Our Fellowship Is Like a Wheel

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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. For some time the Lord has been teaching me about the nature of true Christian fellowship. Ever since I was born of the Spirit in 1970, I have loved my time with the saints of God and have made it a priority in my life. I was rewarded openly at first because I was seeking Jesus as He abode in other believers I knew. We were all young believers with our wonderful new found love for Christ bubbling out. Our fellowship with each other and with Jesus was filled with His love.  It was like living the Book of Acts as His love freely flowed between us.

But then one day after many months, Jesus said to me, “Michael, I have someone I want you to meet.” I thought, “Who could this be?” He then said, “I want you to meet my Father.” I about freaked out. I was raised Catholic, and in my mind God was like “The Great and Mighty Oz,” greatly to be feared.  I said, “Jesus, if I were to have a relationship directly with your Father, what happens to You?”  He then said, “Don’t you understand? This is why I came and dwelt among men, that they might be restored to my Father.”

This dialogue was a turning point in my relationship with God. Shortly after that I started experiencing Him not only as a loving Father in Christ, but one who rebukes and chastens those who are His sons. Many trials and hardships were to follow. The honeymoon time with Jesus that lasted for months seemed to be over. My flesh rebelled against this new phase of my relationship with Daddy. He was now taking me from spiritual childhood into sonship, and it was not fun (see Proverbs 29:17, Acts 14:21-22, and Hebrews 12: 7-11).

After that, heartfelt fellowship with other saints, grew very thin, for the most part. I so loved those early days of such sweet times with His saints that I went on searching for it everywhere I went, but it has often been disheartening. If I found fellowship with others in the churches, it never seemed to last. Today, I can see the depths of what was prophesied in the following passage, because this is what Father was doing with me.

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from among them, and be you separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (2Cor 6:16-18, KJ2000)

He was weaning me from my dependence on church going! Not all that goes by the name “church” is THE Church. There is a great unclean mixture and many conflicting voices out there in Christendom and God was pulling me away from the confusion unto Himself.  Brethren, I am not the only one He has done this with. This is not an exclusive thing that has happening only to me. This is God’s way with His elect. He has separated to Himself a called-out people all through the scriptures (Enoch, Abraham, Moses, the children of Israel, David, the prophets, Jesus, the disciples, Paul and finally the ekklesia of called-out ones — His Church). Many of us have been called outside the camp unto Him and it is a great reproach to those who are still inside the camps of Christendom (see Heb. 13:11-14).

More Fine Tuning

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Recently God has been fine-tuning me regarding this thing called “fellowship.” He has had First John 1:7 on my mind almost continually. John connects fellowship with walking in the Light as Jesus is in the Light.  During this time I have learned much by watching the example of a dear saint who I have come to know in the last few years. This person has put fellowship with the Father and the Son first before fellowship with other believers. This was so strange to me that I didn’t know how to take it. It almost felt like rejection, because at times that devotion to Christ seemed to come between us. He had become this dear saint’s first priority. All my Christian life I have rarely found such devotion to the Father and the Son as with this person.

One other time I came up against this kind of devotion to God and His calling when I asked a dear older saint to please pray for me. Their answer stunned me. They said, “No! I do not take on a prayer burden for anyone unless God puts it on my heart. I have to hear it from Him.” Well, that gave me a lot to think about! We so glibly say, “I will pray for you, brother,” without giving it much thought. For the mature in Christ, obedience becomes a matter of spiritual survival because the enemy can load us up with all manner of “good things” we should do!

We all seem to put something else first before God, even “good” things like our well being, careers, family, friendships, even our churches. He has been showing me that looking for fellowship with other believers first is a near miss if we are to truly come into real fellowship with one another. John shed light on how spiritual fellowship works when He wrote about the priority that God demands before it can happen.

That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light… if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1John 1:3-7, ESV2011 -emphasis added)

Let me be more concise and paraphrase John. “Indeed our fellowship is with the Father and the Son… God is light, if we walk in that light as HE is in the light we have fellowship first with Him and then with those who are also walking in His light.” John’s fellowship with the Father and the Son is what gave him the Light of Life because God is Light. John wrote to the saints from this same Light.  No one wrote about the love of God like John did. His priority was His fellowship with the Father and the Son, and that made all the difference between walking after the Spirit and walking in the flesh.

When we find a brother or sister who walks in God’s Light, what a find they are! We want to be around them all the time, but therein is the danger. We soon can put another person or persons in the place that our Father wants with us. We rejoice when we hear God speaking into our hearts by one of His servants, but the message we should be hearing from a true servant of God is to seek God FIRST (read 1 Cor. Ch. 3).

When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” As a dear saint pointed out to me recently, here we see the priority our love and devotion should have–first for God, then others and finally ourselves. It is so easy to get this all turned around.

We Are Like Individual Spokes in a Wheel

About two weeks ago as I contemplated and prayed about where true Christian fellowship can be found, God showed me a picture of a bicycle wheel with its many spokes, all attached to one central hub. The hub contains the axel that every other part revolves around. He showed me that we who belong to Him are like the spokes on that wheel. We are further apart from one another out by the rim of the wheel than we are when we are closer to the Hub. Jesus Christ is our Hub we must all be attached to, just as He is the Vine and we are His branches! If we are not attached to Him, we wither up and die.  If our attachment is to one another alone instead of Him, our fellowship soon falls apart! What a parable this was for me. It explains why so many of my attempts at having fellowship with other Christians, even mature Christians, has failed. We do serve a jealous God.

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The above is a telling picture of our fellowship with one another with Christ as our Hub. The rim may be the body of Christ as the caption says, but it is also the part that is closest to the world. It is attached only to the spokes and not the Hub. No, the true body of Christ is attached directly to Him and the rim is their outreach to the world. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. Our attempts to relate to worldly people and their ways can also draw us away from Christ if we make that our priority instead of our fellowship with Him. Jesus prayed, “That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me.  And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:23-22 – emphasis added). Our witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ all hinges on our individual unity and fellowship with the Father and the Son, not the world. Ezekiel prophesied about the working of this unity.

Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. (Ezek 1:20-21, ESV2011)

Wow, what a picture of our fellowship with the Father and the Son, the Wheel inside the Wheel and the Spirit in and among us as we follow Him. May we forever live our lives within them and do their will.

Spirit Birthed Relationships in Christ

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I have displayed thy name among those whom you have chosen out of the world for me: thine they were, and you gave them me; and they have kept thy word. (John 17:6 Mace)

Jay Ferris was a friend of mine that died of cancer a little over two years ago and he is missed by hundreds of people. Why? Because he knew and lived in relationships with people and if they were not believers, after getting to know Jay (or should I say, Christ in Jay), many soon came to Christ. What made Jay different than most Christian leaders was that he believed that Christ came to establish the kingdom of God as a family, not an institution. In one of his blogs Jay wrote,

“Suppose this is not about generic relationships, but about very specific relationships and purposes in God having their origins in and by Him. These are relationships so full of the passion and purposes of Christ, and not some kind of human decisions. Relationships in Christ are not generic, they are born of Him for His purposes, and not as mere religious toys.”(http://lovinglikegod.com/2013/04/10/things-that-cant-be-told/)

I have come to believe that most of what we see in Christendom is composed of “generic relationships.” You know, the “meet, eat and retreat” kind where God hears from us and we see each other once a week and we call it good. The kind of relationships that God wants are the ones in which we become totally ONE with the Father and the Son. Then we through this same level of intimacy as members of Christ’s body can come to know one another with the same level of intimacy (see John 17:20-26). You cannot contemplate a human body without seeing the intimacy and relationships that each individual member of that body has with the others. If a limb or organ is missing then the whole body goes out of whack. Christ is our Head and there is no other intermediary between the members of His body and Himself. It is interesting to me that the pituitary or “master” gland is located in our heads at the base of the brain. In like manner Christ is the one that brings the rest of the body into harmony as it answers to Him (See 1 Cor. Ch. 12).

It is because of this intimate relationship to the Head that we also can have intimate relationships with each other and the kind of relationships I am speaking of are not maintained only on one hour a week in a crowded hall in which everything is orchestrated by a man and his idea of what should happen. Professional clergy need not apply, but if they want to come down in the trenches and get real with the rest of His body, they are welcome and can become a viable member of Christ’s body once again. As Jesus put it, “Now you may not be called ‘Rabbi,’ for One is your Teacher, yet you all are brethren” (Matthew 23:8 CLV – emphsis added).

As members of Christ’s body, I believe that God puts us with certain individuals in Christ by His design and not our own and He does this for HIS purposes. He is using those to whom He has given His Spirit to paint a wonderful mosaic of His Son… Jesus Christ living and breathing here on earth. As in a mosaic, some pieces touch other pieces and some don’t. God puts our piece next to the one that will compliment the whole image He is making. We all have tried to put ourselves together with other saints at times and have seen it end as a dismal failure. But when GOD assembles us as HE wills, something special and lasting happens.

I think of Jonathan and David who had a love for one another that was better than that of a woman (see 1 Sam. 1:26). Paul and Timothy had a special father-son type relationship in Christ. Then there was John and Jesus where we find John in the gospels so in love with Jesus that he reclined at the last supper with his head on Jesus’ breast. He was “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” the one that stayed with Him throughout His ordeal on the cross and was the one who went on to write about the love of God over and over in His gospel and letters and He knew this love first hand with God’s Son and the members of His body.

You see, to have special relationships with other members of Christ’s body it requires intimacy, the very thing that most church people fear. Yes, love is risky and being cold and distant to others is “safe.” But the love of God compels those who have pressed into Christ to become close to the ones He puts us with regardless of the personal cost.

Jay also wrote in another blog about what he called “foxhole love.”

Today, I want to address the matter of Spiritual intimacy in another place and with another word picture, a “Foxhole.” I am not speaking of a fox hole in the way that Jesus referred to it, but spiritual intimacy surrounded by warfare.

A pond suggests a tranquil place where the war is over, and a foxhole suggests the reality of the war in and around intimate spiritual relationship. On the one hand we are surrounded by the war around the foxhole, and on the other, we become more and more aware of the inner war going on inside of each another. In the foxhole of intimate relationship there is a war going on against our staying in that place of intimacy. The war gets more intense the deeper into the hole we go.

The only way for the intimacy of relationship to survive in such an environment is to know God’s kind of love, the kind that is good for enemies, both perceived and real. The lovers in a foxhole have to rest in the knowledge that they are secure in one another’s love… The intimacy we are talking about is not delusional. It is made possible and energized by a Love that is so great it covers a multitude of sins.

This post has to do with sharing the lessons of Life, (He is The Life.) especially with those who are in the foxhole of love with us. Perhaps this is what Paul was thinking about when he prayed “… that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19 (http://lovinglikegod.com/2012/12/27/the-truth-hurts-at-least-in-the-beginning/)

“Father, do what you have to do to strip us of our self-centered mindsets and agendas and fill us with your love for you and for one another. Let us then be placed with the members of Christ’s body you have destined us to be joined to and let your love flow between us as a sign that it is your doing, and out of that love let us bring forth YOUR eternal fruit. Amen.”