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Carrying Fellowship Into Your Community

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath Day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphas and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about 120) (Acts 1: 12-15a)

When the day of Pentecost came they were all together in one place.
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1 and 3-7)

They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching:

Although Peter and John are two most mentioned, there were, including Matthias who was chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot, 10 other apostles who had traveled with Jesus and had been taught by him. They had experienced Jesus among them after his resurrection; they had received the Holy Spirit and were each enabled to speak a language not their own that could minister to groups of people in the crowd of new believers. I can imagine them scattered among the various groups of people mentioned in Acts 2:9-11, teaching them about Jesus and thereby preparing them for the time those new believers would return to their own nations.

And they devoted themselves to the fellowship:

That leaves 108 disciples who were not designated as apostles, who also received the Holy Spirit and were enabled to speak in a language not their own. I can imagine those 108 scattered among the new believers, welcoming them, encouraging them, maybe even weeping with them, being with them in the wonder of this totally new way of life. This experience of fellowship, those new believers would also carry back to their own nations.

As part of our church, we have those who preach, teach, lead us in worship and lead in a variety of other capacities. In addition, with them, we have many people who welcome, encourage, sometimes weep with and for each other, and who are devoted to the fellowship of other believers who are desiring to grow in the way of Jesus with his heart. We also are being prepared to carry what we learn and the fellowship we experience out into our community.

My community context includes: family, neighbors, grocery stores I frequent, restaurants where the people have become family, my auto mechanic and post office, hardware store, coffee shop and fabric store. Carrying fellowship out into my community means getting to know the people, their names, sometimes their concerns, families, and ways I can pray for them. Also, I can receive, with gratitude, the service and encouragement the people in my community give me. I can as well, ask them to pray for me.

This week make a list of people you would consider as your community that you do, or can fellowship with. Ask the Holy Spirit for enabling grace as you carry fellowship out into your community.

Carrying Fellowship Into Your Community2022-06-17T14:33:23-06:00

Taught a New Way to Pray

There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were blown away. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?”

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs.

“They’re speaking in our mother tongues, describing God’s mighty works!”

That day about three thousand took him [Peter} at his word, and were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, life together, the common meal, and the prayers.
(Acts 2: 1-11, 41-42) The Message Bible

I’ve had experience at retreats where several hundred people were invited to pray out loud simultaneously with each other. It’s quite a sound; praise and petition rising up with many voices as a single unit.

In my research on the way people prayed during the time mentioned in verse 42, that’s what would have happened. The difference? Many languages at the same time instead of mostly one. Quite a sound.

Trying to imagine a time when people walked, maybe hundreds of miles, to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for a feast, in this case, the Feast of Pentecost is hard for us. Also, in our time and culture, it is hard to imagine when all teaching/preaching was oral, with no teaching tools, sound augmentation, or note taking means to aid remembering. Repetition of the message, careful listening, and living examples would be essentials that would enable the pilgrims to take the message and their experiences back to their own country, And that was what took place during the time they were there.

There would be much to teach these people and I am convinced the one thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them would be top priority. And that is how to pray. Luke 11:1 records one of the disciples saying, “Lord teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.” In Matthew 6:5-9, Jesus teaches how not to pray. What Jesus taught in both Luke and Matthew was what we call the, “Lord’s Prayer.” I can imagine how revolutionary it would be for those pilgrims to be taught to pray to God as Father.

This week take some time to imagine what it would be like to be one of the crowd who heard for the first time what Peter and the other apostles were teaching about life in Jesus Christ and how Jesus taught us to pray.

What really tugs my heart; we will spend eternity worshiping with them in the presence of the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit!!

Taught a New Way to Pray2022-06-09T13:25:30-06:00

The Holy Spirit, With Us, In Us, Enabling Us.

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) The Amplified Bible

And I will ask the Father and He will send another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener), that He may remain with you forever, The Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him nor know and recognize Him. But you know and recognize Him, for He lives with you constantly and will be in you.
(John 14:16-17) The Amplified Bible

But when the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in my place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will remind you of everything I have told you.
(John 14:26) The Amplified Bible

But when the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener), comes Whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth Who comes (proceeds) from the Father, He (Himself) will testify regarding Me.(John 15:26) The Amplified Bible

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
(John 16:12-15) NIV

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; (Acts 1:8a) NIV

Various versions use different descriptive titles for what and how the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will act as he lives inside us. The Amplified Bible puts them in each of the sentences above so we can think about the different ways he has been sent to represent the Father and Jesus and to act on their behalf in our lives.

I researched the antique meaning of the word “power” in both the Greek, “dunimus”, which meant “potential and ability”, and the Latin “potere”, which meant “to be able to“.

As I read the above scriptures, the descriptive titles for the Holy Spirit, what Jesus said the Spirit of Truth would be about, the definitions of “power”, I am in awe of all that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit desires to do in each one of us that have come to believe in and trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
For me, it is learning and being Holy Spirit-enabled to live the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13.

How about you? Take time to read and ponder the above scriptures. Pray about what the Holy Spirit may desire to enable you to do as you continue to learn to walk in the way of Jesus with his heart.

The Holy Spirit, With Us, In Us, Enabling Us.2022-06-05T21:57:59-06:00

To See Jesus More Clearly

As soon as Jesus was baptized he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased,” (Matthew 3:16-17)

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34)

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “Isn’t this the Carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
( Mark 6:1-3)

Some forty years ago, because of the above scriptures, I went on a hunt for clues to the thirty years of Jesus’s ordinary life before he was baptized, traveled all over Galilee and Judea teaching and healing, was crucified, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. I wanted to get to know Jesus as not only my Lord and Savior, but also as a companion in the dailiness of my life.

Matthew 2:13-23 records Joseph and Mary traveling with Jesus to and later from Egypt. Luke 2:2-39 tells about Jesus at 8 days being presented at the temple in Jerusalem and their return to Nazareth. Luke 2:40 says, “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him”. Luke 2:41-51 is the story of Jesus at age 12 staying behind in the temple and his parents searching for him. Jesus asked, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” but his parents didn’t understand. Then Jesus went back to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents.
Luke 2:52 says “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

Philippians 2:5-8 describes the humility of Jesus during his whole life on earth.
Hebrews 5:8 says that “although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered”. and Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are—yet was without sin”.

So what does this mean to me? As a child,I heard from adults,“When you get out into the REAL world”! As adults, we forget the “real world” of our childhood.

For thirty hidden years, from birth to adulthood, Jesus experienced our “real world” with and for us. He knows about learning to walk, talk, go to school, live in a family with siblings and in a community as an apprentice carpenter, then as a businessman. It helps me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to live more in the way of Jesus with his heart.

Take some time to meditate on the scriptures above. Ask Jesus to show you what he knows about everyday living that can help you in what you experience. Thank him for what he shows you. Get to know Jesus as your daily companion as well as your Lord and Savior.

To See Jesus More Clearly2022-05-29T21:05:55-06:00

Follow and Feed

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered. “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him a third time,”Do you love me.” He said,”Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you’” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!” (John 21:15-17, and 19b

It grabs me that Simon Peter is not only being reminded of his first call from Jesus to follow him, (Matthew 4:19), he is being given a new occupation. Peter has been a fisherman all his life, and Jesus is now telling him that he is to follow Jesus by becoming a caregiver of sheep. What’s more, Peter is going to be caring for Jesus’s own sheep.

Peter would have known from Jesus’s frequent references to sheep and shepherds, including his calling himself, “The Good Shepherd,” exactly what Jesus was talking about. Peter’s call was to follow Jesus in caring for people the same way Jesus had and the only way he could do it would be to stick close,continue to lean on, and learn from Jesus.

Because we have access to the events coming up for Jesus and the disciples, we can turn over a few pages to Acts 2 and know that the Holy Spirit descends and empowers the followers with persevering power to enable them to do what they could not do on their own.

Something else that grabs me about, “feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep,” is that it means in all stages of growth from first believing in and putting our faith in Jesus, through the long process of growing to maturity in Christ, to preparing for home going in Christ. Peter was called to continue to teach, influence and prepare those Jesus told him to care for.

What about us? Each of us is called by Jesus to follow him in the way we relate to and influence people with and for him. I have been soaking in 1st and 2nd Peter as a reminder of how Peter carried on with his following and his caregiving. Those letters are just as fresh and refreshing for us right now as they were when first written.

Join me in reading them this week. They aren’t long, but they are beautifully rich in what we need to encourage us in growing and persevering.

Follow and Feed2022-05-24T21:00:41-06:00

Familiar and Physical

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with Joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them, “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:8-10) NIV

After this Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.” The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. (John 21:1-3) – The Message

The disciples went back to Galilee from Jerusalem, because Jesus had told the women to tell his brothers that he would see them there. There were a lot of memories attached to Galilee for the brothers. The disciples named were Galileans and had been called from their occupations there to follow Jesus. There is speculation about the unnamed two in this report, but one of them was likely Peter’s brother Andrew, because Jesus called them while they were fishing. (Matthew 4:18-19)

Galilee is roughly 76 miles from Jerusalem. I wish it were possible to have heard what they talked about as they walked to their destination. Given the few hints we have as to the unique character of each of these men, some would be talkative and others would find it hard to say anything. Certainly they were all mentally and emotionally worn down and stressed about what might happen next. When Peter said, “I’m going fishing”, it may well have been a relief to do something familiar and very physical. And, if they caught something, it would provide them something to eat the next morning.

In a way I can relate. When life has caved in on me the greatest comfort at times has been the ordinary routine of doing something physical that meets my own or someone else’s needs. Sometimes it has been being in the sound booth at church making it possible for someone to be seen and heard as they led worship for Rock Solid High School or Teenage Community Bible Study. Other times it is simply to engage in a frenzy of house cleaning or gardening.

How about you? When you are mentally and emotionally exhausted is there some ordinary routine that tires you physically and releases stress in the process? Think about what it might be and plan to take one step toward doing that something. Ask Jesus to show what is causing mental and emotional stress in you. Often he tells you something you already know.Write down what you hear.Thank him for his care for you. Pray for grace to act on what you hear.

Familiar and Physical2022-05-15T21:04:34-06:00

Jesus Prepares for Us

Then Jesus told him,(Thomas), “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus did many more miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name. (John 20:29-31) NIV

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.” Jesus provided far more God revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.
(John 20:29-31) The Message

I do not believe Jesus was condemning Thomas when he said that those who believe without having seen the resurrected Jesus would be blessed. Jesus was telling him and the other disciples that their witness and the message they carry will be how other people would come to believe and trust in Jesus.

Jesus came to them and said, ”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me . 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, 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 28:18-20). NIV

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,(John 17:20a).

Because of the riches of the written scriptures available to us and a multitude of study and informational tools available, it is hard to imagine when all the words we read, the disciples heard directly from Jesus. They saw his facial expression, the look in his eyes, and heard the tone of his voice. They had his presence in the room with them.

I have to ask myself what would I have heard, what would I grasp, what would I remember? Would I have known Jesus as “My Lord and my God”?

I am grateful that Jesus prepared a way for those of us who would come to believe in him even though we have not seen him. I am grateful for the disciples whose living witness and gospel message went out and ultimately provided written testimony for us to, by the power of the Holy Spirit, believe in Jesus.

Join me in thanking Jesus, the Living Word of God, for providing for all of us who come to believe in him through the witness of those disciples and for the scriptures that are available to strengthen and delight us.

Jesus Prepares for Us2022-05-08T20:26:50-06:00

Best Bible Study Ever!

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27 NIV)

Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him. (Luke 24:27 The Message)

Then beginning with Moses and (throughout) all the prophets, He went on explaining and interpreting to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning and referring to Himself. (Luke 24;27 The Amplified Bible)

Each time I read the Luke 24;13-31 about Cleopas and the other disciple, I try to imagine what it might have been like to hear Jesus, even though they didn’t recognize him, open the Scriptures to their minds and hearts as they walked along together.

I love reading the scriptures in various versions, because each version helps me see and understand something as if in a different voice. But I particularly like listening to audio scriptures because I can be read to – while I’m actively doing something else: sewing, walking, gardening, painting walls. There are things that stick with me when I hear the words better than when I see them. And I feel companioned by Jesus as I do ordinary tasks during my day.

For this devotional I found help on Google when I wanted to know some of what Jesus was teaching to those two disciples. I found 55 Old Testament Prophesies about Jesus, put out by the Jesus Film Project (A CRU Ministry). It covers 4 specific areas. Jesus’s birth, Jesus’s ministry, Jesus’s death and resurrection, and Jesus’s role in the church. With each of the prophesies cited, there is also the scripture that tells the fulfillment of that particular prophesy.

For audio Bible versions, I have the You Version, which along with a LARGE number of versions, also has many different languages for a variety of reader/listeners. Each version listed shows whether it is also in audio or only in print.

I also have the NIV, read by David Suchet, on my Apple Books site.

As you go about your day, think about what it would be like for you to have concentrated time being taught by Jesus, your creator, redeemer, teacher and friend, as he opens the scriptures to your heart and mind. Savor time with Jesus and his word.

Best Bible Study Ever!2022-05-02T09:50:56-06:00

Called By Name

But Mary remained standing outside the tomb sobbing . As she wept, she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

And they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you sobbing?’ She told them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid Him.’ On saying this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t recognize that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to her,’ Woman, why are you crying so? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing that it was the gardener, she replied, ‘Sir, if you carried Him from here, tell me where you put Him and I will take Him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ Turning around she said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabonni!’ which means Teacher or Master.
(John 20;11-16) The Amplified Bible

Four Gospels: Four perspectives of Jesus’s resurrection, each with different details of who was there that first day of the week, how they responded, what they said, what they did, or didn’t, do and when.

I am grateful for the series on emotions that we had over the weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter. It helps me have some understanding and compassion for the men and women disciples who two thousand plus years ago, experienced 3 years of following and learning from Jesus only to witness his arrest, to hide in fear from the religious leaders and the Roman brutality. I am in awe of the women who watched from a distance and of the courage of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus risking their reputation by caring for Jesus’s dead body.

I can imagine Mary Magdalene and her overwhelming grief at not knowing where Jesus’s body had been taken and her mistake in thinking Jesus was the gardener.

My mother, whose name was Mary Jane, died 6 months after I was sent to Denver to live with my father’s sister and her husband. The last words we exchanged were while she was in bed and I stood at the door of her bedroom. When she died, it was decided that I wouldn’t be taken back for her memorial. For a long time my heart would jump when I saw a face or heard a voice that resembled mom’s. So when I think of the joy Mary Magdalene felt, as Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ I know something of how it would feel if I heard him call my name when I never expected to hear his voice again.

I am grateful for the Bible. In it I can read at any time how intimately God knows each of us,(Psalm 139), How much he loves us,John 3;16-17), how we listen to his voice and know it and that he and the Father are one, (John 10;27-31).

This week, savor the above scriptures and others about the first day of the resurrection. Also, the scriptures that remind you of Jesus and his Father’s love and care for you.

Called By Name2022-04-26T20:21:15-06:00

Faith, Hope, Love, & Risk

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus by night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 75 pounds . Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
(John 19 38-42)

I have long wondered about these two men who cared for Jesus’ body and gave it a princely burial. Joseph and Nicodemus each had “back story”. It seems like they were trusted friends.

According to Matthew 20;57-60, Joseph was a rich man from Arimathea who used his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. According to Mark; 15;43, he was “a prominent member of the Council, was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, but went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.” Luke describes him as a,”good and upright man who had not consented to the Council’s decision and action. Luke;23;50b.

John 3;1-2 describes Nicodemus as a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council, who came by night and engaged in a lengthy conversation with Jesus. He believed that Jesus was a teacher who came from God because of the signs he performed. In John 7;51, he speaks out in the Council, reminding them that their Law doesn’t condemn a man without first finding out directly from that man about what he is doing.

I’ve tried to imagine Joseph and Nicodemus overcoming their fear of the Jewish rulers out of their belief in and grieving love for Jesus. Even overcoming their natural repugnance at receiving, carrying and wrapping up Jesus’ beaten, bloody and crucified body. And then, after laying Jesus’ body in the tomb, rolling the stone in front of it, leaving to participate in the Passover Sabbath.

But now they have an insurmountable problem; Jewish Law says that a person who has anything to do with a dead human body becomes unclean and is prohibited from associating with other people. They would have to quarantine for 7 days, then go through a certain purifying process before they can be accepted again into their family and community. What these two disciples of Jesus have done will not remain secret, because now they can’t participate in the Passover meal with their families.

I wonder if Joseph and Nicodemus had any idea that they held in their arms the true,” Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”, and makes them truly clean?

We have the advantage of holding in our hands the scriptures that tell us what are, for those people, first time happenings. We can say, “It’s Friday, but Easter Sunday’s coming”, but they hadn’t experienced that when they walked away from the tomb and left Jesus’ body there. We don’t get to know the rest of Joseph’s and Nicodemus’s stories . We can imagine, but we don’t know.

I have a story, you have a story, we, as part of Jesus’ church, have a community story. We live in a resurrected Jesus, with an indwelling Holy Spirit and a Father in heaven. What am I, what are you, what are we willing to risk in loving and doing with our Lord. Read John 17 as a reminder of Jesus praying for us. Read 1 Corinthians 13 as a reminder of what faith, hope and love are.

Faith, Hope, Love, & Risk2022-04-17T20:30:22-06:00
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