God’s Answer to a Culture Starving for Community and Connectedness

There is something in the human race that needs and seeks connectivity with a community.  That desire originated in creation.  God said, “Let US make man in OUR IMAGE and OUR LIKENESS” (Genesis 1:26-28).  The US and OUR were the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who had been living in perfect family/community forever.  Man was designed with THEIR image and likeness, part of which is family/community.  The only thing in the Garden of Eden that God said “it is not good” was “for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18).

Facebook To The Rescue

Isn’t it interesting that in the 80’s the seeker-friendly movement helped churches run more like corporations in order to attract people.  Now corporations like Facebook are seeking to operate like churches. 

On June 22, 2017, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, spoke at the inaugural Communities Summit in Chicago.  He spoke of Facebook’s goal to bring greater connectivity to people that they once found in groups like churches and little league teams.  He identified the decline of community, connectivity, and support in groups like churches.  His goal is to use Facebook to fill in the gaps.   He made some very good points that should challenge God’s people in both their identity and mission.

Can he help provide what the church used to provide?

Some of his points were as follows, “It’s so striking that for decades, membership in all kinds of groups has declined as much as one-quarter. That’s a lot of people who now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.  People who go to church are more likely to volunteer and give to charity — not just because they’re religious, but because they’re part of a community.”

Zuckerberg suggests that Facebook can help fill those gaps using it’s networking power to organize, “We started a project to see if we could get better at suggesting groups that will be meaningful to you. We started building artificial intelligence to do this. And it works. In the first 6 months, we helped 50% more people join meaningful communities.”  Some took his message as an attempt to replace churches or other organizations, but for sure he is seeing the gap in churches and is ready with Facebook to continue to improve in filling it.

Enigma in social media and connectedness

A lot of researchers are troubled by an enigma that is accompanying the rise of social media (which tends to challenge Zuckerberg’s ideas).  It seems that while we are more socially connected online with sites like Facebok, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, and  Reddit at the same time we are more socially isolated.  As a matter of fact, online connectedness without physical connectedness can tend to increase feelings of aloneness.  Research over the past 5+ years seems to confirm this.

Google the phrase Facebook isolation and 83,100,000 results will appear.  Google Facebook depression and you will get 91,900,000 hits.  These feelings of aloneness and isolation have corresponding effects on depression and suicide.   Aaron Kheriaty director of the Medical Ethics Program at Cal-Irvine writes in First Things (https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/08/dying-of-despair), “the suicide crisis in America has reached epidemic proportions. Rates are growing coast to coast, in rural and urban areas, among the poor and the rich, the young and the old. What in the world is going on, and what do we do about it?”

While many factors are listed as causes of depression and suicide such as social fragmentation and an overall decrease in religious involvement, Kheriatly boils the problem down to despair.  Kheriaty also notes from research that, “prayer, religious faith, participation in a religious community, and practices like cultivating gratitude, forgiveness, and other virtues can reduce the risk of depression [and], lower the risk of suicide… One study of 89,000 people showed that those ‘who attend any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide’ than those who don’t.”  It highlights the component of real, not just online connectedness with faith communities.

Important revelation and reaffirmation of the call on the church 

God can heal depression and mental illness and it may need medical or psychological assistance.  The aloneness and isolation that often contributes to it can be helped by God’s people living in His design for real community

These trends and revelations show us something important for the church.  God can heal depression and mental illness and it may need medical or psychological assistance.  The aloneness and isolation that often contributes to it can be helped by God’s people living in His design for real community.  As we do we show the world a light that is found in Christ and among His people.  Matthew 5:13-16  “You are the salt of the earth… (14)  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  (15)  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  (16)  “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Aloneness is curable in Jesus and His house!   Ps 68:6 “God makes a home for the lonely in His house.”  

Aloneness is curable!  God confirmed the need to cure aloneness, and He showed us how to do it at creation.  The only thing in His creation order that He said was “not good” was “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18).  God then moved to begin the process to cure it, the creation of His family.

Jesus echoed this by revealing His design and cure for aloneness in His church.  Mark 10:29-30  Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake,  (30)  but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

Jesus obviously knew what the Psalmist said about God’s house centuries earlier.  Psalms 68:5-6  A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.  (6)  God makes a home for the lonely.

God’s people need to stand up (on their everyday mission trips), wave their arms, and say “over here, come here, join us, Jesus has a family you can be part of!”  The cure for aloneness is in Jesus and among His people!  Like Andrew we need to bring people to Jesus (Jn 1:41-43), who will lift their despair, “come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden and you will find rest in your soul” (Mt 11:28), and to His family were aloneness is healed (Ps 68:6).

The church’s call

We can’t fulfill this call by simply going to church.   Instead, we must be the church every day and everywhere we are.  When Jesus says, “Come follow me,” He isn’t calling us to start a class or offer a program but to follow Him and open our hearts to others.

Aloneness is curable in Jesus and His house! Click To Tweet

Practical ways to help call people out of loneliness through Jesus.

  1. Welcome everyone you meet. Jesus welcomed strangers and marginalized people (Luke 19:1-10). In the same way that Zacchaeus was a “son of Abraham” and worthy of Jesus’ time, the marginalized and lonely people that you interact with are loved by God and worthy of your time too. Extend a kind word to everyone you meet, but also seek ways to share your time, energy and life with them.
  2. Engage people.We are not just inviting people to programs or services (Rom 12:13-20). It is a personal connection we offer.
  3. Consider ways to share meals/hospitality. In the whole gospel of Luke, Jesus is either at a meal, going to a meal, or just finishing a meal.  In Biblical culture, meals were the main means of interacting and showing hospitality.
  4. Pay attention. Jesus told the disciples as they were busy serving Him, “lift up your eyes and look on the fields they are white with harvest” (Jn 4:35). An uplifting word or kind action may begin a process of God to change a life.  We have to look at people in order to see them.

Online connections can help but they cannot replace the real thing.

 

 

Enter the text or HTML code here

Share

An Important Element in God’s Atmosphere of Discipleship

If I had only one sermon to preach it would be a sermon against pride.-GK Chesterton

How dare they bring that up? Who are they to point that out to me? I thought we were friends.  I bet I could come up with hundreds of things that they are doing wrong. As a matter of fact what about that issue we had to bring up with them a few months ago? Jesus wasn’t even in the picture of their life then. How about the continual things they struggle with?  They bring this up to me, no way!

All of us who live around the house of the Lord have probably had thoughts like this cross our minds or have heard them from others when we are challenged about something. This is especially true if you live around a church environment that is serious about spiritual maturity.

One of the things we know about God’s design for his house is that there should be an atmosphere of growth and maturity. None are perfect, but we are all in the same boat.  Jesus is working in us to bring about a mature bride (Eph 5:26-27).  Hebrews 13:20-21 God equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ..

A Family of Disciples

The church is God’s House and it is to have a family atmosphere, but we must not lose sight of another important aspect of that atmosphere.  We are a family of disciples.  The clear call of the Matthew 28 Great Commission is, “go and make disciples… teaching them to observe everything I’ve commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). Our calling is to both make, and be made disciples (followers are learning to obey Jesus).  If we are moving in that calling the church will have an environment of discipleship in the context of family.

We see this very clearly in the church at Antioch. Acts 11:26  And they were with the church there for a year, teaching the people; and the disciples were first given the name of Christians in AntiochThe church was a family of disciples who were given the name Christian.  God’s family is not just a family of Christians, it’s a family of disciples. If this is embraced as a important foundation, then an overriding characteristic among it’s members is a motivation grow up to please Jesus in every aspect of life.

The church should be known for discipleship in the context of family.  This has a wonderful side of it in which we are encouraged, affirmed, loved, and valued.  We have the wonderful security of a family that accepts us and loves us for who we are in spite of our many imperfections.

The other aspect, that is just as important, is that there are fellow family members who walk beside us and sometimes bring faithful challenges. This is what the Bible says Proverbs 27:6  Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.  Many great men and women of God in the Bible where the recipients of this side of God’s grace through fellow family members such as the 12 disciples from Jesus, David from Nathan, and Peter from Paul. 

Many times in my own life I have been challenged by the fellow family members in areas that I initially found unpleasant yet necessary.  Why does God choose to do it that way?  Why can’t it be just between me and Jesus?  After all I have a real personal relationship with God.  Why does someone else have to get involved? 

An Important Thing God is after in Relational Challenging

It was pride that changed angels into devils–Augustine

There is something very important that needs to get cemented in our mind that will help us be more open to embrace the challenges from friends.  One of the deadly traits that was created in the heart of Satan when he was part of God’s family was called “pride.”  Pride was the thing that caused him to be removed. “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezek. 28:15). This beautiful, powerful, intelligent, and gifted being fell from his perfect state when his heart was lifted up (aka pride) because of his own beauty and brightness (v. 17). No longer was he willing to be a servant to the Creator. Staggering pride in the heart (the propensity towards “I will”) was to blame for the tragedy in heaven. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! … For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne … I will sit also upon the mount … I will ascend above the heights…I will be like the most High” (Isa. 14:12-14).

Since that event he has tried to generate his nature of pride inside of everyone. This made angels into devils (Rev 12:3-9).  Pride is the root nature of the Satan, and the root nature of every sin.   It is the direct opposite of the root nature of God’s kingdom that Jesus says is humility.  “Blessed are the humble for theirs is the kingdom” (Mt 5:3).  This is why God clearly says He hates, and is opposed to pride in every form.

  • Proverbs 8:13  To fear the LORD is to hate evil. I hate pride, arrogance, evil behavior, and twisted speech.
  • Proverbs 6:16-17  Six things are hated by the Lord…  (17)  Eyes of pride
  • James 4:6  Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” (1 Pet 5:5).

When God sends his faithful challenge through fellow family members, besides the issue there is a corresponding challenge to any pride that has gotten inside of us. There is a degree of humility we have to embrace to receive the challenge and not react in a childish, self-centered, and prideful way. The nature of pride is self exalting competitiveness with others. In the faithful challenging of family members God is both correcting behavior and challenging pride.

In the faithful challenging of His family members God is both correcting behavior and challenging pride. Click To Tweet

Local churches are to live out a discipleship environment in the context of family.  It is a good thing to remember when you receive both the encouragement and the challenge of friends that God is not only correcting things, but also rooting out the nature of enemy, pride.  We are the body of Christ and as such we are to display the nature of Jesus through our lives.

Enter the text or HTML code here

Share

Living Out The Important Things

God didn’t love from a distance, but loved up close. He calls us to do the same.  

“You have meant so much to me and my family, like the time…”  His voice began to crack as he remembered events and shared them with appreciation at his 50th birthday party.  People began to grab tissues and the floodgates of emotions and testimonies began to flow.  During this time of year when I encounter these types of events I can’t help but think of what the angel Clarence said to George Bailey in the movie It’s a wonderful life. “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”   

During the holiday season we celebrate the fact that God didn’t just send a message, a podcast, a tweet, or a Facebook post.  He sent His Son in flesh and blood to demonstrate what He is like, and show how much He cares.  It’s called the incarntation.

Jostrange-isnt-ithn 1:14 The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, liIke Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. 

Taking on flesh and blood and reaching out with real life is God’s nature.  He is the light and has given His church the commission to continue to demonstrate that light. Matthew 5:14  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  His church isn’t a building, meeting, or program, its the family of God demonstrating His life, and offering the good news to the world around them    It happens with life on life interaction which is the way Jesus did it.  1Jn 1:1  That which was from the first, which has come to our ears, and which we have seen with our eyes, looking on it and touching it with our hands, about the Word of life.

Incarnational Living

We learn to live incarnationally from Jesus who took the time to regularly sit with people whom the religious community deemed unworthy of their time or attention.  Eventhough His time was in demand, He stopped long enough to speak with people, play with children, and eat with friends.  Most of his Kingdom work centered around these types of interactions.

This is often called incarnational living.  It is laying down your life to enter into, and reveal God’s life to others.  It is laying down your life to relate with, and serve people.  It is a pattern of dying to self in order to live to God.   

It is unfortunate but often the things we are most concerned about, and strive to achieve, have little to do with incarnational living with others.  As a matter of fact, many times what we pursue destroys the valuable relationships with people around us.   How many marriages have disintegrated because one of the spouses was married to their career and sacrificed close relationships to pursue it.  How many children grew up not being around people who should have shown them they were loved and important but instead took a secondary place in their lives.  What emotional holes were left because people didn’t live incarnationally.

The most valuable fruit in our lives comes not with power, wealth, or material things but with the gift of our presence.  It is life on life relationships with people.  In the end, the meaningful things that really matter come from loving relationships.

There was an interesting little quiz I came across a few years ago that highlights this truth.  It was attributed to Charles Schultz and it contains perspective about the important element of life on life relationships.

  • Name the five wealthiest people in the world. 
  • Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
  • Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest. 
  • Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize. 
  • Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress. 
  • Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

The facts are, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday.  After the applause dies, the accolades are forgotten, and the youtube videos are no longer played they are forgotten. How about these questions?

  • List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
  • Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time. 
  • Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile. 
  • Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special. 
  • Think of five people you enjoy spending time with. 
  • Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you. 

The lesson is clear.  It is the life on life relationships with people that make the greatest difference in our lives.   It is not the ones with the greatest achievements, the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.  It is the ones who sacrificed, took and interest in, and cared about our life.

Jesus said this many times to help keep our focus on the most valuable things.

Mk 12:29-32 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength’. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. No other commandment is greater than these.”

Pursuing this type of living is simply about entering into another’s world by learning to listen, sympathize with, and to be present and available.  Then we do everything we can to bring God’s comfort, healing, deliverance, and care.   This is how Jesus lived.  The gospels are full of accounts of Jesus’ interactions with individuals – Matthew, Nathaniel, a prostitute, Nicodemus, a blind man, a Samaritan woman, and many others.  When the rich young ruler came up to Him, Jesus “looked at him and loved him.”  He listened.  He was never in a rush or distracted in His value of people.  At the end of the day that is where the greatest influence comes into people’s life. 

Enter the text or HTML code here

Share

No Other Plan…so walk in it!

ErasmusThere was a story allegedly told by Erasmus, the famous Renaissance scholar and early church leader from Rotterdam, about the importance of God’s plan.  It was designed to emphasize how important it is that we take up the torch of Christ’s ministry with great commitment to love Jesus and His people, the church.  In the story, Jesus returns to heaven after his time on earth. The angels gather around him to learn all that happened during his days on earth. Jesus tells them of the miracles, his teachings, his death on the cross, and his resurrection. When He finished, the archangel Michael asked, ‘But Lord, what happens now?’ Jesus answered, ‘I have left behind eleven faithful men who will declare my message and express my love. These faithful men will establish and build my church. And that church will take my message, my life, to the world.’ ‘But,’ responded Michael, ‘What if they fail? What then?’ Jesus answered, ‘I have no other plan.”

Paul reveals the central feature of God’s plan in Ephesians

Eph 1:18-23  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling….22-23 MSG  He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church.  (23)  The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

When God’s people walk together with Him and each other according to His design they become a manifestation of His life and Kingdom on earth.  We are “Christ body, in which He speaks, and acts, by which He fills everything with His presence.” The church becomes the signpost to a watching world of Who and what the gospel of Jesus is.

When God’s people understand His calling it changes their whole approach to their life together.  They end up doing what Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-25,  Then Jesus said to his followers, “If any of you want to be my follower, you must stop thinking about yourself and what you want. You must be willing to carry the cross that is given to you for following me.  (25)  Any of you who try to save the life you have will lose it. But you who give up your life for My cause will find true life.   

What was His cause, what is His will, He had already said it verse 18,  upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not stop it.   

God does not give us the choice of commitment to loving Jesus and His church.   Even when church programs are static, personalities are irritating, and hypocrisy is among them, the Bible doesn’t give us the choice of loving Jesus and not wanting anything to do with His bride. 1Jn 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

Don’t fall for the devil’s primitive way of dealing with problems

Civil war amputeesNot long ago my wife and I went to a display on the medical advances that happened as a result of the civil war at the Lincoln Historical site in Springfield IL.  What is often shocking when you look at medical care during the civil war was one of the main treatments for injury or infection.   They simply amputated the injured or infected limbs.

That was a large part of the display we witnessed.  It was shocking to see the photographs of all the people under care that had limbs cut off.  It showed doctors with their primitive saws out cutting off limbs.  This display also showed the later shots of military veterans at various celebrations who were missing limbs.  Their whole lives and their families were obviously affected by their relative having lost their limbs.civil war amputees 1

Over the 39 years I have been serving the Lord and participating with Him as He builds His church, I realized that our enemy influences God’s people to deal the same primitive way with injury or infection.

 

I have seen quite a bit of the primitive approach of amputation in the two institutions God created and ordained to carry His image, marriage and His church.

 

Ephesians 5:28-32  So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;  (29)  for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,  (30)  because we are members of His body.  (31)  FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.  (32)  This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

With little vision worth sacrificing for, and God’s people being motivated by a consumer brand of Christianity, people treat injury and infection in the same primitive ways they did in the civil war.  Just remove the limbs from the body both in marriage and the church.

Some would say the immediate relief from the pain associated with the injury or infection was worth it, but there are long term consequences, especially if it was not directed by Jesus.  There is long term effects on their legacy.  How much better it would be if the people involved in marriage and church were committed enough to laying down their life for Jesus’ sake to work with Him (the Great Physician Lk 4:23) through the pain and infection.

Ephesians 4:1-3  Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,  (2)  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,  (3)  being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

 

Enter the text or HTML code here

Share

Worth the Fight #3: Narcissistic or Kingdom Advancing Relationships

Everything exists for me

Everything exists for me

Author Rodney Clapp wrote, A noted western Philosopher introduced to the world in 1926 was one day sitting on a log when he heard a buzzing sound.  He was puzzled and fell to pondering.  As his leading chronicler remembers the event he reasoned along the following lines.  “If there is a buzzing noise somebody is making a buzzing noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing noise that I know of is because you’re a bee says the Poo.  Then he thought another long time and said, “And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey.  And then he got up and said, “And the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it.” 

Unfortunately Winnie the Poo’s attitude reflects how mankind often approaches their lives. Like Pooh they see “the only reason” things exist is for our personal likes, desires, and consumption.  It is a reflection of a narcissistic approach to life that is all too common today.

Narcissism is based on the Greek myth of Narcissus, the proud young man who saw his reflection in a pool and fell in love with it.  Narcissus was unable to break away from his own gaze, and eventually died by the side of the pool.  The psychological definition of Narcissism is an egotistical preoccupation with self, personal preferences, aspirations, needs, success, and how he/she is perceived by others.   

This is what the Bible calls “pride” which is the opposite of humility. C. S. Lewis aptly described humility as, “not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”


Pride and narcissism are bad in any arena but especially among the people of God. It will result in taking precious truths of the design of God and making them about our glory instead of His.  We can do this with something as important to our lives as relationships with God and others.  This is why Jesus was so clear in His calls to follow Him in which He clearly puts “self” in a secondary/denied place.  

Luk 9:23-24  And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  (24)  “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it (MSG Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self).

Mark 8:34-35  “If anyone wishes to come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it (See also: Matthew 10:39,  Luke 17:32-33, Matthew 16:24-25, Mar 10:21, Luk 18:22, Luk 14:33).   

In the church world “relationships” or “fellowship” conjures up images such as sitting around a living room, eating refreshments, talking about life, enjoying each other’s company, and doing fun things together.   Being around people who are interested in our life is a very appealing.   A good relational church can be imagined as a nice sheep pen in which the sheep are cozy with one another and the shepherds are constantly attending to their needs.  Even Biblical ideas such as “accountability” can be viewed narcissistically.

Accountability can be twisted to simply cause us to be a little more open and honest.  We may share more about our struggles and challenges if we know others have imperfections like we do but where does it lead us?  Instead of motivation to change it becomes almost therapeutically comforting to know we are all imperfect, and God loves us just they way we are.  What about growth, change and progress in pleasing Jesus? 

This type of relational life seems very safe, sanitized, tame, but also self serving. It can seem like a “nice” effort designed to produce “nice” people that feel better about themselves.  While these things have their place, if this is the extent of fellowship then we are missing something very important.  God joins people together for His purpose, not ours.  The church is not to be a narcissistic body consumed with itself.  It is a body designed for a purpose beyond itself. 

Eph 1:22-23  Msg…The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

God isn’t about simply filling the confines of the church with cozy groups of fellowship.  He wants to fill the whole earth with people expressing His life.

Kingdom Relationships Should Stimulate Zeal for God

An important element that is often missing in “church relationships” is seen in Hebrews. Heb 10:23-25  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;  (24)  and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,  (25)  not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

The word “stimulate” one another is a very interesting word.  It is far from the safe and sanitized form of relationships.  The word “stimulate” means “incitement, provoke unto, contention.”  It means such things as “to call into action; to arouse; to excite; to provoke anger or wrath; to provoke war; to excite or challenge; to stir up or arouse.”  It means to incite to action with a zeal for God.

This isn’t a tame word!  There is an element of danger and forward action in it.  As the church goes forward and “fills everything with His presence,” darkness is destroyed.   It is the idea Jesus declared when He said in Matthew 16 “I will build my church and the gates of hell can’t stop its forward advance.”   When our relationships stimulate us to go forward, the fire of God moves through us to destroy the works of the enemy in every square inch of our lives and God’s earth.

The prophet Zechariah spoke of these types of relationships among God’s people.  Zec 12:5-6 “Then the clans (social units) of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the LORD of hosts, their God.’  6  “In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves, so they will consume on the right hand and on the left all the surrounding peoples, while the inhabitants of Jerusalem again dwell on their own sites in Jerusalem. 

Like Samson, Jesus gathers His people around His fire

Like Samson, Jesus gathers His people around His fire

A great Old Testament story that depicts these types of relationships comes from Samson.  Their enemy, the Philistines, had planted crops on God’s land.  Samson, who was a judge God raised up to deliver His people and advance His purpose, did something very interesting.  He caught 300 foxes, put a torch between every pair of them, and tied their tails to that torch.  He then set the torch on fire and sent each pair throughout the enemy’s crops.  This resulted in the crops that the enemy had planted to be burnt down.

Jdg 15:4-5 NASB  Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail and put one torch in the middle between two tails.  5  When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines, thus burning up both the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves.

What a story to show us what this type of Biblical fellowship is like!  God’s sets His fire (Holy Spirit) among us, and ties us together with Him and each other.  If we are on fire for God as we move out, “two by two,” we end up spreading a fire that destroys the work of the enemy.  This is what Peter and John did when they went together to pray in the temple.  They encountered a beggar and out of the Spirit filled fire among them they prayed for him and he was healed.

Our relationships should “stimulate” us to action and Kingdom advancement.  They should work to light the torch of the Spirit among us.  They should produce a zeal for God and change in us. These type of relationships destroy the enemies crops in our lives and in the lives of others.   This is far from sitting around a living room having coffee and therapeutically focusing on ourselves.    Let us seek the type of relationships that “stimulate one another” by the fire of God to overcome the work of the enemy.   

Enter the text or HTML code here

Share

Worth the Fight #2: Myth of the Self-Made Man

Self-Made-ManOne of the most celebrated American holidays is Independence Day.  One of America’s most revered documents is the Declaration of Independence.  Independence in these examples was set in the context of a corporate nation yet as a culture we have morphed the idea more towards personal independence rather than corporate.  Unfortunately the church has often followed in culture’s wake rather than God’s design.

Independence can be a problem when people begin to follow Jesus.   The very nature of Jesus and the Godhead is that they live and move together as One.  They are Three perfectly in sync with each other.  They are part of each other’s lives.  Jesus only did what He saw His Father doing (John 5, 8, 15:15).  At the same time Father and Holy Spirit were moving to glorify Jesus (John 8:54, 16:14, 17:5).  

In Jesus’ last prayer on earth He prayed 3 times that His people would have the same type of relational oneness with each other that He has with the Godhead (Jn 17:11, 21, 22).  We also know that when people take up the call to follow Jesus He immediately puts them in connection with others who follow Him.   It isn’t based on their personal preference but His.

1 Corinthians 12:13-18  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit….18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

Rom 12:1-11…4  MSG In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. (Amp mutually dependent on one another).

Ephesians 4:25  And so, putting away false words, let everyone say what is true to his neighbour: for we are parts one of another.

 His call is not based on our personal preference but His design and destiny.

Jesus didn’t allow His first disciples to make the choice on who they would follow Him with.   He placed them as Paul said, “in the body, just as He desired.”  He placed the 12 with others that they would not have liked very well outside of following Him. He put tax-gatherers and zealots, rich and poor, and physicians and fishermen together.  Tax-gatherers and zealots were people from two groups in Palestine who would have hated each other and wished them dead.

As we follow Jesus with those He joins us to they become part of our life and destiny. Click To Tweet

Myth of the “Self-Made Man

Read any biography of a successful entrepreneur, CEO, or media personality and self-made manit will have the familiar ring of the “self-made man.” It usually goes something like this; from humble beginnings, or a disadvantaged situation, _______ refused to give in to the odds stacked against him or her. They didn’t give up but they got up and made something great of themselves.

This isn’t completely true in anyone’s life! Consider someone’s relational biography. Do your own. A relational biography describes people God has used to get others where they are today. If it is done in an objective manner we will be amazed how the influence of other people over the years has been essential to us getting where we are.

Think of your life. You owe your life to a lot to people. People are the main source of supply God used in your life (Eph 4:16, Col 2:19). Think about your natural family or others who helped raise you. Someone had to provide things for you that you couldn’t on your own. Someone provided food for you and changed your diapers when you couldn’t do it yourself. While those same people may have hurt you or let you down in various ways they did provided something for you that you couldn’t do yourself.

You didn’t educate yourself.  You had teachers and schools. There were people in your life who warned you to stay away from harmful things which probably spared you a lot of mistakes and grief. Others protected you at times when you didn’t even know it. Even in the choosing of your career someone probably influenced you with an example of a field of work that was appealing. Someone probably told you about the job your currently have or at least was involved in getting your application to someone who hired you.

If you are a Christian, someone, or several someone’s, helped you get to the place you are in God. They brought the message of Christ to you, helped you develop a walk with Christ, and provided instruction and example of how to live for Him. It reminds me of a quote from the angel Clarence to George Bailey from my favorite movie It’s a Wonderful Life, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” 

Destiny Carriers

My walk with Jesus continues to be shaped, influenced, and aided by the people God has joined me to. There has been so much revelation, example, and even correction from His people in my life. They have also opened doors for me to move in His destiny. This highlights an important Biblical concept that we all have ‘Destiny Carriers’ that help us come into the place He has for us.

All through the Scripture we see examples of people coming into their destiny through relationships. There are potentials in each person and the relationships He joins them to that hold a key to help unlock them.

Joshua had Moses, Ruth had Naomi, David had Jonathan, Elisha had Elijah, Jesus had Mary, Joseph, and John the Baptist, Paul had Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, as well as others, and they had Paul.  The list goes on and on.

Most good things of God flow through relationships (His body). That is how He designed it. We were made in His image and as it says in the Genesis account of creation it was the image of the Trinity “let Us make man in Our image” (Gen 1:26). The Trinity are mutually dependent on each other for their continued place of existence.

This is why the people who prosper in God tend to be planted among relationships. This is why it is so sad when Christians fail to commit over the long haul to walk with people God joins them to.  

Psa 92:12-14 The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,…(13) Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. (14) They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green,

The proper response of any true disciple of Jesus is a similar posture the prodigal son had when returning to his father, “make me” (Lk 15:19).  He is the Potter and we are the clay (Jer 18 etc.). God uses people that we walk together with as tools that shape/make us as we follow Him. 

I am not the same man I was before I was joined with my wife.  In the context of walking together we both have become something different, better, and more than what we would have been on our own.  The same is true as we walk together with those He joins us to in the church.  There are no “self-made men/women” in the Kingdom of God.   We should thank God for those He uses to shape our life in Him through both the good times and the bad and the easy as well as the challenging.  

Enter the text or HTML code here

Share