Fellowship

What is fellowship?

Koinonia is the Greek word most closely related to New Testament fellowship. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament defines it as “fellowship, association, community, communion or joint participation.” Koinonia embraces the idea of a close knit community where people are invested in one another.

Christian fellowship usually occurs in a small group where people can openly share their thoughts, insights and concerns with one another. Fellowship could be an “official” meeting at a set time and place or it could be two friends eating lunch together.

True fellowship, however, involves being willing to be transparent.

Transparency – oh, that can be hard.

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The Itch

Sometimes life is like an itch. An itch can either be small like a mosquito bite or large like a rash that encompasses areas of the body. Everyone knows you should not scratch something that itches because it only intensifies the problem. Everyone also knows that it is a challenge not to scratch. The more you mess with it, the worse it becomes. Sometimes it bleeds, oozes or gets infected. Depending on the cause, it can often spread. The itchiness becomes your focus, even when you try to ignore it.

Our lives are often the same. The “itch” might be a person, an upcoming decision, a sin in our life, a poor choice, resentment, bitterness or unforgiveness. The possibilities are endless and just like a physical itch the spiritual itch can consume us. You might find yourself constantly rehashing what happened, mentally creating “worst case scenarios” or gossiping to justify your version. You might even complain in “great holiness” to the Lord about the unfairness. This merely intensifies the pain and itchiness.

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Though He Slay Me

“Though He slay me …” Job 13:15 

Have you ever wondered how Job must have felt when he went through his trials? His friends made fun of him. He lost his health, family and possessions. He lost everything and it appeared that God had abandoned him. His situation looked hopeless. Yet Job never turned his back on God. Instead he proclaimed, “Yet will I trust in Him.”

Trusting in the Lord when trials and tribulations come into our lives is a daunting task. Often, self wants to have a pity party. Sometimes we whine and complain to our friends. Sometimes we just hold it in and worry. None of these are a “trusting in the Lord” response. 

Trials will come into our lives. That is a guarantee. James 1:2 reminds us to, “consider it pure joy … whenever you face trials of many kinds.” 1 Peter 1:2 says we should rejoice when we suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

Thankfully, when trials come into our lives, the calamity is usually not as extreme as the one Job faced. However, we can still feel worried, hopeless and sometimes abandoned. Overwhelmed by emotions, decisions or uncertainty, we can often feel like the Lord is not listening to our prayers.

It is hard when the Lord is silent. Job did not have the Lord encouraging him as his friends expressed their dark opinions. Elijah discovered that God was in the gentle whisper rather than the wind, earthquake or fire. I believe that it is often challenging to wait for the gentle whisper. Too often we feel consumed by the wind, earthquake and fire.

When you are in the midst of the tempest, pour your heart out to the Lord. He never forsakes us. In fact, I believe He takes delight in our coming to Him. He is the Father listening to His children’s concerns. He orchestrates the best for His children, even when it seems like that is not happening. He uses these trials to mold us into His character, if we let Him. He is our Daddy God who loves us with an immeasurable love.

“If God is for us, who can stand against us?” (Romans 8:31)

~ Marianne Wright

The Gate

Gates have many functions. They provide an entrance or secure an area. When opened they allow access or can signal the beginning of a race. In Biblical times the gate to a city was the seat of governmental and business transactions.

26-ideas-for-garden-gates-and-garden-gates-the-first-to-welcome-us-22-839We each have gates in our own lives. One of my favorite gates is in the book, The Secret Garden, by ‎Frances Hogsdon Burnett. This gate leads into a magical garden that initially is dead and unfruitful, but overtime transforms into an exquisite garden filled with beauty and healing.

I have been the dead, brown, lifeless garden. The Lord in His infinite mercy has, over the years, planted His flowers into my life to also transform me. Sometimes though, He allows us to go through seasons where we find ourselves severely pruned back and we are like the garden in winter – waiting for spring. The good news is that spring always, eventually comes and we see the glorious results of His drastic garden maintenance.

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The Pathway

Once upon a time there was a little girl who had to stay in the castle because a great malady had come over the land. She filled her days with reading books and spending time with the Lord. He became her best friend. They would have deep conversations.

forest-clearingOne day He asked the little girl if she would like to go on an adventure with Him. She enthusiastically responded and asked where they would go. He told the little girl to trust Him, took her hand and said, “Follow me.” 

Soon they came to the edge of the forest. The woods were thick and wet from the recent rain. The little girl hesitated because it seemed like there was no way to pass through the thick undergrowth. The Lord, sensing her dilemma, told the little girl to just trust because there is always a way. As He held her hand they both stepped in the underbrush. Continue reading

The Web

Spider webs are beautifully and intricately woven. They are incredibly strong, and for the spider’s prey, very deadly.  If you brush up against one unexpectedly, you might involuntarily shudder; but when the sun shines on a dew-covered web, you marvel at its spider web 2exquisiteness. It is the exact same web seen from two different perspectives. Webs can be a protection or they can lead to destruction.

Most people have probably heard the story of the soldier who hid in the cave while he anticipated being captured by the enemy. Then a spider wove a web across the entrance. The enemy did not enter the cave because the web gave the appearance that the cave had been unoccupied for a long time. The spider’s web became the man’s protection.

When the Lord creates our web, He can use it to shield and protect us. Sometimes, we need to retreat or regroup for a short time. Often, when I am in a “Wait” season, I feel like I am enclosed in a dark cave of uncertainty with a subsequent lack of direction. For me, waiting is difficult. It’s not that I feel like I’m floundering, but it is hard to not have a clear direction especially when it concerns important, life changing decisions.

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The Impossible

Often it seems that the Lord places “the impossible” directly in our path and nothing we can do will change or alleviate the circumstances.

impossible giraffe“The impossible” are situations totally out of our control and they frequently converge within our normal everyday life. At times like these we have to look beyond what we can do. Our solutions are so finite, whereas His solutions are eternal.

Recently I have been pondering “the impossible” since it seems like the Lord is illuminating two impossible situations. Sometimes it is hard to know how to pray because there is nothing that I can do to change them. I might be able to give some advice, but in reality, my input can do nothing to alter the outcomes. They are literally and figuratively life and death.

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The Miraculous

Every once in a while we get to touch the hand of God. When we hold a loved one’s hand there is a connection that transcends more than the mere physical touch. Holding hands unites the emotions with the physical. Touching the hand of God unites creation with the Creator.

hand of godThis morning God reached His hand down to the Sunday fellowship group that meets in our home. After a short time of sharing we began to pray for each other. Some of the shared needs will require the totally miraculous to happen.

I believe that God is in the business of the miraculous. When we prayed this morning the supernatural presence of God filled the room. Almost everyone had a word, Scripture or a picture from the Lord to share with the person who was receiving the prayer. The sense that the Lord was standing right there in the midst of us was overwhelming.

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The Gift

Gifts are special. Gifts can sit on a shelf awaiting the appropriate time to be given, or they can be spontaneous. Gifts can come in small or large boxes. Sometimes the gift in the smallest box is far superior to the one in the larger container.

giftThe Lord knows how to give good gifts. If a son asks for bread, he will not give him a stone.

When the Lord selects our gift, He handcrafts it so it is exactly what we need. His gift is sometimes not what we would have picked, but He knows our true needs.

Sometimes the gift is an unexpected answer to prayers that may be decades old or it could just be a little reminder that the Lord is good and He loves us with an infallible love.

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Garden of Delight

Working in my flower gardens is one of my favorite delights. I love to watch them change from mere soil into beds filled with beautiful flowers. I believe that the Lord is the Master Gardener. He delights in transforming dry, dead, dismal gardens into works of art.

my_gardenThe Lord frequently speaks to me through prophetic pictures and many years ago He showed me that I was like a lifeless, desolate garden. His picture was not pretty.

In the Lord’s picture I opened a garden gate expecting to find a beautiful garden, but instead what He showed me was a brown, dried up, dead enclosed garden that did not have even one sprig of green. I was not instantly encouraged by the Lord’s picture!

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Take A Plunge On The Wild Slide

Have you ever experienced the thrill and excitement of going down a giant water slide at a water park?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the joy the Lord and I experience by plunging down the slides He places in my life.

water slide 2The plunge comes towards the end of the journey, after lots of preparation.

First, I need a destination by choosing which water park. I can’t just hope to arrive without knowing where I’m going.

On my spiritual journey I also need a purpose. I can’t wander aimlessly hoping that somehow I will make a difference in God’s kingdom.

Once I have chosen a location, I must pack a few essentials for the trip. Suntan lotion, beach towel and swim suit are the bare minimum.

I believe that the Lord only has one essential for my journey with Him. I need to pack the attitude that I am willing to do whatever He asks.

That is a tough one to fit into the pool bag because self often wants something very different. Sometimes it seems like I have to keep shoving the desire to be obedient back into the bag when it tries to escape.

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Pain and Restoration

Jesus used every day events to help his followers understand more about the kingdom of God and I believe that He still weaves our daily activities into teachable lessons for us.

Since I broke my elbow in February, I have been going to physical therapy (PT). This has been my first experience with PT and I have been PT2thinking about it a lot.

The reasons someone needs to have PT are varied. Usually it is one step in recovery from an accident or disease because the body has been injured or harmed and is not working up to its full potential.

The therapist uses many methods to help the body return to maximum flexibility and efficiency. But it takes time.

There are no quick and instantaneous exercises that will miraculous restore your health; however, with much patience and diligence your body does become whole again.

So it is with our walk with the Lord. There are many times when we are emotionally hurt and spiritually broken. Sometimes it feels like we have been mutilated and destroyed. Other times our pain or confusion is less severe, but we are still broken and need repair.

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The Unexpected

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

~ From The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Each day we have the privilege of choosing which road we will travel. It often really is our choice. Do we want the path that is smooth and drama free or are we willing to journey on the path that is frequently covered with pot holes?

the road not taken

The Road Not Taken

Throughout our lives there are times when each of these roads is a viable option. I must confess that, for whatever reason, the road I usually find myself on is bumpy, covered with overhanging branches and contains many twists and turns.

I would like to suggest that there is also a third path that can emerge. The sign post on that road reads “The Unexpected.” The unforeseen journey down this road brings with it the potential for destruction or immeasurable growth. When the unexpected occurs you might be tempted to ask, “Why, God?” or try to second guess what you could have done differently.

Jim and I have been traveling the Unexpected Road since January 6. In fact, all the family members who live in our house with us have been active participants on the unexpected journey. One man from our fellowship group summed it up best when he jokingly said, “Isn’t it a sad state of affairs when Joy (our dog) is the healthiest member of the Wright clan?”

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Abundance

Abundance often emerges from the impossible. Many times the very fact that the impossibility exists creates the opportunity for the Lord to bring forth His abundance.

starsSometimes an act of faith is required. For Abraham, he had to believe in the midst of impossibility that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens.

Abundance wears many faces. Some assume that abundance implies health, wealth and prosperity and for some people that may be true.

However, God’s abundance does not come with a guarantee of those things. The churches of Macedonia experienced great trials of afflictions, but they possessed an abundance of joy even in the midst of deep poverty.

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Redemption

When we think of redemption we usually think about Christ’s atoning blood which delivered us from our sins. Yes, on the day we personallybundle surrender ourselves to the Lord and ask His forgiveness, He redeems us and we become His children.

Christ’s sacrifice was vital. We can now partake in His kingdom here on earth and when we die join Him in eternity. However, I believe that Christ’s act of redemption is far more encompassing then simply making a way for us to enter heaven.

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Repentance

In the New Testament, repentance means to change the way that we think and act. Without the Lord, this would be impossible. However, when we bring, and then surrender, our thoughts, beliefs and actions to the Lord, He replaces them with peace, truth and hope. True repentance brings transformation.

gardenI love to work in my garden. Have you ever dug a large hole in hard clay to plant a bush? I think repentance requires many of the same steps.

When I dig the hole, I expend a tremendous amount of energy. Being willing to openly expose my sins and faults to the Lord also requires much effort.

Sometimes my feet hurt from stomping down on the shovel as I try to break through the hard soil. Likewise, there have been times when my body, soul and spirit ache as I struggle and my heart can feel like heavy, solid clay.

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Obedience

Obedience is like the tug of war game that my second grade students play every year on Field Day. Each team musters their forces together and strategically places the participants where they will be the most effective. Then, when the whistle blows, each side pulls with all of their might.

Often I find that my obedience to the Father’s plans is like that. I line up all of my reasons why I probably should not do what I feel the Father tug of warwants me to do; then, I try and justify my reasoning.

Fortunately, I am usually on the “losing” side of that tug of war because my heart’s desire is to be obedient and to do the will of my Father. However, my response is not always as instantaneous as I would like.

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Trust

Probably at some time in our lives we have all wondered what it means to trust the Lord.

Trust can be elusive. It is not something that we magically create, but it is something that the Lord develops in us over time. It usually requires walking through difficult circumstances for the Lord to implant trust in us.

bungee jumpingI believe that trusting God is like bungee jumping. You jump as a choice of your will, while you are connected to a large elastic, bungee cord. In the same way, we trust as a choice of our will while we are connected to the Lord.

For those who enjoy bungee jumping, the thrill and excitement come from the jump and the resultant rebound. Often when the Lord asks us to trust Him, it is difficult to experience the joy and the excitement that could be ours if we are willing to jump with abandon.

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Self-Control

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Gal 5:22-23 NIV

Self-control is the last fruit of the spirit. In life no one wants to be last. Somehow last implies that you don’t measure up, didn’t try hard enough or couldn’t quite do it. However, I don’t think being at the end of the list of fruit puts self-control in that same category.
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I think self-control is like the parenthesis in math. For example, with (3+2) x (8+2) the math inside the parenthesis has to be completed first. You would get a totally different answer if the parentheses were missing from the equation.

In a sense love and self-control are like the parenthesis. They help group the other fruit. 1 Corinthians 13, the front parenthesis, reminds us that without love we can do nothing. Self-control comprises the back parenthesis.

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Gentleness

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness… Gal 5:22-23 NIV

Webster lists the characteristics of gentleness as being soft, meek, passive, mild, delicate, kind and docile. In Psalm 18:35 David says that the Lord’s “gentleness has made me great.” This seems to be a contradiction. How could the characteristics of gentleness, as defined by Webster, make someone great? Perhaps the Lord’s definition of gentleness implies much more.lion and the lamb 2

I believe that the Lord wants us to be gentle, but His gentleness is not a wishy-washy docility. Gentleness has a hidden core of strength and this core is what makes someone great. Gentleness’ strength runs deep, like the molten lava in a volcanic magma chamber. Tremendous heat transforms hard rock into a flexible, moving force.

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Faithfulness

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness… Gal 5:22 NIV

Faith is a seed the Lord plants in us. Faithfulness is the fruit that develops over the seasons of our life. The fruit of faithfulness requires a long growing season. There is no way to expedite the process.

tortoise and the hareIn the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare, the tortoise demonstrates faithfulness. He keeps on doing what he needs to do, without any fanfare or dramatics. Steadfast, loyal, conscientious, all describe a person who has allowed faithfulness to become ingrained in their life.

Often, the people who are the most faithful receive the least acclaim.

In the Bible, Joseph exemplifies faithfulness. After he was sold to Potiphar, he conscientiously served him and the Lord blessed Potiphar’s household because of Joseph. Joseph did not grumble and complain because he was in Egypt away from his family.  He faithfully served in the place the Lord had him.

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Goodness

god is goodThe fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness… Gal 5:22 NIV

When reading fairy tales or watching movies, good usually triumphs over evil by the end of the story. Often in real life, our desire is for the happily ever after fairy tale ending. But even in movies or fairy tales, the hero or heroine has to overcome many obstacles before they achieve goodness.

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Single Parents

single momSingle parents are ubiquitous in the church; however, often they are a very misunderstood group that usually doesn’t quite comfortably fit anywhere.

As a former single mom with 25 years of single parenting experience, these are some of the impressions I have collected. Maybe it is different if you are a single dad, but I don’t have any expertise in that area.

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