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Tag Archives: fellowship

The Company of Believers

They were continually and faithfully devoting themselves to the instruction of the apostles, and to fellowship, to eating meals together and to prayers, Acts 2:42.

The basic definition for a company is a number of individuals gathered together for a particular purpose. The name of each company is designed to send a message to the general public to explain their purpose for existing. During the first century, a doctor sums up a new religious movement in Acts 2:42-47. The passage serves as a blue print, a mission statement of their core principles. Luke narrows in on the apostles teaching, daily fellowship and prayer.

Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one [of them] claimed that anything belonging to him was [exclusively] his own, but everything was common property and for the use of all. 33 And with great ability and power the apostles were continuously testifying to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace [God’s remarkable lovingkindness and favor and goodwill] rested richly upon them all, Acts 4:32-33.

Two chapters later this company of believers became a well oiled machine. Peter and John inspired by the Holy Spirit urged new converts to become part of this body, of one heart and soul. Instead of focusing on what religion can do for you, first century Christians treated each member of their congregation like family. This mentality eliminated poverty as wealthy members sold land or property to take care of whatever financial emergencies that came up or occurred daily.

At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders (attesting miracles) were continually taking place among the people. And by common consent they all met together [at the temple] in [the covered porch called] Solomon’s portico. 13 But none of the rest [of the people, the non-believers] dared to associate with them; however, the people were holding them in high esteem and were speaking highly of them, Acts 5:12-13.

In the beginning of chapter 5, a married couple devised a plan to infiltrate this company of believers. Apparently, this act of kindness was motived by a desire to be recognized, seeking personal praise rather than humbly give. The Holy Spirit enabled Peter to expose Ananias’ plot, verbally rebuking this imposter. When Ananias laid money at the apostles’ feet from a piece of property sold, this couple agreed to withhold some money. However, they told everyone this was all the money from their sale. After Ananias and Sapphira both died of heart attacks, blamed on lying to God, fear gripped this entire community. This unfortunate event scared away other imposters, half-hearted people as only the true company of believers gathered at Solomon’s Colonnade to worship the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

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Two Elements of Transformation

Before a dramatic and thorough change occurs within the life of a human being, there is usually a series of events that serve as a catalyst. Some people have to hit rock bottom before coming to their senses. Others go through some sort of near death experience before their soul is awakened. As for me, I suffered a nervous breakdown in high school before God set the stage for my heart to finally be open to receiving the good news about Jesus Christ.

Then Jesus answered him, “Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, favored by God] are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood (mortal man) did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades (death) will not overpower it [by preventing the resurrection of the Christ], Matthew 16:17-18.

After Jesus suffered, died on a cross, rose again and ascended into heaven, Jesus sent an invisible counselor to carry on the ministry he began on earth. The venue in which this movement continues in is the church. While not every congregation has a physical building, the church is the cornerstone for faith. After following the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 10:9-10, the church is the vehicle through which spiritual transformation occurs. Accountability, confession, fellowship, prayer and worship are methods through which each believer undergoes the sanctification process.

Now I say this, believers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit nor be part of the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable (mortal) inherit the imperishable (immortal). 51 Listen very carefully, I tell you a mystery [a secret truth decreed by God and previously hidden, but now revealed]; we will not all sleep [in death], but we will all be [completely] changed [wondrously transformed], 1 Corinthians 15:50-51.

The final element of transformation is the cross. A common analogy refers to crossing out the I in self to become a member of God’s team. This commitment involves denying your own aspirations, dreams and goals on earth. According to Jesus, the only way to find life is by giving it up, losing it to follow the cross of Christ. This decision is often met with rejection from friends, family and neighbors. Nonetheless, if you truly want to fulfill God’s will by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, you heart will begin to cry out in prayer, “not mine, but your will be done.”

by Jay Mankus

No Substitute Will Do

As a former teacher, I despised planning for my days off, putting together lesson plans for a substitute.  While this replacement for a class, day or week tries their best to follow the material provided, students will do all they can to battle for a movie day or study hall.  When I returned back to the classroom, I was usually disappointed by the lack of progress that was made.  Although there are several excellent full time subs, some individuals are impossible to replace.

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed, Acts 14:23.

As an adult, I struggle to focus when I attend a church service and the senior pastor is off or out of town.  Maybe once or twice the guest speaker is just as good, but usually there is a big drop off.  When worship leaders are absent or the A team is away playing for another service, there is usually a noticeable difference.  Whenever superior talent is replaced by an alternate or reserve, these fill ins are put into a no win situation.  If surprisingly good, regulars might feel threatened.  When someone fails miserably, you will likely lose this volunteer, to avoid future embarrassment.

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone, Hebrews 2:9.

These illustrations prove that no substitute will do for certain scenarios.  For example, attending church from an off campus sight or virtually on an electronic device is a growing trend.  When pastors or worship teams aren’t available, newly planted churches can participate by watching from a large screen.  If you are not careful, it’s easy to withdraw, staying home to listen to sermons and worship.  I must confess that I have fallen prey to this trap.  I rationalize my actions by listening to two to three sermons each Sunday.  Yet, when it comes to being part of a local congregation, no substitute will do.  God designed the body of Christ around imitate relationships.  Thus. getting involved means going to church, fellowshipping with others and making yourself vulnerable to God.

by Jay Mankus

The X Factor of Growth

The term X factor refers to a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome.  In the context of a sporting event, the X factor could be a replacement, substitute or specific play that changes the momentum of a game.  This may be an unlikely hero or a star who seizes the moment by coming up clutch.  In the 1996 film Tin Cup, Kevin Costner plays Roy McAvoy, a driving range golf professional who qualifies for the United States Open.  This reckless golfer takes unnecessary chances, following the motto, “each shot is a defining moment.  Either you define the moment or the moment defines you.”

They were continually and faithfully devoting themselves to the instruction of the apostles, and to fellowship, to]eating meals together and to prayers. 43 A sense of awe was felt by everyone, and many wonders and signs (attesting miracles) were taking place through the apostles, Acts 2:42-43.

During the first century, few churches had a physical building.  Some met in local synagogues, others met outdoors on the outskirts of town, but most gathered in homes.  According to Luke, this decision was the X factor in promoting spiritual growth.  As people from different ethnic backgrounds began to meet for fellowship, prayer and spiritual discussions, a special bond formed.  This spiritual climate set the stage for a revival, the first Great Awakening in history.  Outsiders were curious, hungry for what these followers of Christ demonstrated and possessed.

And all those who had believed [in Jesus as Savior] were together and had all things in common [considering their possessions to belong to the group as a whole]. 45 And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing the proceeds with all [the other believers], as anyone had need, Acts 2:44-45.

Based upon the passage above, poverty was eliminated by this generous group of believers.  Whenever a member of the church had an emergency, problem or need, wealthy members sold their possessions to cover any cost or expense.  Ultimately, the X factor for any congregation is when people become the hands and feet of Christ.  This isn’t done out of a desire to be recognized.  Rather, genuine love keeps no record of wrongs, giving out of the goodness of your heart.  May the Holy Spirit inspire you to be the X factor in your community.

by Jay Mankus

Holding Everything Together Until the Glue Dries

Early on in my marriage, Leanne and I went to antique shops, searching for a piece of furniture that could be refinished.  Wooden chairs were a common purchase, trying to breathe new life into classic designs.  Scraping and sanding away old paint often revealed imperfections.  In some cases, spindles needed to be reattached with glue.  Without a wide arrange of clamps available to apply to a curved angle, brute force was necessary to hold everything together until the glue dried.  This process often involved placing your arms and legs into a death grip to avoid spindles from popping out of place.  If pressure wasn’t maintained until the bonding process was complete, we had to start all over again from the beginning.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together, Colossians 1:17.

As my body approaches the half century mark in age, I’m beginning to feel like an antique.  Instead of having a spindle or two out of place, I feel broken, trying to pick up all the pieces.  Yet, I have learned that I can’t do this on my own.  According to Jesus, the spiritual healthy should be able to self medicate their lives.  However, if you attempt to do this without spiritual brothers and sisters within a church fellowship, holding everything together can be overwhelming.  Perhaps, this may explain the apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:7-12, in “your own weaknesses, lean on Jesus to make you strong.”

But when Jesus heard this, He said, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but [only] those who are sick, Matthew 9:12.

While I am not a counselor by trade, I often find myself scouring the Bible to find answers to my struggles in life.  This daily process involves reflection, meditation and searching for nuggets of truth to heal and mend my soul.  Unfortunately, I spend many weeks out of the year depressed, unable to hold things together.  Again and again, I fight through the pain in my heart to stay optimistic.  The one trait I have on my side is a faith empowered by the promises in the Bible.  Against all odds, the Holy Spirit propels me to press on despite how I feel day to day.  This invisible force is the glue that holds everything together until the bonding process of sanctification is complete.

by Jay Mankus

We Found Each Other in the Dark

Tom Hanks plays the head cell block guard on death row in the 1999 film The Green Mile.  During his interactions with convicted murderers, one prisoner fits the physical description, but internally something is different.  Michael Clarke Duncan plays John Coffey, an intimidating man who possesses the gift of healing.  After witnessing 2 minor miracles, Tom Hanks convinces his entire staff to risk their jobs in order to save a woman dying from cancer.  James Cromwell, Hank’s boss in the film, is married to Patricia Clarkson who is on the verge of death.  After a powerful healing scene, Clarkson talks to Duncan revealing a dream she had during her ordeal with cancer.  This vision refers to finding each other in the dark.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But 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, 1 John 1:5-7.

The Bible uses the imagery of darkness to refer to moments or periods of time individuals are separated from God.  One of Jesus’ disciples associates being in God’s presence with fellowship.  As a personal eye witness to Jesus’ life on earth for 3 years, John testifies to the fact that Jesus was the real deal, full of love and light.  While most people flee from the lost, lonely and social outcasts, Jesus built his ministry around comforting, healing and waiting until desperate souls were touched by a miracle.  Jesus went into the darkness to help those unable to escape on their own.

But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him, John 11:10.

Human nature creates a curiosity within human hearts.  Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, even if you have been taught right from wrong, some won’t stop until they taste forbidden fruit.  For those who follow longings, lust and temptation into darkness, returning back where you came from isn’t as easy as it seems.  Enlightenment has a way of enticing people, creating a hunger for more.  Despite the presence of God’s light in small portions of this world, darkness seems to growing more and more by the day.  This expansion is causing many to stumble, stuck in darkness together.  May the light of Christ pierce through this darkness, John 1:5, so that those who unable to find their way out will be united once again into fellowship with God.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Enemy of Our Souls

How you ever noticed the large-scale systematic plan that is occurring worldwide?  This clever marketing scheme distracts individuals from the real problem, the enemy of our souls.  The 2017 version of the film It has recently become the top grossing horror film of all time, amassing over 300 million in sales.  I’m amazed how people can take a diversion to a theater to experience their monthly fright night, yet fail to recognize the personal demons that terrorize individuals daily.  This invisible war is crushing, destroying and wounding human souls who don’t know what to do or how to fight back.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes, Ephesians 6:10-11.

Roman soldier’s were equipped with spikes on the bottom of their sandals.  Similar to techniques used during the Revolutionary War, battalions were taught to hold the line of defense so that the enemy could not come up from behind for a sneak attack.  Prior to any battle, Roman soldiers began to dig in like a baseball player entering the batter’s box.  This practice enabled warriors to secure their footing, entrenched and ready to fight.  Unfortunately, most people are caught off guard, flat footed, unable to stand up against the schemes of the Devil.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand, Ephesians 6:12-13.

As a former teacher, I made plenty of mistakes.  Some from a lack of experience, maturity or wisdom.  As I reflect upon this decade of my life, one common error that haunts me is overlooking specific details.  In the passage above, verse 12 gets most of the attention, unveiling the spiritual realm that exists in another dimension.  Yet, the end of verse 13 is the key, the solution to the enemy of our soul, making sure that you have done everything to stand.  Do you start end day with Bible Study, take time to pray, make the effort to fellowship with believers, seek out godly council and worship the Lord in song?  Depending upon your exposure to Christianity, this check list may be shorter or longer.  Nonetheless, if you truly want to live the abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10, you have to prepare like a soldier gearing up for battle.  May this blog arm you with necessary resources to protect your soul.

by Jay Mankus

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