellowship of the Spirit

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:11-14 ESV)
The Holy Spirit is the great connector: He unites us with Christ and His work on our behalf; He adopts us into the Family of the Father; He joins us with other parts of the Body of believers. We are the great dis-connectors. We often do more to undo what he does. As Paul closes this letter, this is his great concern. Thus all the exhortations above: aim to restore relationships with each other, comfort each other, agree with each other, connect with each other. We need God's love for each other, grace to put up with each other, and the Holy Spirit to keep us united. And we need to let them do it. Let's stay connected.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Fellowship of blood and bread.

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 ESV)
Participation. In our minds we think of the white ribbons you get when you do not win the blue, red or yellow ribbons. But not so with this "participation." It is that word "fellowship, communion, sharing." It is a powerful word of relationship. The "communion" service is representative of this deep fellowship we have with Christ and His followers. We share in what He accomplished on the cross: forgiveness, reconciliation, transformation. Understood as such, there is no need for any other ribbons - there is no competition; Christ has won and He won for us. This should both humble us as we realize we are participants in this fellowship, and also challenge us to get on board and value what Christ has provided for us: The Fellowship.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Fellowship of the Forgiven...

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—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. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 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 1:1-7 ESV)
John was there. He was one of the apostles to whom the early church devoted themselves to listen to his teaching. (Acts 2:42). He was also a part of the original fellowship, the Twelve, and integrally involved in the fellowship of First Church at Jerusalem. He experienced and explained this fellowship of believers with one another, based upon their common relationship with God through Christ. They were forgiven sinners who had become a part of the family of God. It was a whole new life. This message, this forgiveness, and this fellowship, have been passed on down through the generations. It is a sacred trust that we should value and preserve at all costs. May we not take it lightly.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Remember The Fellowship...

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV)
The second devotion of the early followers of Christ was The Fellowship they had with Him and with one another. As Paul wrote to this troubled church at Corinth, that Fellowship was very Fragile. In the very next verses Paul pines about rumors that there were divisions and envy instead of this intimate teamwork and sharing that Christ designed and desires for His church. The worst part is that this fellowship, like the other treasures we have in Christ- forgiveness, the truth of His Word, spiritual gifts, and so on - just like those The Fellowship is His gift to us. We don't have to earn it or work at it; we need to accept it from Him and live in it. He invites us to "come on in" to this sharing of life with Him and His people, to stop going solo.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Life well spent

He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (Acts 28:30-31 ESV)
Luke concludes his historical account of the early church with this paragraph about Paul in his latter days at Rome. The paragraph before gives more details, but this summarizes it well. He spent his life sharing the truth about who Christ is and how He fits into God's big plan. It flowed freely from his life. It was a life well spent.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Witnessing in harmonious unity.

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. John 15:26,27
Teaching, in the Matthew 28 sense of the term, boils down to witnessing about what we know to be true, because it is what God has revealed in His Word and in Christ. It is doing our part, while Holy Spirit does His. He takes His Word and our words and works in the hearts of people, bringing life from words both written and spoken. We either confirm or contradict those words with our lives. May they all be in harmony.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Jesus prayed for us...

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-23 ESV)
The "these only" refers to the apostles. Earlier in this prayer Jesus had prayed for them as they imparted the words He had entrusted to them. He now prays for us, those who have received, down the line, the truth of the Gospel entrusted to us. His prayer was simple - that the Gospel would so unify us in fellowship with Him and one another that the a watching world would witness it's power in our lives and be drawn to Him. Those are powerful words, that would reach across generations, miles and cultures to bring us all together. Can we even allow them to join us here and now?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Taste of Teaching...

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:8-18 ESV)
What was it that Peter and John had to share? How was it that so many were compelled by what they said? "They had been with Jesus." They were followers and eyewitnesses of all He said and did, and of the resurrection. He had explained to them how it all fit with the Old Testament prophesies and promises. They knew how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Just as they are called to make other disciples and teach them, so are we. We do that by first being with Jesus, studying their accounts with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and then simply sharing in His Name.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Determined, Daily Discipleship

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (Acts 5:42 ESV)
Here Luke pauses for another short summary of what happened in the early church. It reads much like the end of Acts 2, with the followers of Christ publicly and privately teaching about Christ - that He is the Messiah come from God, that to that point they had missed Him, and that they needed to turn back, repent, accept Him as Messiah, and move on to follow Him now. In between the two accounts it has not been easy. They had been warned to remain silent, thrown in prison, and beaten. Yet they persisted in teaching Jesus. Even the first church scandal (Ananias and Saphirra) in this chapter did not deter them. They were on The Mission. Let's join them.

Monday, October 19, 2015

What to study... The Apostles' Teaching

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)
When these first believers came to realize Who Christ was, What He had done, and what they had done, they needed to know all about Him. So they learned from those who knew - the Apostles. Not only did the apostles know what Jesus had said and done, they also had an extended debrief session with Jesus before His ascension back to heaven, when he told them how it all fit with the Old Testament. The Gospel He entrusted to the Apostles had much teaching, which we now find in the New Testament. It's what we need to know, to study. Let's dig in.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Consistent Christ-Following...

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:24-26 ESV)
Paul is consistent. Though approaching the issue from different perspectives in his letters dealing with different issues, the bottom line is this: Since it is by faith in Christ that we have received new life with the indwelling Holy Spirit, we should live that life in, with and by the Spirit from day to day. We cannot and should not walk on from there and say: "I don't need Him, and I don't need anyone else." Destroying the unity of the Body, ignoring the affect we have on one another, thinking we are better or can do it alone - all these run smack in the face of spiritual reality. Without the Spirit, His gifts (and those within whom He places them), and his fruit, we will all fail miserably in the life He has called us to live in Christ. Let us keep in step with Him.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Against the Law???

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)
One might think so... The way most people act, including some professing followers of Christ, the above list of characteristics can be so rare it's as if there is some law against them. There's a lot of lust, but not much self-sacrificing love. Most faces do not reflect an inner joy despite the struggles of life. The news does not sound like "peace on earth." We want it NOW, not after enduring patience. Kindness? Where? Goodness might be found in a black, white and pink box. Faithfulness? We can be sure we will be let down. Those who are gentle seem to struggle for survival - in business, politics, school, or on the street corner. And self-control - really? In our day? We act like it's illegal to be filled with the Spirit. But that is exactly what God wants, expects and can do in the lives of followers of Christ. So even if it is "illegal" in this world, it is never in His.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Spiritual No-brainers???

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV)
At first glance, a "good" person might say "Of course, a Christian would NEVER do that!" But then we get to the middle of the verse, and we slow down to those things that may not seem so blatant, until we remember that these things are contrary to the presence of the Holy Spirit(are are all these things), working against the unity of the bond of peace. And then Paul slips in this disclaimer: "and things like these." It is by no means an exhaustive list. Anything that wreaks of sin and self, that controls us instead of the Spirit, has no part in our lives or in the church. They are not only "no-brainers", they are "no-filled-with-the-Spiriters". Let's live like Kingdom citizens today.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Holy Spirit: Rightful Ruler

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:16-18 ESV)
If you haven't noticed, there is a battle going on in your life, and in the church.  It is a daily battle between the sinful flesh with self-driven ideas and passions versus the Holy Spirit Who wants to see us living victoriously in Christ.  As followers of Christ, we have Him within, and He is the rightful ruler, who should be directing our lives.  When we submit to His control, our lives, our relationships and our state of mind benefit. When we instead submit to sin and self, it has disastrous results for us and all around us.  May we have the mind of Christ on this: The Holy Spirit is our rightful ruler.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Holy Spirit: Keeping us from extremes...

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:7-15 ESV)
One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to keep us from going to one or the other extreme in living out the Christian life. Often we do "fall back" into some sort of self-righteous legalism, relying on ourselves to live out the Christian life, lest we look "less than spiritual" in our failures. The other extreme is to take our freedom in Christ so far as to think and act that it does not matter how our lives affect others. The Holy Spirit will not allow us to do that if we are listening to Him. He is the Spirit of Oneness who binds us to fellow believers. Let us listen to Him and avoid extremes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Spirit rules out Self-Righteousness

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:2-6 ESV)
Paul is making an argument to warn believers against falling back into "elementary principles" - that worldly concept that we earn our way to God's approval, be it for salvation, or for living our lives to please Him. Our only hope, he says, is through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the one who adopts us into the Family of God when we put our faith in Christ. In the same way, He is the one through Whom we have any possibility to live life in a manner pleasing to God. There are no rituals, good deeds or loft promises that can ever replace that. It's only Him in me.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Setting the Stage: Set Free by the Spirit

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 ESV)
As Paul describes the way to spiritual victory, he begins by taking us back to the beginning, to how it is even imaginable:We have been set free. But how? For that we go back to Romans 8:12-15 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” We need to remember that it is possible: we can have spiritual victory because the Spirit has adopted us and freed us from sin's mastery. We need to stand firm and say in His power: Not again!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Spiritual Gifts: Personal, Practical, Powerful and Passionate

But cgrace was given dto each one of us eaccording to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,

f“When he ascended on high ghe led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”1

(hIn saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into ithe lower regions, the earth?2 10 He who descended is the one who also jascended kfar above all the heavens, that he might lfill all things.) 11 And mhe gave the napostles, the prophets, theoevangelists, the pshepherds3 and teachers,4 12 qto equip the saints for the work of ministry, for rbuilding up sthe body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to tthe unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,uto mature manhood,5 to the measure of the stature of vthe fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, wtossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in xdeceitful schemes. 15 Rather, yspeaking the truth in love, we are to zgrow up in every way into him who is athe head, into Christ, 16 bfrom whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, cwhen each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesias 4:7-16
When Christ accomplished His victory and returned to the Father, sending His Spirit with His gifts, it was in a sense a victory parade.  But the gifts that he gave, rather than someone else's leftovers, are personal - they are right for the person, and become a part of who that person is, so that the persons themselves become the gift to the church.  These Gifts are not to be put on a shelf for display.  They are very practical for why He has given them: to build a church healthy and strong.  The bottom line here is the same as in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12 - the discussion of Spiritual gifts always leads to the theme of love.  The Holy Spirit helps us act like God - carry out His work and display His character.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Not the same parts... not the same gifts...

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:21-31 ESV)
There is no one gift given to all the members of the body of Christ, except the Holy Spirit Himself. He is the one who divides the gifts and unifies the body into one. As is often the case, the gifts we think are more glamorous are not the greatest ones. Our guts can look pretty gory, but we won't get very far without our unseen organs. The greatest gifts are the ones that move us to the background and Christ to the forefront, and which, when exercised, emphasize the unity and victory of our fellowship, not our individual accomplishments. Let us rejoice and suffer together in Christ, as one.

Friday, October 9, 2015

One Whole Body

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-20 ESV)
When Paul uses the imagery of the Body for the Church, with gifted members as its parts, he addresses a number of issues. Because of selfishness and arrogance in the church at Corinth, some had come to think of themselves as less, because they did not have showy gifts. No one is unnecessary, especially the unseen ones - the are the guts of the body, the vital organs. He says something similar in Romans 12, addressing those who they thought they were God's greatest gifts, who really did not need the others. The goal is to have a Whole Body - spiritual healthy with every member doing his/her part, and enjoying the Spirit of the Lord as we see God work in and through us. Let's open our eyes and ears, take a big whiff of God's Wind, and get our heart pumping to be the Body of Christ today.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Drinking together...

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 ESV)
One of the most successful sitcoms on TV was "Cheers." It featured people coming together, night after night, sitting around the bar, drinking and sharing life's experiences. Why that program's success? Besides reflecting something that takes place every day, and that has taken place for centuries in cultures around the world, this reflects the pursuit of people for the drink that will truly satisfy, and the fellowship we all desire. It is a substitute for the real thing. That's why Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 to not be drunk with wine, but instead filled with the Spirit. These are community exhortations - we are to drink together. The Spirit makes us one - not at the corner bar, but with all believers everywhere, of all backgrounds and all times. He is the one who truly satisfies and fills our lives, and He is the one Who binds us together in true community. Accept no imitations or substitutes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Real Spiritual Gifts...

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
(1 Corinthians 12:1-11 ESV)
Paul had his hands full with the issues of the Corinthian church: selfishness, sexual sin, spiritual misunderstanding.  Here he tackles spiritual gifts - everyone wanted them and wanted them seen. But Paul calls for a different picture - one where the Spirit is heard more than seen - in our speaking up for Christ; one where were serve with others' benefit in mind more than our own; one where the Holy Spirit shines and unifies.  That's the way His presence is known.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

More Marks of the Spirit at work...

Romans 12:9-13 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 
Paul has just painted a picture of the Body of Christ with everyone doing their part as members, using the gifts He has given through the Spirit.  He now goes on to add detail to that picture by painting different frames of what it looks like in motion.   Each one requires more than one person in the picture.  We cannot really show love or the work of the Spirit alone.  It is in our actions and attitudes toward one another that we let the Spirit show He is there.  Even those that could be done alone: abhoring what is evil, hoding fast to what is good, being zealous and fervent, serving and rejoicing, praying - these are much clearer when we do them together, when we are agreeing on them and taking a stand, together.  May He show today.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sober thinking on Spiritual Gifts...

Romans 12:3-8 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 
The key starting point for thinking about spiritual gifts is "We, not me."  The pull of the old sinful nature is self-centeredness.  We focus on ourselves, think about how wonderful I am; we lose sight of the fact that we are part of a body, and we need all the other parts.  We need to stop searching for what the Body can do for us, and think about what we can do for the Body.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Seeing the Spirit... in our churches...

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. 
How can we see the presence of the Holy Spirit in our churches?  Paul mentions several ways in his words to this church.  People are serving Christ, not out of obligation, wuth with sincere hearts.  They are responsive to the Word of God, and want to live by it, not the standards of this world.  And they are watching and waiting in faith for Christ to return, as He said; the Holy Spirit confirms that we are the children of God, and as such, we want to be with Him.  May it be so among us.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The sign of the Spirit: selflessness

Romans 14:13-19 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 
Paul knew the Holy Spirit well.  He had seen Him at work; he had learned to hear His voice; he had been empowered by His gifts.  But the truest evidence of the Holy Spirit in God's people is Christlike character - a selflessness that serves.  When the Holy Spirit is at work, right relationships, peace and joy flow freely.  We look out for one another, stop passing judgment, and seek what edifies the other. It is a pursuit - it does not come easily or even naturally; it comes supernaturally from Him. Pursue it.

Friday, October 2, 2015

From Disciples to Believers...

Acts 19:1-7 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John's baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all. 
This passage has differences and similaritities with some of the other passage that record the giving of the Holy Spirit.  The first key is that they were disciples when Paul first meant them. That is the term used in the gospels of both disciples of John and Jesus.  These disciples had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit because they had not believed in Christ as the Messiah; they had repentance but not faith, and then were baptized to demonstrate that faith.  This is one of the rare occasions where the laying on of hands is mentioned in the giving of the Spirit, where it is a clear testimony to others that this is a signficant change in where the Church was going - Followers of John are now joining the Church.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

When the Spirit is obvious...

Acts 11:12-18 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” 
Not every event of the giving of the Holy Spirit is the same, but there are enough similarities so we know.  Peter had learned to listen to His voice.  He saw the signs they had seen in Acts 2.  And he saw the results in peoples' lives - "Repentance that leads to life."  Though the order in Acts differs as to when they believed, were baptized or received the Holy Spirit, one thing that always was there was repentence and faith, and great joy.  Those are signs enough in every situation to see that the Spirit has been given.