Who are you looking forward to?

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16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

What are you looking forward to?

That’s a loaded question for a Christian. Its loaded with a view of history that has history moving towards a person. So our question is more appropriately framed as, “Who are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to Jesus.

The Resurrection of Jesus marks what began with His Incarnation: The Kingdom of God is at hand and has been steadily advancing in the lives of men and women.

To be in Christ is to have a purposeful and personal destiny. When you and I anticipate the day when death is completely swallowed up in the life of Jesus we have a source for courage. Thus Paul says, “encourage one another with these words.”

Why do we need courage?

We need courage to live today as if the Lord Jesus Christ has affection and admonition for all who will enter His Kingdom eternally. We need courage today because we are surrounded by voices that compete for our affection. We need courage today because we cannot live and speak prophetically in the character of Jesus on our own strength or in our own personal visions of power. We need courage to walk “in the fear of the Lord.”

We need courage to act and move according to the commands of Jesus. Such courage can be  nurtured in our relationships with each other. “Encourage one another with these words.” But it does require a maturing capacity to give and receive questions about our attitudes and actions. And it requires humility to receive the exhortations directing us to the greatness and glory of Jesus.

Now we believe too. Authentic Fellowship, Part 1

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39Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”  John 4:39-42

What makes us think it, “These folks are so fake?”

What makes us feel it? “These people are so fake!”

Welcome to the realm of what its like to be the only one being real. Ha! Anytime we drop in on a group that knows each other and seems to have its own language, we can only make judgments. The critical spirit is easy and cheap. In my experience its mostly about me not knowing the stories and therefore the values of this crowd. They seem so different and unavailable to me.

That’s when I’m busy making assumptions about the levels of emotion being or not being expressed in their language and bodies.

So, what’s authentic fellowship?

The church has been endowed with this funny word that we typically don’t use in public conversations. Fellowship. Its the Greek word, koinonia, “the share that one has in anything, participation; contact, fellowship, intimacy” (Thayers Greek Lexicon).

For the Christian koinonia, begins with Jesus bringing us into the communion of God through the grace of forgiveness and the common confession, “Jesus is Lord.” Now through the Spirit of God we are connected and have a share in Him and His Kingdom. We have been summoned into a life together in which we are being changed by Him.

This is why our stories are so important. In most large public gatherings of Jesus’ “church” we are not getting to hear the story of our neighbour. They may look pretty good, cleaned up, and having it all together at that hour. They may look like someone who never really needed Jesus. But you don’t know… till you know their story. Authentic churches keep making spaces where people can share their story of being touched by Jesus.

Your story breeds authentic fellowship.

“It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:42

Our Code for Kinship

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3that 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. 4And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 1 John 1:3-4

“Koinonia.”

That’s Greek.

Koinonia is to share something in common: Common person. Common mission. Common work. Common interest. Common cause. In the New Testament the word “koinonia” came to represent the common life shared by followers of Jesus. This common life emerged from the Gospel and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

For John sharing the Gospel of Jesus expands fellowship. Our most common vision of fellowship is The Fellowship of the Ring. Could a more disparate “band of brothers” have been created by their common cause?

Yes. The Church.

The church is the Fellowship of Jesus. We are united by our common union with God through Jesus. We have been gracefully brought into the communion of God. And the product is joy. We have become family in Him. People united by Jesus the King and turned into kin. Brothers and sisters not by our choosing but by His. Our usual lens for such non-familial relationships would be friendship, but here’s the thing: we choose our friends. When I see the church I see a family I was born into by the will of God.

Y(our) Spiritual Grow-Op!

Scripture:  2 Peter 1:5-8

5For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Observations:

Make great effort to supplement your faith

— to keep building up your life on the foundation of your faith.

Peter's Step-Ladder

Not growing this way makes us ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Jesus.

Wow, Love is at the top of the “ladder!”

Application:

Do I possess these qualities in a growing way in response to Jesus and the Gospel?

What are we doing to grow in these qualities together?  Do I have a friendship and fellowship that encourages, exhorts, rebukes, teaches, and builds me up to pursue this kind of vision of growth?  Do I have relationships where I am creating a space filled with  grace and truth in which we mutually and honestly pursue spiritual growth?

If the Christian life is not just about “my” spiritual growth but also about “our” spiritual growth, then I have to make adjustments to include others in the journey with Jesus.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, sometimes, often, we are so resistant to growth.  But that’s not the normal life you envision.  Please stimulate our fellowship to grow together.  Your Spirit has put within us the desire to be effective and productive in our knowledge of Jesus.  May we become more Jesus.  Somehow our fellowship must become a spiritual grow-op!  AMEN.

 

 

 

The kiss of love

Scripture:  1 Peter 5:12-14

12By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. 13She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. 14Greet one another with the kiss of love.

Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Observations:

Peter encourages them to greet one another “with the kiss of love.”

Application:

I have a friend who regularly greets me with a slap on the back or a chest bump!  Its all about the affection and the happiness of seeing each other.  In general Canadian culture is not predisposed to greetings with kisses… or even hugs!  However, the spirit of this command remains for us.

I think Peter must have remembered how Jesus was betrayed by a kiss from Judas.  (Luke 22:47-48)  The contrast is striking.  The followers of Jesus as beneficiaries of His death and resurrection now greet each other with a kiss that recalls the great expense paid for their fellowship.  And thus our kin-ship in the church is based not just on affinity and blood-line, but on the grace of our Lord.

Because of Jesus, may our greetings of other brothers and sisters in Christ be infused with real affection for each other.  So… let’s warm it up and let the love and brotherhood we feel with Jesus into our relationships with others in His church.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for moving toward us and expressing your love for us in real ways.  Help us build the kind of friendships and relationships together in your churches that honour Jesus.  AMEN.