54 | Covenant Heart

A covenant between two people is an agreement, a commitment, a promise. It is a pledge of affection and loyalty with a mutual duty.

In Abraham’s time covenant agreements were traditionally made by slaughtering and cutting animals, representing the fate of the person who breaks the covenant. The two parties involved would “pass through” the pieces to seal their agreement. In Genesis 15, when God makes a covenant with Abraham (or Abram), Abraham is actually asleep when this happens:

“When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.”

This is a very different kind of covenant, because Abraham didn’t pass through the pieces: it was only God, represented by the fire. God covenanted with Abraham, giving Himself as the guarantee of the promise. Salvation is God welcoming us all into this love-covenant, paid for in full by Jesus’ sacrifice.

From the 1500s, plenty of churches have gone against “easy come, easy go” Christianity by pledging to be true to one another in formal covenants. Love commits: our covenant reflects God’s faithfulness. The heart of covenant isn’t in rules, words or expectations placed on us but a heartfelt commitment to faithfully continue loving one another in specific and devoted ways.

 

Discussion:
What difference does covenant make to our church?

What are some of the ways we’ve misunderstood or abused covenant loyalty in the past, and how can we correct this?

Talk about some of the ways God has been faithful to you.

 

Scriptures:
Genesis 152 Corinthians 3:6, Galatians 6:2

 

Wednesday 5 to Tuesday 11 April 2017 | © Jesus Fellowship Church
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53 | Looking Forward

Celtic wildness

The Celts had an incredible zeal for spreading their faith in dangerous circumstances and with little resources. They were known for their apostolic wildness, driven by a love for Jesus, a vision of the heavenly kingdom, and a hunger for journey and adventure.

One account describes three monks who set sail from the southern coast of Ireland in a coracle. They took enough food for seven days but no oars, and simply trusted the wind of the Holy Spirit to lead them to a new mission field. On the seventh day they arrived on the coast of Cornwall (some say Northern England) and started going from one settlement to another witnessing to Jesus, healing the sick and serving the poor. They threw themselves in faith on the mercy of God. They were pioneers.

Partnership

Pioneers push out into new territory, they have vision, they do new things. Settlers establish things and bring security, maturity and wisdom. Pioneers help things grow, settlers help things last.

Both settlers and pioneers need to learn again how to partner together. Pioneers can find a level of value and worth in settlers they wouldn’t have believed possible, in resources and experience. Settlers are still passionate to see pioneers go and make a difference, and find greater purpose in supporting and equipping them. Some of us have done amazing things in the past and will have the privilege of seeing others do more than we have ever done. Some of us have a lot of life in us yet and need to use it for His glory.

Ultimately it’s not about our work, it’s about Him. Looking forward to the heavenly kingdom we are to work together, pioneers and settlers alike, to display our heavenly future in the present, here on earth. Let’s look to Jesus, the original settler, the original pioneer.

 

Discussion:

What is a pioneer? Have we misunderstood pioneering or pioneers in the past?

Are you a settler or a pioneer? How could you partner better with people unlike you, releasing and supporting them?

What does it mean to “seek the things that are above” (Colossians 3:1-4)?

 

Scriptures:
Numbers 13:30, Ezekiel 47, John 4:352 Corinthians 4:18, Hebrews 12:1-2, Colossians 3:1-4, Revelation 21:3

 

Wednesday 29 March to Tuesday 4 April 2017 | © Jesus Fellowship Church
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52 | The Wider Picture

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
(John 17:20-21)

Just before Jesus was to be arrested and crucified he prayed this prayer in the hearing of his disciples. He said the unity we show is key to our witness: people will believe our message because of it.

That’s how the early church lived: they were one in heart and soul. They had favour with everyone, and every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved. They displayed unity between God and His people, unity between churches and unity within each church.

Paul modelled the many levels of relationship and cooperation common in the early church. He supported and encouraged leaders he didn’t meet often and wrote to churches he loved but hadn’t visited. He also had deeper partnerships with an inner circle of workers and Churches. Here there was deep honesty, complete trust, and an interchange of personnel and financial resources.

Of course there are now a bewildering number of denominations and streams. While we have varying callings and theology there is much to be gained through a mutual encouragement and cooperation that recognises and champions the distinctive gift of each church to the wider body of Christ. There are great dangers in isolationism and we must trust that a right level of interaction will enrich, rather than dilute.

 

Discussion:
What is God doing between churches that He may want us to be involved with?

What do you appreciate in other church streams that could enrich us?

What gifts do we have that could enrich other churches?

 

Scriptures:
John 17, Acts 20:17-38, Philippians 1:5-7

 

Wednesday 22 to Tuesday 28 March 2017 | © Jesus Fellowship Church
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