Imagine a place where fellowship grows

I was sitting out on the porch with my wife not long ago watching the rain and enjoying the natural beauty of nature, much of which she had added by her gardening knowledge and special touch. Many times, we’ve enjoyed our mornings together this way, drinking coffee and sharing thoughts. Twelve years ago hundreds of our trees were majorly damaged by a downdraft tornado, completely destroying the beauty that God and my wife had given to our little backyard getaway. But over time, with patience and determined work, all the destruction has been restored by plants, flowers, and trees that now reach to well over 40 feet tall. But the restoration took a long time and growth was slow.

Imagine a place of fellowship

Many Christians these days have experienced the ill and undesirable effects of “biting and devouring one another” that we read and are warned about in Galatians 5:15. But just imagine and think, what if Christian gatherings were a haven for great joy in fellowship?  A place where old and new friends in Christ would eagerly anticipate the arrival of other dear saints.  A place where newly saved people of all ages were excited about their new life in Christ and overjoyed with acceptance?  A place where godly love and the fruits of the Spirit were commonly displayed.(Gal. 5:22-23)?

Imagine a place where there was no one aspiring to have some respected position, but rather all or most were endeavoring to use their gifts that God had graciously given them, and purely using those gifts for God’s honor and for the encouragement and support of all saints.  Imagine a place where there was no quarreling over disputable matters.(Rom. 14:1)   Where saints came together without any judgment or contempt for one another over differences.(Rom. 14:10)   Where every effort was made for peace and mutual edification.(Rom. 14:19)   Brother and sisters accepted one another just as Christ has accepted them to the honor and glory of the Father in heaven.(Rom.15:7)  And finally, imagine a place where loving efforts of restoration were made to help those who seek God’s forgiveness. (Gal.6:1-3)

Imagine a glimpse of heaven

Though that place may sound idealistic this side of heaven, believe it or not I and others have experienced such times as that.  Some occasions that come to mind quickly were the fellowship we experienced at the wedding receptions of our children.  There’s no boasting here, but a fond remembrance of some of the most gracious and encouraging times I have ever experienced.

Dear saints traveled from all over the USA, just to be a part and enter in, leaving all religious differences behind and wholly embracing the spiritual moments to the max.  I remember moving through the crowd, bear-hugging this dear brother and that one, all the while with a lump of emotion in my throat and constantly beating back the tears of joy.  At times the emotion would break loose and cries of joy would flow.  My wife and I both experienced it even as many of you may have as well.  The unrestrained acceptance and love abundantly demonstrated was unbelievable and deeply refreshing.  It did give me just a small glimpse of heaven when we all will shout praises to the Lord.  Then we will have much more time to individually fellowship with all, as we will have an eternity to do so.

I remember that there were those who mocked or expressed disagreement with the invitation of such a diverse group of Saints. Those of that kind of persuasion could not have been more wrong in their opinion.  For where there is forgiveness, there is liberty and great joy.  And I only use those memories and occasions as examples, but I have had that kind of fellowship with many of my dear friends in Christ on many, many occasions.  But yes, I long for that place, that place of great joy.  A godly, loving environment that would encourage growth in the Lord and victory in Christ.

Imagine resolving problems

And yet, the truth is that the place I speak of can only come from hearts controlled by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  That environment I speak of cannot be controlled by or forced upon by man or men.   It can only come from individual hearts that put Christ above all else.  We must hold Christ above all our ambitions, our opinions, or our persuasions.  Personally, I fall short of all of the above Christ like characteristics, but it is my desire to live the remainder of my life as such.

A self-righteous heart only grows out of raising our own opinions equal to God’s. But what a proud and egotistical mistake that is. (Isaiah 55:8-9)  For truly God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.  You would think that after so many, many divisions and heartache in the church worldwide, that maybe, just maybe we might realize that we are doing something wrong in the way we function together in the past.  Many of God’s children have lived so harshly and judgmentally and, as a result, have devoured one another and even assisted Satan himself in His attempt to destroying God’s Family.

When problems in Christian fellowship occur,  we naturally concern ourselves with the question, “How should the Church function?”  Well, doesn’t the answer become obvious when we read God’s word with a humble heart?    Col. 3:12-15 say’s, Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

We don’t have to imagine

To my dear Brothers worldwide, we don’t have to imagine, I believe with all my heart that you and I can have that kind of fellowship.  Let us have hope and be patient, as we know it does take time to grow a beautiful garden.  A garden of selfless fellowship where Jesus is seen by the Christ-like love displayed.  True, some effort does have to be given to gently exposing the weeds of religious baggage, and removing the thorns of an unforgiving heart toward God’s children. But for all who are willing, God’s word will continue to do It’s work.   I am eager to see what the Lord has in store for all of His children. It’s going to be good!

–Rob Welborn

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