Stay away from a fool,
for you will not find knowledge on their lips. Proverbs 14:7
I imagine today’s wise advice has everyone shaking their heads in agreement. If a spotlight were pointed at your gaggle of friends, however, would there be that one person you know you should limit your time around? The one always making bad decisions, dragging you into uncomfortable situations, struggling in their marriage because of their behavior, and the list goes on and on.
Why do we keep these folks on our Christmas card list or included in our party invitations? Unfortunately, some are a bit too close to home as relatives. But those other ones, those are head scratchers. Maybe you think they are funny, your kids are on the same sports team, you’re in a Bible study group with them, or they are a neighbor. As Christians aren’t we to show kindness, compassion and grace?
Yes, to all of the above. However, nowhere in scripture will you find the Lord advising to bring into your close sphere a fool. As scripturally well-informed Christians we should be able to spot fools fairly quickly and make wise choices about boundaries. According to an article in Sharper Iron, look for these traits: arrogance, overconfidence, lacking shame, braggart, reckless with words and choices, self-indulgent, quarrelsome, and insulting. It doesn’t matter that they also have an amazing talent for scrapbooking, working out, wine collecting, or whatever mirrors some hobby or interest of yours. Stay clear. Smile and wave. Be kind and gracious. Protect your heart, mind, family and wallet.
Friend, a fool is no friend. In the end, you will most likely look the fool along with them. Take what they say with a discerning ear. Surround yourself with people you can trust and help you on your sanctification journey. God will cleave the fools. You just need to let them go. He will place the people you need in your path.
Holy Father, open my eyes to the foolish people I have held on to in my life. Help me to be discerning with my time and boundaries concerning them. Bring me wise mentors into my life. Amen
“For all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”2 Corinthians 1:20
Perfect and majestic Father! How is it that you open your heavens, reach down and invite us in to your perfect world each and every minute of every day? I don’t want to miss a chance to say “yes!” back to you when you put out your glorious hand to me. Holy Spirit, I RSVP today to you, “Yes and Amen!”
A few weeks ago, my church was studying Proverbs 27 and the theme of friendship which runs throughout it. It hit me how God is always inviting us into relationships that mirror what He wants with us. Jesus, himself, changed the status of His relationship with the disciples in John 15:15 when he said, “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends.”
The role that Jesus plays in the work of the Trinity allows us to create a personal relationship with the most holy of all holies – God almighty. In fact, a few of my friends who have spent years in Christian denominations where fearing God the Father is placed higher than other parts of the Trinity, recently discovered that it’s this close, personal friendship with the Lord that has brought them farther along in their sanctification.
God knows the value of friendships. He has defined what a healthy, beautiful friendship is through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus provided gentle honesty, selfless attentiveness, stubborn loyalty, and intentional pursuit. He didn’t overlook sin and He didn’t call out sin without love. He doesn’t lie to us or betray us.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”Proverbs 27:17
Jesus didn’t meet a couple of guys, sit around having a beer listening to their woes and their sins then sign off for the day with a “see ya!” He invested. He pursued. He sharpened. Isn’t it amazing that God wants this type of relationship with little ‘ole us?
The sermon that day about friendship featured a pin drop moment. The pastor said, “Me and Jesus, it isn’t enough.” The crowd was silent. We’ve always heard that’s all we need, right? But we were made to be loved and to love. We were made to be in communion with other believers; to be friends, loyal, intentional and wise. We know that because it’s what God wants with us and models for us.
Friend, today ask the Holy Spirit to put someone on your heart to reach out to. Someone that you need to make an effort to get to know. Let’s honor and glorify God by making a new friend to whom we can sharpen and they will sharpen us, in His name.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12
There’s a famous line in the movie Animal House, “Thank you, Sir! May I have another!” which the college students must say as they receive a paddling in order to become members of the fraternity house. This scene always comes to mind when I read about the trials and tribulations we most certainly will face as followers of Jesus.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3
James especially brings this message home – not only will we endure trials but we should enjoy them! Of all the lessons and directives in the Bible I think I find this one of the most difficult. In my more “infant” Christian stage it could take me months or years to see the blessings from a fiery trial. But as I have progressed in my faith journey I’m working to shorten that time span. My goal? To be in the moment of trials asking God to show me the lesson and blessing. And not only that, to try and be a blessing to others while things aren’t going so well for me.
The dark moments of our life will last only so long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us.
Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principles
I don’t know about you but I’m taking this to heart these days. I want to accept the lesson as quickly as possible. And while I’m not begging for trials, I know for certain they will come. I’m so thankful He has given us opportunities to improve our hearts and minds, our relationships with other people, and with the Creator Himself. I heard Joyce Meyer say the other day, “When we are in the midst of a trial we get thrown at God.” And I’m thankful when we are thrown into the midst of the fire He is right there reaching for us.
Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; Matthew 11:11
It’s been quite a few years but the period of time where I felt I had zero friends still brings a bit of sadness. I was in the midst of mild depression, hormonal changes, medical issues and family changes. As I evaluated the relationships I had outside my family I realized I lacked any true friends. Many acquaintances, but no friends I could solidly rely upon. There’s many of us that have gone through or are currently in that lonely place. God, from the beginning, decided we shouldn’t be alone and when we are we feel that sense of incompleteness.
What I love about the quote from Jesus today is how He showed the world how much He loved and valued friendship. Imagine a friend elevating you to such heights! When my youngest daughter went off to college she discovered this type of friendship. I still remember the phone call when she told me she had finally realized what true, loving friendship means.
“When she introduces me she starts out saying what an amazing writer I am and how talented I am. She is so proud of me and excited to walk alongside me in life without jealousy or competition,” my daughter explained about her friend. Isn’t that the type of friendship we all need? Ones where we lift each other up and comfort each other when we are down? People who jump at the chance to help us and just live life with us?
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:10
I’ve come a long way from that sad time in my life. I turned to God and the Holy Spirit for help. I asked for good women to come into my life and they have. I’ve had to do a lot of work on my end – as God has revealed the reasons I was in that place to begin with. I needed to learn to be the friend I desired to have.
Let’s thank God for giving us the yearning for friendship. Let’s thank God for helping fill that yearning. And although we are never truly alone because of our fellowship with the Almighty, He wants us in Christian fellowship to guide us in our sanctification journey. Our first step is to ask Him to fulfill this need. And then we need to go to work.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
A few years ago, God put my faith listening ears and my trust in Him to the test. He asked me to step outside my well-built comfort zone based on the pride of working. For an unknown period of time, He directed me to feed the homeless with 100 lunches once a week. He told me what to make and where to take the food. He tested and challenged me week after week to put my complete faith in Him. To stand resolutely with Him. For almost a year I experienced a relationship with God like no other.
As I wrote the other day, sometimes God asks us to stay silent. Other times, like during His 100 Lunches Project, God asks us to step up and say, “Yes!” And if we aren’t paying attention, aren’t tuned in to His character, aren’t sure that He is directing us, then we miss out on great gifts of intimacy with Him.
The actual making of the first few weeks of lunches wasn’t so far out of my comfort zone. I had enthusiastic helpers and a husband who supported my venture. But as time passed and God kept calling, I was faced with having to be resolute in following Him. For one, my husband thought this would be sort of a “one and done” activity. Not a financial investment and something that would take up room in our already full garage. He also was concerned for my safety as I ventured into potentially dangerous areas, at times alone. I could have easily agreed with him on all counts and shut the program down. But I knew God wanted me to stand firm. So, as I explained to my husband, God was directing this project, not me, he relented with a few requests. One being that if I didn’t go with someone that I would regularly check in via text.
And then there was my work schedule. At the time I was a long term substitute in a school office. I prided myself on always being on the schedule to work at one school or another. It was my source of “happiness” that people needed me. The direction I was getting from God was to give out lunches in the middle of the week. Doing that would require me to tell the school I currently worked I couldn’t be there that day for an unknown period of time. My fear was they would let me go. And so, I prayed to God. Asking Him to guide me and bolster me. The day I spoke to the office secretary I told her, “I’m doing this lunch project, directed by God. And I can’t work Wednesdays anymore.” A weird thing to say, for sure. Especially in the more liberal area that I live. The response? “Sounds good. We will take you any day you can work for us.”
That’s how the year went. Door after door opened. And some closed as needed. I watched and listened for His Word. And I did His work in His name. It was glorious!
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22
The greatest lesson I learned that year was about trust. Trusting in that when God speaks to us and gives us a challenge He will provide. And any obstacle that is put in front of you, you can stand firm in who has your back. That year I had many people scoff at what I was doing. Family, friends, policemen, strangers. But when you know that your mission is God-sent nothing should stop you. You can be resolute.
So many of us Christians are sitting and waiting for God to call us to something special and yet we haven’t taken up the directions already laid out before us in God’s Holy Word. We don’t need another whisper to tell us to be kind or forgiving. We don’t need a tap on the shoulder to know how dangerous our gossiping tongue can be. It’s all there in the Good Book waiting to be lived out. We just need to take a stand for God.
The process of sanctification starts with the basics and moves on toward more and more challenges of trust. When He sees we are obeying the small things He places more of His banquet in front of us. But like the process of knowing when to stay silent we must be able to discern it is God, not our flesh, directing us. I knew it was God asking me to embark on this grand project because it asked me to do things so in opposite of my own desires and yet followed perfectly His.
When you act for God you will have detractors. You will have people that call you crazy. You might even have people who get angry with you. You might have to ask God to confirm you are on the right path. And I’ll tell you, brothers and sisters, when you are on that path, the work you do for Him will be seen by people who need to see it. You just may never realize it.
There were so many lessons for me in that year of 100 Lunches (which grew to about 300 per week!). And one day in December of that year God said to me, “You are done. It’s time for something else.” He closed that door and told me to stop. Even then I needed to be resolute. People chastised me for not continuing. Someone got quite angry with me. My response? “This wasn’t my project to begin with, it was God’s. He told me to be done so I am done. But you are free to serve in my place.”
I mentioned in my last post about the story from Sparkling Gems from the Greek and listening to God’s voice. I’d like to share with you the prayer from that day.
Lord, help me follow the Holy Spirit’s leading whenever He impresses me to do something. I know there have been moments in my life when the Spirit was leading me to do something. But because I didn’t understand it, I didn’t obey – and later I was always sorry. Please help me become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to trust Him when He speaks to my heart. I want to be obedient and to experience the supernatural life that He wants to give me! I pray this in Jesus’ name!
Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8
I don’t know about you but as a “baby Christian” I would go entire days if not weeks without thinking about God. Without making any decision based on what God wanted of me. As my journey has progressed that “forgetting about God” can be counted in minutes and hours. And with that I have seen so many changes in my life.
The verse today takes place as the end times draw near. Creatures in heaven praising God “day and night” simply because of his everlasting holiness. As I’ve studied the Bible, I’ve seen so often how God wants a close relationship with us. Here in this verse the creatures never forget about God. But you’ll notice that God is also a constant. He was and is and is to come.
Since the 1970s, one group or another has played “chicken little” screaming from the rooftops about the world ending due to either overpopulation, nuclear war, economic collapse, global warming, etc. At one point a politician even posted a countdown to Earth’s destruction — which ran out about 8 years ago. And according to a current politician we have about 10 years left before the Earth implodes apparently.
But here’s the thing, when you study the Book of Revelation it’s not the Earth or God that is destroyed, it’s sin. God is the Alpha and Omega. He created the beginning and will be with us throughout eternity.
Today I praise the everlasting God. We cannot destroy God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. We can only, through our sin-filled, unrepentant lives destroy ourselves. My earthly goal is to serve God as best I can with Jesus as my guidebook and the Holy Spirit as my tour guide. That way I can join with the creatures in heaven continuously praising His name.
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
“We are pretty much the only hope that God has for reaching people who need him.”
On a recent visit with my daughter back in St. Louis, Missouri, she invited me to her friend’s 50th birthday gathering. It was to be just a small group as her larger party had already taken place. My daughter, who is 23, is blessed to have a number of women in her life who are not only mature in their marriages and in life in general, but in their faith. As I sat listening to them, I said a silent prayer of thanks to God. He, once again, put me right where I needed to be.
I listened as these Christian women of varied ages shared memories of shared events and the joy of being disciples to younger women. You see, their church encourages all ages to seek being discipled by more experienced Christians – something I haven’t experienced in the 20 years I’ve been an active Christian.
The birthday girl’s good friend suddenly announced we were to all take turns expressing what we loved about the newly christened 50 year old. She turned to me and said, “You don’t know Renee well so you don’t need to say anything.” I disagreed. I definitely had much to love about this woman that I had just met.
As each woman spoke, I felt the love flow throughout the group. It was sweet and brave and authentic. And at my turn I’m sure they all wondered what I would have to say.
“As a mother I miss my daughter terribly. She’s so far away. She has no family for hundreds of miles. And now with a baby on the way it grieves me that she is alone out here. But I realize she isn’t. I am so thankful she has Renee as her friend and godly counsel. A mother couldn’t ask for anything better besides being here herself,” I said.
You see my daughter’s friend, Renee, has taken her under her beautiful wings. She provides wise counsel about marriage, faith, motherhood and more. I could be jealous when I hear my daughter talk about her relationship with Renee. But my faith progression has brought me instead to a place of thankfulness. My daughter is incredibly blessed to be surrounded by Christian women who are prepared and ready to offer Biblical counsel.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free" Luke 4:18
That’s Jesus in the above verse. Jesus our wise counselor setting us free from our prisons. And He trained up His disciples to spread His message of salvation and freedom. Like the old shampoo commercial goes, “and they told two friends and so on and so on.” Which brings us thousands of years later to this little group at a café in Missouri.
Here’s what I noticed about those six women I sat with that night. 1) They didn’t gossip 2) They lifted each other up with genuine compliments 3) They showed love and concern for each other 4) They were confident in expressing their faith and 5) They were eager and willing to take up being disciples.
"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
These women are living the Great Commission. Teaching and guiding and loving Jesus’ flock. I sat there like a fan-girl marveling at being in the midst of ordinary women who were so extraordinary. Yes, ordinary women. They aren’t pastors or scholars although one is in fact a trained Christian counselor. They are students of Jesus. It gave me hope of what I could achieve with faith and the blessings of God.
I took the opportunity to ask a few of them a Christian counseling question.
“If I find myself in a situation with a fellow Christian who is struggling with an issue, what’s your best advice?” I inquired.
Without hesitation three of the women, including my daughter who herself disciples young women, said: “You need to really get to know the person. There needs to be a sense of trust that you come from a place of love.” And the birthday girl? She emphasized my old favorite, truth plus love. Not being afraid to speak God’s truth into someone from a loving perspective. Remember that Jesus trait of having a warrior spirit? Renee takes it to heart. She knows the end game – saving a soul.
“As you being the process of bringing correction into someone’s life, put yourself in his shoes. If you were the one sitting there, would it be easy or difficult for you to hear what is about to be said? If the person you are correcting acts closed at first it may be that he’s just embarrassed or reacting out of insecurity. Therefore don’t stop the conversation unless you can see that he’s just being combative. You need to be patient and slow in judging their reaction to your correction.”
Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems from the Greek
Isn’t this the reaction we worry about the most when we need to speak truth to our Christian friends or family members? A fear of making someone angry or embarrassed? But here lies the reason why “Wise Counselor” sits at the end of our faith progression. Without love, without a sense of serving God, without courage, without knowledge of the Lord’s will, we will probably fail at being what our friend, child, sibling, co-worker, or sister in Christ truly needs.
So, when Jesus asks us to “follow” He isn’t just offering Himself up to save us from eternal damnation which by itself is a pretty amazing gift. He’s saying “join me in a journey.” He’s saying, “we’ve got work to do together.” And if we stop partway on the journey and decide we are “fine” where we are at, we miss the opportunities He wants to put in front of us to free more captives.
I don’t know about you but I need wise Christian counselors in my life. And if I could be like Renee and be a blessing in other’s lives, I know it’d make Jesus smile. My imperfect progress, as my friend Betsy likes to say, is still progress. I want to know and live out having the mind of Christ. I’m not where I was when I started and I still have a ways to go. Thankfully, I can trust that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are my guides and cheerleaders.
When we started this journey, I invited you to say a prayer of confession I found in Sparkling Gems from the Greek. And true to God’s ways He put another in front of me to close out this series. Please join me in this prayer and confession. I pray that you seek love, humbleness, courage, and wisdom on your journey.
“Lord, I ask you to help be kind and patient when it is essential for me to bring correction. Help me to not be offended if the person I’m trying to help doesn’t respond at first the way I wished he would have. Help me put myself in that person’s shoes and to sympathize with how he might feel. I ask You to give me wisdom to know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. I also ask that You give the other person the grace to hear what I am telling him so he might see that I have his best interest at heart and that I am only trying to help him. I pray this in Jesus’ name!”
“I confess that I have the mind of Jesus Christ! When it is needful to me to speak correction to someone else I do it with love, kindness and patience. I refrain from allowing anger to rise up inside me. I am careful about the words that come out of my mouth, and I refuse to participate in vain arguing. I remain in control of myself as the Holy Spirit works mightily inside me. My words bring life to all who hear and receive them! I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!”
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Matthew 3:21
During my senior year of high school, I decided to try and live out my dream of becoming an astronaut. I met with an Air Force recruiter and was excited to take off on this new adventure. And then I told my parents. It was my father that said to me, “You are a lot like your mom and your mom couldn’t handle the military. She dropped out after about a week. You two don’t like to be told what to do. So, it’d be best to drop this idea.”
From the outside I exuded confidence. But on the inside, I was terrified about what people thought about me. I always obeyed my parents out of fear of the repercussions. And so, I gave up my dream. I assumed everything my father said was correct.
Imagine if Jesus had so little courage.
His own family thought him a little wacky. I mean if you announced to your family that you were the Messiah…. But unlike me, He knew where His identity resided – in God.
So often when we think about courage and courageous people we think of military and political warriors. And while we can be eternally grateful for people that go off to war to fight for our freedoms and people like Martin Luther King who make big waves in Washington DC, if we stop there we might be inclined to not step up to the plate when it’s our turn.
Jesus wasn’t a military warrior. He didn’t fight to change laws. He didn’t work hard to get elected to lead a nation. But what He did do, from the first day He declared Himself the Messiah, was choose to lay aside any and all standing with man to serve God. He knew from that day it would be soon to die on the cross.
“His was the courage of the mind, the heroism of the heart. It was a sober and reasoned thing. He deliberately counted the cost and paid it.”
Charles Jefferson, The Character of Jesus
In other words, He knew without a doubt who He served and who had His back. Every single decision He made, the words He spoke were for the glory of God. He knew people would hate him. He knew people would misunderstand Him. And He knew He still needed to speak.
In my BSGs study on Revelation we recently looked at chapter 11 in which two witnesses are assigned by God to give some final admonishment to the people. A final plea to turn to God. Throughout their 3 years on earth the world attempts to destroy these witnesses through any means possible – they are true “warriors for God.” And until God said it was time to go, they were protected. We were asked that week who are powerful witnesses in our present generation? Who would you name?
Although I don’t know him personally, I do believe one such powerful witness is of the famed Duck Dynasty clan, Phil Robertson. This rough looking, old man has been much maligned by our media and culture. But to hear his salvation story can only show God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness.
You see, Mr. Robertson was a child of the 60s. When he went off to college in 1964, he had a wife and child at home. The message proliferated at college was of the “sex, drugs and rock n roll” variety. No rules, no obligations. He took to that message like a duck to water and was frequently drunk, doing drugs, and cheating on his wife. When he graduated and got a job this lifestyle continued. He also felt his family was holding him down. And so, they left him one day. For two weeks he partied until the cows came home. Then he realized he was miserable. He had not only lost his job as a teacher but also a bar he owned.
He begged his wife to take him back. She would, if he cleaned up his act. God softened his heart and Mr. Robertson sought out a Christian mentor. With the strength of God behind him he pulled himself from his old life and began a one reborn.
“And so, I devoted my waking hours to studying the Bible. I pored over the onion-skin pages and began to mark them up. I consumed the Word of God as if it were food and drank deeply from its waters of wisdom.”
Phil Robertson, The Theft of America’s Soul
When I read this, what came to mind were the Navy SEALs that train not far from my house. To be a SEAL, an elite member of the US military, you need to eat, sleep and devote every waking minute to training. Their goal is to be the best soldier possible. But what about us average Christians? What is our goal? Will we be like Phil Robertson and wholly commit ourselves to the cause of God?
Fast forward in Mr. Robinson’s life and we land in the middle of the show Duck Dynasty. It was a reality show following around his family – a family of backwoods hunters and fishermen from Louisiana who own a duck call business. During this show the family became warriors for God. While their producers would almost demand they do or say things outside the morals of their faith, they would stand strong. They were willing to lose all the money offered them. They prayed and spoke of their faith throughout the show. And they garnered millions of fans. And enemies. They were called backward, stupid, far-right crazy, mostly because of their commitment to their faith.
“It’s been 43 years since my encounter with God and I can tell you, I’m not running from anyone or anything; I’m not enslaved to the ‘isms’ of the world.”
Phil Robertson, The Theft of America’s Soul
We can make excuses for why we won’t stand our ground and stand up for God – I might lose my job, I might lose my friends/family, I might be called any manner of names. Doesn’t that all come from a fear of man rather than a trust in God? Phil Robertson wasn’t famous and then got a TV show. He was a man making duck calls who became famous for being funny, principled, a family leader, and God-fearing.
Many of us probably aren’t ready to be a full time warrior for God. We must practice the first two steps so they become a natural part of us. When we can naturally say a prayer for those who would hurt us, when we anticipate and readily step forward to fill a need that Jesus places before us, only then are we certainly more prepared for this step.
I follow a Christian pastor on Instagram. He has a series of YouTube talks where he delves into our culture’s most pressing topics. After reading how he lovingly and with wisdom responds to some of the vitriol he receives I realized, I’m not quite ready yet for the bigger battlefield. I need to chew and gnaw some more on God’s Word. God has been testing me along the way with mini quizzes. Small opportunities to stand for Him. My training to be a Warrior for God continues.
Life Lesson #8: Seek deep and long lasting communion with other Christian believers
I pray that your partnership (koinonia) with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.Philemon 1:6
When I began my Christian journey, I didn’t have any Christian friends. My parents were not Christians either. My husband had grown up in the faith but wasn’t really connected at the time. My only real guides were my in-laws, who I saw infrequently because they lived in another state. I relied heavily on the once a week lessons taught by the pastor. If it didn’t make sense to me, I just figured I was not smart enough or even faithful enough to understand. I wasn’t encouraged to attend a church Bible study until much later in my journey while at another church.
Every day they continued to meet
together in the temple courts. They
broke bread in their homes and ate
together with glad and sincere
hearts, praising God and enjoying
the favor of all the people. And
the Lord added to their number daily
those who were being saved.Acts 2:46-47
My BSGs just finished the Bible study book, Everyday Theology. In the week study titled “Church” we were asked to read the verse above and then talk about what makes a “good” church. What we all included was a type of fellowship that goes beyond just being friends. In various places of the Bible the Greek word “koinonia” is used. That’s the kind of partnership or communion we saw as being important as a Christian.
koinōnía (a feminine noun) – properly, what is shared in common as the basis of fellowship (partnership, community), the share which one has in anything, participation
If you search the word, “koinonia,” it’s interesting to see that it’s attributed to Christian fellowship. Meaning we are again set apart with a special communion and partnership with each other. We are to take responsibility for spurring each other on in our sanctification journey. We show each other love and truth.
In his letter to Philemon, Paul starts out reminding Philemon of the importance of koinonia and how he has seen it at work in the Colossian church – the church which met regularly in Philemon’s home. Why does he remind Philemon? Because Paul is about to ask him for a favor – one that will reveal the true state of Philemon’s heart. He asks for the forgiveness and accepting back of a man who stole from him.
And let us consider how we may
spur one another on toward love
and good deeds,Hebrews 10:24
How many of us have surrounded ourselves with fellow believers who will help us in our pruning journey? Not just a nice, “hello” at church or even an occasional dinner date with some church friends. But a true, deep partnership with people we know have the same measuring stick as their guide. With people we know that won’t give up on us and we won’t give up on them?
As I look back at the beginnings of my faith journey, I see the times I really could’ve used a few Christian friends. Instead, my circle helped me, even encouraged me, to live a life which God would not be pleased. And when I was truly in need I was frequently abandoned.
Do not be misled: “Bad company
corrupts good character.”1 Corinthians 15:33
I had a friend in college that I saw almost every day because we had a lot of the same classes. We studied together and ate together. One day I came upon her at a grassy area on campus with some other students. She was smoking a cigarette. I had never seen her smoke before! I asked her about it and she said, “Oh ya, when I’m around my friends from Spain I smoke all the time!” We have to admit that our friends (and family) have some influence over us. So, in the choosing, as Christians, we are advised by Jesus and the apostles to choose wisely.
That’s not to say we aren’t to have non-believers in our lives. Those are the folks God has put in front of us to bring to Him! But we should actively seek out koinonia with other believers. They are the ones with whom we should feel safe when we need to confess our sins. They are the ones who can help us to show grace and forgiveness. They are the ones who will show us compassion. We know this because they are on the same faith journey as us.
For where two or three gather
in my name, there I am with them.Matthew 18:20
So often we make our friends by chance – through our kids or spouses or through a hobby or activity. When was the last time you sat down and evaluated your friendship circle? When was the last time you actively worked to build a different circle?
Your love has given me great joy
and encouragement, because you, brother,
have refreshed the hearts of the
Lord’s people.Philemon 1:7
Fellowship, koinonia, with other believers helps bring us closer to the love, joy, and grace that God wants for us. I’m thankful that I have built a small group of friends that hold my feet to the fire and will also wash my feet when I am in need – and I am willing to do the same for them. I started building this circle by first joining a Bible study and then offering to lead one. I found myself then helping create Bible study curriculum and joining other church committees. Each time, I gathered up more Christian friends. Until finally, I asked a couple ladies at my gym, whom I had heard talking about church, if they’d like to do a Bible study with me. And so my BSGs (Bible Study Girls) were formed. Each God-directed step has taken me closer to koinonia, not only with fellow believers but, with the Holy Spirit.
If you don’t have fellow Christian friends, today is the day to pray that God will send you in the right direction. And when He opens the door, step through it.
A few weeks ago, I told my husband the following: “I can’t wait to get back to the way things were before the pandemic.” And then I stopped. I realized that wasn’t really true. My good friend and I were having lunch this week and I shared this moment with her. I went on to explain that yes, there’s a lot I’m hoping will “get back to normal” in the coming weeks but God uses every single moment in our lives for His purpose – good and bad. He uses non-believers and believers. I heard a pastor the other day explain that we shouldn’t be asking “why” to God when faced with difficulty but rather, “what can I learn about God or what does God want me to learn about myself?”
My BSGs (Bible Study Girls) were asked recently to draw a sanctification growth chart. Sanctification meaning our faith journey toward being more like Jesus. I drew some small spikes, a few flat lines, and then two large spikes. From the day I clearly recall my daughter (about 2 years old at the time) spurring me to answer her questions about God and angels to today I can thankfully say my growth chart has well, grown. The two large spikes include a large test Jesus put me through when He asked me, through a vision, to drop much of what I thought was important in life and instead feed the homeless for a year. The second spike? It started in February 2020 – the start of the COVID pandemic.
My church shuttered their doors. My old Bible study group went on-line. And then all other communication with my church ceased. Yes, they offered a weekly video but that is not fellowship. A cold, impersonal video just isn’t “church.” It’s not a communion of the saints.
My new BSGs, however, stayed in constant contact. Some of us came together in person with walks and distanced lunches. And together we made a commitment to not let each other go and to help each member delve deeper into His Word. We have been open about our sins and our dreams. Our hopes and our failures.
But more than just this group, I have fallen often on my knees in prayer. Sometimes crying out in fear and sometimes in sadness. Other times in thankful hallelujah. Had I been left to attending Sunday church for one hour a week I’m not sure I would’ve made the same progress. But I can tell you this, of all the things I’m most grateful for over the past year is what I now understand to be the most important – God’s never ending love for me.
His Word has been revealed to me in so many amazing ways. I’ve discovered the majesty of the Lord and His faithful promises. I’ve learned about the perils of disobedience and the joys of freedom that obedience brings. Through His Word I’ve learned how to hold the line of faith and to recognize when the devil is trying to loosen my grip.
While reading Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on the book of Jude I came across this powerful yet simple message to Christians everywhere:
Every Church = Bible Institute
Every Christian = Bible student
Every Pulpit = Teach the positive words of Biblical truth AND denounce error
Are you a student of the Bible? We are well-versed in so many other unnecessary aspects of life: the details of every episode of Downton Abbey (or pick your favorite show), the stats of our favorite baseball (golf, basketball, etc) player, the ins and outs of Joanna Gaines’ life. You get the picture. But can we say the same about every single book in the Bible?
My same friend I mentioned earlier asked me what I thought about the books that weren’t included in the Bible. I told her, “To be honest, if I could just become extremely knowledgeable about the ones in it, I think I’d be doing pretty good.”
And that’s I why I chose for my next series, Tiny But Mighty: 15 life lessons from the Bible’s smallest books. If you have never read these five books you could tackle them in about an hour (or less). But I’ll be honest, my first read through these left me thinking, “There’s a lot more than 15 lessons here.”
During the next 5 weeks we will discover more about how to confront a difficult situation, why love is obedience, how to really make social change, the effects of disloyalty, our role as God’s soldier and much more.
So, jump on board, join me in this sanctification journey! We may be just one Christian on this path to glory but God is sure to use us and the more we know about His will, the more He can do with us. We may be tiny but we sure can be mighty.