One Another Gathering
Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation.
-1 Cor. 14:26b

Did you know that before the middle ages, there were no or not many chairs, pews, or fixed seating in churches?  This is from James & Susan White, in their book, Church Architecture:
“Throughout most of the history of Christian worship . . . . there were no pews or chairs. Not until the fourteenth century did seating gradually encroach upon the open space where the congregation stood and walked about during worship. Until that time, the people were on their feet and could go where something was happening . . . . The congregation was mobile and the interior of the church was not regimented into fixed rows of inflexible pews.
"Real church begins when people turn their chairs to face each other."

Where a church meets is not the issue.  I think that how the church meets is the issue.  When we meet, is there meeting?  I think we have lost the art of meeting.  If I say I met someone today, it means we found each other and perhaps began to become acquainted.

I think that how the church functions - meets and does life together, is described and prescribed in the New Testament, specifically in the "one another" verses.  The list of all 59 is at the end of this post.

When we say "one another" verses, what comes to mind?  For me, it is Jesus command to love one another that John records and mentioned again and again.

Jesus is the cornerstone of the church and he is the head of the church who builds the church.  The most important aspect of the church and church life is Jesus.  He sets the tone and casts the vision that only he can fulfill.  He commands us to love one another, saying that our caring for each other will be a witness to the world that he (Jesus) is real.

Disciples Function in Merciful Generosity With All People

“But I say to you who listen: 
Love your enemies
Do what is good to those who hate you
Bless those who curse you
Pray for those who mistreat you

If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. 
And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. 
Give to everyone who asks you
And from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back
Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.  

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?
   Even sinners love those who love them.
If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?
   Even sinners do that.
And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you?
   Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full.

But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.
   Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.
      For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.

Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.
   Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Give, and it will be given to you;
   A good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

He also told them a parable: “Can the blind guide the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit? 
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
-Luke 3:27-40 (HCSB)

I was thinking about the issue of reciprocal relationships and mutuality, how there is an equal giving on both sides.  The idea is that if someone does not give to you, then you do not give to them; or as the saying goes, "if you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours".

It turns out that these ideas run counter to the lifestyle that Jesus laid out for his disciples.  The first verse of the passage above tells me that Jesus wants me to love people who are not loving to me.  Jesus says that I don't get credit when I just love the ones who love me.

I Pray, God Hears, I am Blessed

I call to You from the ends of the earth when my heart is without strength.
Lead me to a rock that is high above me.

God, You have heard my vows; You have given a heritage to those who fear Your name.
-Psalm 61:2 & 5

We might think that when we are at the end of our rope, at our wit's end, exhausted, discouraged, or weak; that the prayers we pray are not very effective or valuable.  But they are.  

We are never instructed to wait till we have it together, to pray.  

We are supposed to pray when we are in need, in trouble, empty, bewildered, lonely, or afraid.  We can call to God from the lonely place, from the barren place, or from the empty place.  

When we feel unstable, we pray for God's stability.

Then we feel fragmented, we need the rock of God.  "Lead me", means "take me there" because life has taken its toll on me and I am feeling wobbly.

When we pray or walk in worship, we make vows to God.  Vows are promises.  There is a healthy, loving way to make vows, and an unhealthy way.

At a wedding, the couple makes public vows to each other.  In their married life, it is natural and healthy to continue to make vows.  We make these promises as an expression of our ongoing and growing love for our spouse. 

It is the same way in our relationship with God.  It is good and healthy to tell God how committed we are to him.  We say it and do it.  We fulfill our vows:
Then I will continually sing of Your name, fulfilling my vows day by day.
-Psalm 61:8
Vows are an expression of love and commitment that must be attempted to be followed through on.  It is foolish to make vows that you are not going to keep.  A vow is a promise and when we do not keep or even try to keep a promise, it breaks the relationship.

It is good to promise God, make commitments or vows to God.  We just need to be careful what we promise, because lying or blowing hot air in prayer is not good.

God is Gracious is What the Older One Knows

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love.

Wisdom is found with the elderly, and understanding comes with long life.
-Psalm 145:8, Job 12:12 (HCSB)

I have a message for people who are older, likely in their second half of life.  Here it is:

God is Gracious is What You Know.

Based on that fact, there is a right way to live.  For the righteous shall live by faith.  The ones made righteous by God will live through the faithfulness of God.

We live through and by grace.  Grace saves us and grace keeps us.  And that grace is costly grace.  That grace was purchased by the blood of Jesus.  And we should always be filled with awe in regards to God's grace.

The older ones ought to know God's grace.  That is what our lives speak and transmit to the younger ones.  God's grace saves us and God's grace keeps us is what we pass on.

By the time that you are one of the older ones, your life is a testimony that God is gracious.  Younger Christians are learning that God is gracious.  Older ones know it.

Making a Remembrance

And command them: Take 12 stones from this place in the middle of the Jordan where the priests are standing, carry them with you, and set them down at the place where you spend the night.
-Joshua 4:3 (HCSB)

I believe that we need to remember how God delivered us.  I believe we need to take the memory of when God saved us, when God did what looked impossible, and hold it, tell it, and remember it.

God wants us to remember what he does in our lives.  

What this text says is that, when God takes you through what seemed impossible, stop in the middle and pick up a stone.  Pick it up and carry it over to where you will stop to rest, on the other side.

When God does something for you, take note, take the memory of it, and bring it with you to your new resting place.  That is what this verse teaches us.

Why 12 stones?  There were 12 tribes of Israel and one guy from each tribe took a stone.  12 signifies perfection and government or governmental perfection.  12 has to do with rule or ruling.

What or who governs you or rules you?  Disciples are under Christ's rule or government.  People who walk with God have the fruit fruit of the Spirit, which includes self-control, which is the ability to govern themselves, in God.

Captive People Will Be Set Free By The Lord - Isaiah 49:24-6

Can the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of the righteous be delivered?

For this is what the Lord says:  “Even the captives of a mighty man will be taken, and the prey of a tyrant will be delivered; I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your children.  I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they will be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine.

Then all flesh will know that I, Yahweh, am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
-Isaiah 49:24-6 (HCSB)

Do you feel like you (or people you know) are never going to get out of their ruts?  Have you (or someone you know) been living in "nolo contendere" when the enemy accuses you?  God is about to contend for you (or someone you know).

Does delivering a whole nation of people, who are held captive, seem impossible?  It is not impossible for God.  God is going to contend with the enemy.

Contend means: strive with, claim, argue, insist, grapple with, pit oneself against, face-off, fight, or tussle with.  Do you get the idea.  That is what God is about to do for his people.

We read again and again, the Lord declaring, "I will", in Isaiah 49.  Isaiah 49 is about the Servant and what the Lord will do.  The revelation of the Servant impacts us because Christ is the Servant and Christ calls his followers to servanthood.

The Lord will contend with the one who contends with you.  The picture here is of a courtroom.  The Lord will come against what and who has held people captive, for their deliverance.

The Lord is not going to just set people free, but redeem and save them; and thereby set them free.  Getting people free is not incidental to the greater war, but getting people free is what the war is about.

Looking For God's Move, Leaving Shame - Isaiah 49:22-3

This is what the Lord God says:

Look, I will lift up My hand to the nations, and raise My banner to the peoples.
They will bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders.

Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers.
They will bow down to you with their faces to the ground, and lick the dust at your feet.
Then you will know that I am Yahweh; those who put their hope in Me will not be put to shame.
-Isaiah 49:22-3 (HCSB)

Are you looking?  I mean, are you looking at what God is showing you?  If you can not see what God is showing you, then look to God, even if you can not see.  Give your attention to seeing what God is doing.

Isaiah is declaring what God is going to do.  He is not saying, "hey guys, look".  But, he is saying that God is saying, "look".  The word the Lord says is, "look".

Look here means, "behold".  Behold means: to see and discover, entering into the surprise and satisfaction of the speaker.  Be taken hold of by seeing what God will do.  Be astonished.

If we do not see it, that is alright.  Our role is to look until we see.  The Bible says that it is a glorious thing for a king to search out or investigate hidden matters (Prov. 25:2).  

When God says, "look ", or "behold", it is a call to pay attention.  This word occurs over 900 times in the Old Testament, so it is a somewhat common call for people to pay attention to something that is happening.

Astonishment is Coming For You From God (Isaiah 49:19-21)

For your waste and desolate places and your land marked by ruins— will now be indeed too small for the inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up will be far away.

Yet as you listen, the children that you have been deprived of will say, ‘This place is too small for me; make room for me so that I may settle.’
Then you will say within yourself, ‘Who fathered these for me?

I was deprived of my children and unable to conceive, exiled and wandering— but who brought them up?  See, I was left by myself— but these, where did they come from?’”
-Isaiah 49:19-21 (HCSB)

What God has in mind for his people is enlargement.  We are going to need a new house.  Children are on the way.  Are we prepared?

While you have been in what has seemed to be the most unfruitful season, God has been growing you on the inside, in the unseen places, underground. Lack of sustenance has caused your roots to grow.

The past troubles will soon be in the distant past. You were once full of trouble, now it will be a distant memory. What you were preoccupied with, will soon be out of focus and in the background.

You have been fruitful in your down time, but you don't see it, because you have been seeing the lack, rather than the investment.  God's investment in you is about to pay off, and you are going to need more room for it.  Get ready to open your eyes and see a magnificent surprise, from the Lord.

The Misconception-Deception Trap (Isaiah 49:14-18)

Zion says, “The Lord has abandoned me; the Lord has forgotten me!”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb?
Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.
Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.
Your builders hurry; those who destroy and devastate you will leave you.
Look up, and look around.
They all gather together; they come to you.
As I live”— this is the Lord’s declaration— “you will wear all your children as jewelry, and put them on as a bride does.
-Isaiah 49:14-18

Imagine with me, a people, a whole tribe, a nation that is being set free, by a power greater than the power that has walled them in and held them back.  The good news comes to their ears, but they can not recieve it.  Instead of responding with joy, they are skeptical, pessimistic, or cynical.  This response is disharmonious and out of sync.  Why?

The walls come down, the gate opens, but they don't walk out.  In the face of good fortune, some are so invested in misfortune, that they can not believe it.  What?

We can take on an identity, based on our loss, that is negative.  It is a simple fact that we can come out of suffering better or bitter.  Two people have the same loss, but one finds redemption, while the other stays stuck.

Some losses or traumas go deeper.  Post traumatic stress is real.  People set free need aftercare.  Not knowing how to feel and experiencing a whole range of grief is real and normal and part of the process for some.

But, for those set free, "victim" is not their identity.  Their identity is now something akin to "newly-set-free-child-of-the-king".  To come out of victimhood, and take on the new identity, I will have to grow and take responsibility. 

After being delivered, set free, and released from captivity or bondage, we will now have to grow up into being responsible sons and daughters, receiving and stewarding our inheritance from God.

We can misconceive God, based on our bad experiences.

Somebody hurt us.  Life hurt us.  We hurt ourselves.  We end up blaming God.  We can become deceived, as we make incorrect judgements about God, and then live in a negative style, based on a misconception.

You might need to repent- ask forgiveness for passing judgement on God.

To say, "God has forgotten me", goes against all that is true about God.  It is like we are saying that God has chosen to forget me, because either God does not care about me, or God is punishing me for my badness.

"Buzzzzzzz -Wrong answer!"

The Lord's Emancipation Proclamation (Isaiah 49:8-13)

This is what the Lord says:

I will answer you in a time of favor,
And I will help you in the day of salvation.
I will keep you, 
And I will appoint you to be a covenant for the people, 
To restore the land, 
To make them possess the desolate inheritances, 
Saying to the prisoners: Come out,
And to those who are in darkness: Show yourselves.
They will feed along the pathways,
And their pastures will be on all the barren heights.
They will not hunger or thirst,
The scorching heat or sun will not strike them;
For their compassionate One will guide them,
And lead them to springs of water.
I will make all My mountains into a road,
And My highways will be raised up.
See, these will come from far away,
From the north and from the west,
And from the land of Sinim.

Shout for joy, you heavens!
Earth, rejoice!
Mountains break into joyful shouts!
For the Lord has comforted His people,
And will have compassion on His afflicted ones.
-Isaiah 49:8-13 (HCSB)

What is God's will?  What will God do?  What is it that God wills to do?  How will I respond to God?

These are some questions I have.  I got the idea that God's plan for the season just ahead is Isaiah 49.  Last time, I wrote about how important servantship is for the follower of Christ.  He wants to bring out the gift he has placed in our lives for service.

God has an emancipation proclamation, for all those who are captive, that includes getting them completely free and being restored to God's plan or design.