Thursday, June 30, 2005

Fellowship or Friendship

According to the Greek thinker, Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), there are three kinds of friendship: friendships based on usefulness and advantage; friendships based on pleasure; and friendships based on goodness and virtue. The first two do not necessarily involve people who feel affection for one another, and are not always formed around a common vision of virtue and a good life that sustains, fosters, and strengthens each friend in his commitment and progress in living well.

Aristotle lacked one very important aspect in his formulation as he tried to seek friendship within the city-states of Greece. He did not personally know Jehovah God or His Son Jesus Christ. However, this does not negate the truth of what he thought about friendship. All truth is from God, so we can use Aristotle’s premise as it does help us understand friendship in the sense of ‘koinonia’, the Greek word for fellowship.

“Koinonia” expresses the idea of holding something in common and is most often translated “fellowship”. New Testament fellowship is a means for developing commitment to the Kingdom of God and faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and for advancing the spread of Gospel. We are friends with one another as we hold Christ in common. Fellowship is then built on friendship that is centered on holding in common a joint commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

We Christians identify mostly with friendship based on fellowship. But the other kinds of friendship may apply in some of our associations. We draw closer to those who strengthen our search for goodness and virtue. Naturally, we do have acquaintances that may not fall into this category, and though we do count them as our friends, it is in a different way than we do with our Christian brethren. However, these associations are important, for they form a large part of the field of harvest in which we are to work for Christ.

In our ongoing fellowship with one another, we endeavor to raise each other to a higher spiritual level in Christ. Our fellowship is primarily built around the knowledge and acceptance of Christ and enhanced by our normal earthly interests. Just as important is the raising of the spiritual level of our friendships to a higher spiritual level over time. Friendships, with their inherent common interests, can be an effective way of reaching the goal of bringing our unchurched friends into the kingdom of God, and establishing them within our fellowship.

Our New Testament fellowship should be guided by a clear conception of a sanctified life formed by the virtues contained in the Word of God. It must include a clear understanding of how to grow in that sanctified life. It should enable us to spread and defend that life among unbelievers. And it should allow the Word to protect us from being conformed to the godless ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. The mutual stimulation of Christian minds will better enable us to proclaim and defend the Gospel and the Christian worldview it develops.

As we consciously strive to develop our fellowship in Christ, our gatherings should center on a study of the Word of God. We should absorb the Word as we let the Holy Spirit guide us. Then we should use the Word to evangelize others within the spheres of our influence. And we should be prepared to give a defense of the Gospel as we penetrate the pagan culture around us.

Our fellowship should prepare and enable us to share the Word with our friends of similar vocation as we come together in groups for study. It should help us to penetrate their professions with the Gospel and its worldview.

While pleasant conversations with our friends and family are part of our fellowship, we must not let them be the totality of our fellowship. Our fellowship often is filled with too much trite conversation which has no clear goal or purpose. Too often we allow the everyday topics more importance than spiritual topics. When we do meet to study, the focus is usually too denominationally centered or on self-helps just for our human natures. Although these are important, they usually are not driven to better help spread the kingdom of God through the Gospel of His Son.
Self-improvement is good and has its place, as does a normal conversation, but our commission, the purpose of our fellowship, is to evangelize the world for Christ. Even our self-helps are to be aimed in this direction that we may enter more deeply into the spiritual life of the kingdom of God, developing a more articulate and effective ministry in the spreading of the Gospel within our circles of influence.

Finally, the question is not fellowship or friendship, nor is it fellowship and friendship. It is our fellowship that is centered on Jesus Christ, with a desire to bring all our friendships into fellowship with Christ.
The above article is one that I wrote and was published in the March-April 2005 issue of "Life Lines" a publication of the Southeastern Mennonite Conference in conjunction with the South Atlantic Mennonite Conference at Christian Light Publications, 1006 Chicago Ave, Harrisonburg Va. 22802.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

All's Well That Begins Well

The wedding of Lezlie and Vernon went on without any major hitches. Friday before the wedding was the longest day starting early and ending late. Setting up was accomplished with the help of several cousins, friends, and other family members. The food was prepared by three of L's aunts and our very helpful Deacon's wife. We really appreciate the help so many lent in getting all of the 45+ tables and over 350 chairs in place, food prepared and errands run. Rehearsal supper was at our little church basement, and rehearsal back in the Baptist church, fortunately both were not to far distant from one another. Rehearsal was too long, but what wedding rehearsal isn't. Daughter was somewhat stressed, but what new bride isn't. All went to bed late and up early for a 10:30 AM wedding, which meant be there at 8:00 for preliminaries and last minute adjustments.

We used a large, new Baptist church since our little church would not handle the long list of expected guests, nor did we have enough fellowship hall at our country church. I think we had between 250 and 300 people attend the wedding. Some came from PA, MO, GA, MD, NC, IN, MI, FL, SC, OH, and of course Va. We were blessed that so many took the time to come and witness the union of our children in marriage. We also appreciate the helpful Christian friends at Grace Baptist Church for their kindness and assistance and the use of their beautiful church.

The wedding ceremony went off as planned and so did the reception after. Lezlie and Vernon left for the mountains of TN for a week of honeymooning, and the clean-up was accomplished in record time, compared to the set-up time, making the day a short one indeed. Many thanks to all the servers, family and friends that helped. For another view of this event go here and read Lezlie's brother's thoughts in "Peace After the Storm" and a few others.

Please pray for Lezlie and Vernon as they now begin their life together as one before God in the service of Christ our Savior. Vernon is a medical student and blogs as Md-hopeful, he is on my blogroll.

UPDATE: 6/22/05 Go to tencentsworth blog for pictures of the Bride and Groom, just scroll down until you find them and a few other pics from the wedding. My son just loves his new digital camera so he is the official poster of pictures for the family.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

A New Chapter in the Family History

I do not usually include what is happening within my family on this blog, but a milestone has been reached! My wife and I are about to enter the empty nest phase of our marriage.

Before I started this blog, two of my children, my son who is the oldest child and my oldest daughter, had already married. We are coming to the marriage of the last one, my youngest daughter, on this weekend. She is to marry a fine young fellow who is a medical student from the Augusta, GA area and they will settle near there.

Our family began growing when our son was born just before our third wedding anniversary and he is now 29, so you see that it has been a long time since we had a home to just ourselves. Coupled with this is the fact that all of our children and their spouses are or will be living out of state makes for some major quiet time in the home. That two of them are close together in GA will be handy, six hours away, the drive to the eldest daughter and husband will be twice as far for us since they live in MO.

If the Lord wills, and all proceedings occur according to plan, this wedding will occur on Saturday morning at *gasp* 10:30 AM! I think that since there is an expected turnout of about three hundred and fifty (and maybe a few more) it will be quite a busy week of preparations leading up to a very early Saturday morning to say the least!

I, and my family, do appreciate your prayers for "L & V" and the rest of the family as we make this change. May it all bring glory to God as this new home is established.

Friday, June 10, 2005

It is Discouraging

This post is an attempt to encourage those of us that profess to be Christians to think about how we speak in our conversations and how we comment on the blogs we visit. I understand that we are still ‘in the flesh’, but that ‘flesh’ is supposed to be crucified with Christ. However, sometimes we find ourselves getting so angry over the unkind or hurtful things someone may say or write that we set aside our profession of Christ momentarily and respond in kind. I understand why some unsaved people write or speak in the crude vernacular of the world. It comes from within one’s heart first, for Jesus says that though evil communication comes verbally out of one’s mouth is first conceived in the heart and that this is what defiles us. Mark 7:18-23. Hopefully we Christians will be sure of the attitudes of our hearts before we make our comments.

I sometimes scan the political blogs and have found it quite discouraging to read the very non-Christian comments about persons and ideologies as well as comments to other commentators which are being made by professing Christians. I have found it shocking to read the crude language and hypocritical attitudes that some Christians respond with. Now I realize that some, not all, of these non-Christian people do say and write their comments with crude statements to make their opponents angry, the purpose is designed to cause opponents to fail in their argument by succumbing to their anger. We ought never to allow this to happen, however, when it does, it brings great harm to the gospel of Christ and our personal testimony. It also violates the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them unto you. It emboldens our adversary to blaspheme God and gives place or advantage to Satan to accuse us before God. Eph. 4:27 Read all of Ephesians, especially chapter 4.

I wonder if we Christians are beginning to lose sight of the fact that we are to bring light into our conversations and to be a preserving influence, like salt, in all that our Lord would have us engage in. If we feel the call to enter into the political debates or seek political office should not the goal be to exemplify all the Christian ideals of God’s Word? The Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew 5-7, teaches us not to use such ‘worldly’ attitudes and unredeemed language to respond to critics or opponents of our Christian beliefs. Without allowing God’s Holy Spirit to guide us we cannot control our speech, Jas 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Read all of the Epistle of James, it is so practical in its guidance of Christian living.

Judgment must start at the house of God, for God has said, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (Leviticus 20:7; I Peter 1:15&16) What is being holy all about? Does it not apply to speech and to the writing of our thoughts as well as in all of our living before God and man? Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote in this passage of God’s Word:
Ro 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
2Co 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

These passages are a call for us to live holy before God and man. Our calling is to witness for Christ while having a life adorned with the Grace of God and to extend His Love and Mercy to all men, to those that disagree with us, but especially to our enemies. May God grant to us forgiveness and pardon for our weaknesses shown by our anger as we repent of it and yield to God’s commands as taught in His Word.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Is It Time For a Change?

Dear Readers: I have a request to make. While I want to primarily run a blog as a witness for Christ, I have realized that more folks want/need to voice their concerns about current issues that face us all in living for God each day within a pluralistic society. I seem to spend a lot of my time on other blogs in discussions on these issues and thought may be I should include more on current issues here along side lessons on God's Word.
I have wanted this blog to meet spiritual needs by encouraging people in God's Word, but I also see this need of seeking answers to questions raised by daily issues in life too. I have even shared some of these that concerned me in the recent past. While I have great respect for the many Christian blogs on the internet, I wanted something somewhat different since those out there were covering many of these other issues.
I have said that I wanted to avoid personal opinion here, mine or others, concerning the Word of God, but I am finding this hard to do with so much opinion in life. I also confess to a bit of writer's block recently on which Scripture passages to use, it is as if the Holy Spirit has closed my thinking and I wonder if He is trying to get me to include something else.
So, what are your thoughts as to the direction to take this blog, is it to change, do I to add more opinion and sharing of issues we face daily?
Pray, think, and then comment your thoughts, I thank you for your help.