Fellowshiping among believers

Today was an interesting day. Since I had to work the weekend I had the day off and spent a lot of it running errands with Danae. One place that we had to stop by was near a Christian bookstore that I like going to but have neglected to go by lately. It was great because we were able to have an uplifting and positive conversation with another Christian! That is getting so rare today it seems. Most conversations that we have with other Christians ends up being a knock down fight over doctrine because we don’t use the right kind of Bible or something unimportant like that.

Why can’t Christians fellowship with each other and lift each other up? I am not talking about those who live in sin, the Bible commands us to point that out to the person and tell them to repent. I’m talking about giving up some minor differences that we may have in theology and fellowship! The Bible warns against those that try to divide the body of Christ. How effective can a body be to help people if one arm is trying to rip the other arm off!

Well the conversation that we had today was great. We talked a little about doctrine and how church was going, what new things were happening in our lives and discussing some good, and bad books. We spent probably an hour or more there just talking. I think Danae and I both feel like we are just starving for that Christian fellowship. In the past we have gotten that from ETM but lately it has been dead. In the past few months, the only Christian that has been active in Biblical discussion (except for Danae and I) has been someone spreading false doctrine about Jesus Christ and salvation. We had to finally tell that person to leave and then we were joined by 3 atheists. It is completely discouraging and every day the thought crosses my mind of if God is wanting us to close down ETM and pursue our ministry elsewhere. ETM is costing me money and a lot of time just for me to feel bad after visiting! I have not had much time to combat the atheists arguments like I should, and even when I have had the time I just don’t have the desire. I know the evidence is out there, and I don’t mind researching it and posting it except for the fact that I KNOW that no matter what evidence I post, they will reply with something that discredits either the author or the evidence directly.

Talk about discouraging!

So bottom line about that whole rant is that Christians need to get together just to fellowship with each other. Build up one another in the Lord, don’t do things to tear them down. If they need to be corrected for something that is obviously Biblically wrong (and not just a personal conviction) then by all means you must correct them, but if it’s over a disagreement… there is a time and a place for that, but it is not every time you get together. Just fellowship! Christians should not be in constant battle with other Christians!

After we left the store and got something to eat we went to Home Depot to get some things. We had fun looking at granite counter tops and several other nice things that we could not afford until Malikai spit up all over me! After that, it was just gross and I wanted to get out of there. It starts out all warm, and then turns cold but the entire time my shirt was sticking to my skin and smelling and… yeah, it wasn’t fun.

So after doing a few other things tonight we decided to go to the movies. We went to see Ratatouie, and since we don’t have a baby sitter we brought Malikai along with us. Everything went great at first, Malikai just stared at the screen and I got my hopes up too high… Malikai didn’t cry at all, but he did start his high pitched squealing so in order to be polite to the other guests I carried him out into the hallway for awhile. As soon as we were in the hallway he was quite and looking around a lot, so I thought it was safe to bring him back in.

Nope, I was wrong, again he started making a lot of noise. Even if I put my finger in his mouth, he would chomp down really hard while making high pitched noises! So I had to leave the movie altogether. I did get my money back and then I proceeded to go to Borders book store in the mall. There I found a copy of the book that I am reading and sat down to read while Danae finished the movie. It didn’t take long for Malikai to start crying, but I didn’t care so I let him cry himself to sleep while I continued to read.

After the movie Danae and I decided to go for a drive (we were going to go for a walk but it was raining). We drove way up into the mountains behind Garden of the Gods park. It was really cool, but the shocks on the car probably didn’t like the dirt road. We went a little ways up, and we saw a sign that said “No shooting next 18 miles. It was at this time we decided that we wouldn’t make the end of the road (it was a quarter till 11) so we started to look for a place to turn around. It was shortly after the last sign when we came to another sign that said “shooting range 2.5 miles“. Hmm, a shooting range in an area where shooting is not allowed.. I bet that is a fun place to go! Reminds me of another similar, contradicting sign that I saw today. At the pet store it said “No refunds after 5 days” and then later down it said “No refunds for checks before 10 days“. So if you write a check, you are not allowed to get a refund I guess…

I was going to write some more tonight, but it is late and this is long enough, so I think I will sign off now.

May the Lord be with you as you go through your week, and may you focus on His will in your life instead of your own wants and desires. Seek first the kingdom of God, and all other things will be added….

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Tune Into the Heart of God

Mark 9:14-29

v.14And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes [Torah teachers] disputing with them.

While Jesus, Peter, James, and John were away, a crowd gathered around the other nine disciples. The scribes saw this as a great time to engage the disciples in a debate. So they attacked.

v.15 immediately when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him.
v.16 And He asked the scribes,” What are you discussing with them?”
v.17 Then one of the crowd answered and said,” Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit.
v.18 And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”

-Now the key to the Jewish “formula” of exorcism was getting the demon to give up its name.. So, a demon who could make its victim mute was an impossible case. This man had brought his son to Jesus but not finding him there, had asked the disciples for help. They weren’t able to deliver the boy, and that’s when the debate broke out with the scribes.

-So the Torah teachers were pretty hammering away at the disciples saying in their minds, “If Jesus is such a hot shot, then why aren’t His disciples better equipped to deal with the need at hand?” We see here, as in many other areas of the gospels, that Jesus is judged on the basis of how closely His disciples follow His example.

v.19 He answered him and said,” O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.”

-It irked the Lord in the extreme that a father and his child were going through such torment while His disciples and the scribes were debating theology! These guys were supposed to be the godly men of the day - and they stood there arguing over who was right, while a poor boy’s life was literally in danger! Isn’t that so like today though? While brothers and sisters in Christ are arguing over who has the most correct doctrine in regards to how people should be baptized, what day is the most proper day to go to church, if Christ’s sacrifice was meant for all or if He only died for those He knew would accept him…while we are arguing these things, thousands of spiritually dead people around us are in danger of dying to an eternity without Christ.

-Where are our priorities? Making sure our doctrine is the most correct and arguing the points to the death? Or pursuing spreading the message of the cross to a world that is dying!

-In v.19, Jesus cuts through the debate with the words “Bring him to Me.” The solution to the argument was the boy’s deliverance. As the world looks at the modem Church, what do they see, groups of people arguing? Or lives being changed. Are the suffering and the lost being healed? Or are Christians becoming so involved in their own mindsets and churches that they are ignoring the needs of those around them.

v. 20 Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.
v. 21 So He asked his father,” How long has this been happening to him?”
 And he said,” From childhood.
v.22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
 Jesus said to him,” If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

-You see, while the so-called religious experts on both sides were arguing doctrine, this man with the demon-possessed son understood Jesus was compassionate. He didn’t care about fine points of theology. His son was tormented and needed help, and Jesus was just the One to give it. So with the scribes standing on one side, and the disciples on another, Jesus showed them all that it was not about head knowledge, but about simple faith in who He was and what God wanted to do that mattered.

-This is an important lesson for us. Let’s not get so caught up in the pursuit of correct theology and doctrine that we lose sight of the HEART of God. Time in the prayer closet is far more important than that spent in a seminary classroom. A head full of doctrine can NEVER substitute for a heart full of faith.

v.24 immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears,” Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

-The man believed in Jesus, and that faith opened him up to the awareness of just how imperfect his faith was. That’s what genuine faith always does - it reveals its own shallowness. We can only see the Lord when we look in faith, and once we look, we realize how far short our faith comes to really knowing Him.

-The one who can truly say, “Lord, I believe” can’t help but saying,” But not nearly as much as I should.” The one who thinks he/she is a person of great faith has no idea what faith is or Who God is.

v. 25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it,” Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!”
v.26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said,” He is dead.”
v.27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
v.28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately,” Why could we not cast it out?”
v.29 He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

-Prayer and fasting are both means by which our spiritual strength and awareness are developed. Though the disciples had earlier been authorized by the Lord to cast out demons, they’d not continued to hone their spiritual senses. As a result, when they came face to face with this demon, they’d not understood the authority that was theirs in Christ.

-Paul makes it clear in Eph. 6 that our real battle is not with or in the physical realm. Our contest is spiritual. If our battle was physical, we’d concern ourselves with diet, exercise, and weapons-drills to hone our ability to wage war in the natural realm.

-Since our battle is spiritual, we need to develop ourselves spiritually. Prayer and fasting are weapons the Lord has given us to secure our position and press into enemy territory. Without these means, we lose our spiritual edge and strength.

-Being a disciple, being a follower of Jesus, doesn’t automatically mean you’re keeping your spiritual edge and relating to life from a primarily spiritual perspective. Why you can even be arguing about doctrine, and still be useless as far as the things of the Spirit are concerned!

-Make sure that in your studies and your acquiring of wisdom and knowledge of the Word, that you don’t become so involved in the nitty gritty of it that you lose sight of the big picture…we can be so involved in putting a microscope to everything, that we ignore what God is trying to say to us…what He is wanting to reveal to us. Be sure that in your study, you do not forget to listen to the voice of God and become in tune with His heart and His will and what He is trying to say to you personally.

-Sometimes when we get involved in disagreements and debates, we read the Word with a mindset to FIND things to tell others…to use as a defense in arguments…like we’ll read and something will catch our eye, and we’ll say to ourselves, “Oh! That would be GREAT to say to this person or to say in that thread…this verse backs up my view perfectly.” We can get so involved in reading the Bible for OTHERS, that we ignore reading it for ourselves.

-Instead of saying, “What is God revealing to me to share to so and so” say “what can God be saying to ME…what is He telling me about my OWN walk; what is He wanting to reveal to me?”

Adapted from a sermon by Pastor Lance Ralston of Calvary Chapel of Oxnard.