Cover photo creds: Pinterest
Written 9/28/2016; revised 10/11/2020
I’ll be honest: Sometimes, I don’t [fully] understand “community”.
I mean…I know we were made for it. I know God ultimately is it. But I guess I just don’t know how to live it the way we were intended.
Granted, my perspective is a tad crusty, dare I say, cynical due to former friends fading away and misplaced support voids.
But skepticism aside, I do wonder if part of the confusion is tied to the increasingly blurred line between perceived “community” and proximity.
For instance, with proximity, you’re generally around people who are apathetic in knowing you. I’ve seen this with former employers. If you’re ‘different’¹, then people are indifferent. If you don’t fit in, you can’t stand out. As a result, unhealthy cliques form, outskirts are treated as outcasts, and communications are compromised.
Contrarily, with community, you’re around people who are open to the idea of seeking relationships and in some cases, building koinonia. I’ve seen this at my current job as well as select churches in my area. When a new person enters, he/she’s not only taken in, but walked with until they’re communally integrated (or at least have a clearer understanding on direction). Accordingly, life begets life, sincerity abounds, and gratitude becomes the hallmark of interaction.
Now, before I continue, let me clarify: I’m not saying nearness and/or involuntary forms of togetherness are wrong. If you know me, then you know I’m a huge advocate regarding the ministry of availability. What I am saying is if we desire to be fishers of men, to be influential stewards in the marketplace, we must discern the difference between proximity and community. Especially in a year like 2020, if you’re feeling discouraged trying to make sense of veiled social circles and structures , permit me to share some empowering thoughts…
1) Whether or not we desire community, it must be a priority in our lives.
While this point may seem straight-forward, the nuance is worth noting. After all, part of our uniqueness boils down to weighted values as filtered through personality, wirings, and spiritual gifts. As many wise men have said, loving yourself should not come at the cost of loving and serving others. Even if it’s quality time or encouragement at an inconvenient moment, the ripple effect can be profound; for who knows the exact words and gestures God has prepared for us at any given point.
Think of this way: If we want to be love, we must desire intimacy with God.; however, to desire intimacy with God, we must understand walking in stride with Him often means doing likewise with others. While this may seem overwhelming, by cultivating a sensitive heart of worship, we can learn to rely on God in relational situations knowing…
- God, as part of the Trinity, has been a relational reality for eternity.
- God has entrusted us to be intentional in our approach to unity.
- God has given us what we need to effortlessly abide in community.
Bottom line: To live as Christ is to live as one with one another.
2) Community isn’t just a good idea but one of the greatest mandates in Scripture.
So random question: How many of you like chocolate milk? Remember Ovaltine back in the day? As a kid, I used to love buying the Chocolate Malt container and stirring some scoops into a icy cold glass of milk before bedtime.
If you can relate, you likely know chocolate milk isn’t really chocolate milk unless the chocolate is stirred in. I mean, have you tried tasting unstirred chocolate milk? No bueno! Basically just milk with a subtle hint of cocoa residue.
Visual secured, I submit community is like a chilled glass of chocolate milk². If we don’t allow the Spirit to stir us through genuine relationship, if we’re so easily satisfied by fenced-off fellowship, then the flavor of whatever community we’re experiencing is going to be compromised.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” ~ Hebrews 10:24-25
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts…” ~ Acts 2:42-47
Bottom line: Just as God is love, He is community. When our lives are tasting and seeing that God is good, no question our corporate devotion to do likewise will strengthen.
3) Community starts by drawing near to One.
Here’s a question: In terms of relationship, if there are walls or barbed wires involved, can we honestly say what we’re experiencing is real? Not to suggest ‘real’ and ‘complete’ are synonymous or that there can’t be camaraderie behind closed doors or in passing. Certainly, obedience and courage can help us embrace empathy and the missional aspects of community.
But as for intentional brotherly devotion, for ‘everything in common’ life, while it’s okay to accept scraps in dry seasons, we must remember…
When we talk about how this looks in the church, we note community isn’t a vehicle to do life together, but God’s life together since the church is a reflection of the Godhead.
Similarly, in the marketplace, community can be seen as the relational modeling of work as worship and the God community with respect to business.
While I’ll aim to unpack this in my next post (given both sides are essential to our ‘Kingdom influencer identity), for now, know regardless of your situation/setting, if we’re content on not loving past our relational defaults and resentments, then our community will be nothing more than a shadow of God’s origin intent.
Take it from one who occasionally feels disoriented by what he’s not experiencing. Whenever I’m wrestling with relational voids, I’m reminded to draw near to God, resist fear, and pour out my anxieties upon Him. By doing this, I allow the Spirit to stir up a desire to encourage others with the good news that Jesus is near (proximity) and eager to abide with us (community).
Bottom line: Love is not contingent on acceptance but is calibrated by humility seeking the interest of others, making kindness evident, and proclaiming the goodness of fellowship’s Creator (Philippians 2:4 + Romans 12:10 + 1 Peter 2:9).
As such, my encouragement to you is to ask the Lord to fill you with passion and compassion for His people, to not only move you to physical presence but to the inner courts of the Spirit’s presence.
1) By ‘different’, I mean anything from calling and character profile to age and race
Photo Creds: a2ua.com
Well, folks. We’ve made it.
The summer solstice, the midyear equinox, the halfway point, whatever July is to you, we’re here and still in one piece. Who would have thought making it this far would feel like such an accomplishment?
Memes aside, as some of know, this is a special time of year for me – a time when I reflect and consider adjustments for the year moving forward; however, this year, I want to shake things up a bit. Rather than share reflections on lessons learned, I want to focus today’s post on finding rest through refreshing, restarting, and resetting with God. Yes, I get how the series sounds similar. Outside of our personal computers, I bet most of us use these terms interchangeably. Still, there are critical differences worth discussing as they relate to our emotional and spiritual well-being. As such, I encourage you to keep an open mind and a sensitive heart as we explore the depths of this topic.
Without further ado, let’s dive in…
When I say ‘refresh’, what immediately comes to mind? An emerald beach resort, snow-covered slopes, a sparkling beverage?
Okay, okay…so these are some of my favorite things. But to an extent, you can see the common denominator. Generally, when we consider what refreshes us, our minds gravitate to what instantly gratifies us. Whatever can elevate our spirits in the heat of the moment, whatever can distract us from despair, chances are we receive it as refreshing.
Yet, while there is an interim component to refreshment, from a biblical standpoint, refreshment isn’t refreshment without sustaining momentum. For example, if you’re in a desert and find an oasis, the kiss of water to your lips is just as much refreshment as the long-term fill you carry on with. While the express relief is undeniable, it’s made more powerful through the restoration of heart, soul, mind, and strength to its original design.
Perhaps this is why the theme is threaded through all Scripture:
“And I will bring a piece of bread to refresh and sustain you; after that you may go on, since you have come to your servant.” And they replied, “Do as you have said.” ~ Genesis 18:5 (ESV)
“The law of the Lord is perfect (flawless), restoring and refreshing the soul; The statutes of the Lord are reliable and trustworthy, making wise the simple.” ~ Psalm 19:7 (ESV)
“He refreshes and restores my soul (life); He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” ~ Psalm 23:3 (ESV)
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation].” ~ Matthew 11:28 (ESV)
“Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (MSG)
Upon further review, these passages tell me four things:
- Refresh is not only a footstool to rest, but can be the rest itself ¹.
- Refresh is often the next step towards righteousness (in particular resisting fear, receiving grace, and stilling our inner being).
- Refresh is designed to lead us towards places of freedom, health, and unity.
- Refresh is centered in the abiding of God’s nature.
Therefore, if you ever feel like a stalled webpage, don’t just receive God’s ‘refresh’ as momentary rest, but embrace it as sustenance taking you deeper into His love. ‘Cause truth is: Refresh is not simply what you take in, but what you allow to put out. All the more reason to rest in knowing even when there’s a setback, there’s a kickback with God to pursue.
Rolling with the browser analogy, as many Mac users know, a ‘refresh’ is not always a surefire cure-all to the ‘death spiral’.
Sometimes, you need a hard restart to reboot your system to access files more quickly; think ‘have you turned it on and off again‘ but next level.
Assuming you can relate, consider the parallels to mental peace. Like refresh, restart implies calibration, alignment, and engagement to a higher form and by proxy, an ideal intent. Granted, a restart is more disruptive but it can also lead to more enlightening outcomes.
Take this year, for instance. These days there’s no question we’re experiencing unprecedented disruption. While we’re not encountering radical crises such as world wars or great depressions, we’re still seeing almost every nation being impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. On the surface, this captures a historic screenshot, but digging deeper, look at what it’s inspiring. Despite so much on hold, we’re seeing people revising their priorities, pursuing dormant dreams, and encouraging their way out of complacency. Even in the most unlikely scenarios, people are beginning to care again at fundamental levels once taken for granted. An exciting, if not, thrilling development in a year many have thrown the towel on.
As for how we ‘restart’, I submit we first take inventory of what we’re clinging to. Ask yourself, ‘What and where are those internal points of desperation? Are they guiding me to Jesus or pulling me away?‘ Be honest and know your wilderness is not the problem, but rather your commitment to the road God has made in it. From there, remember the secret of being content in every situation is God as your strength providing all you need for good work, faith, and life in abundance. Where you need to ask for purity, ask for purity. Where there’s past to surrender, surrender it. Where there’s pleasure in stronghold, ask God to orientate your perspective. No matter where you are, what situation you’re in, you can pray, ‘God, I long to see not only what you see, but how you see‘ so I may not lose sight of your faithfulness and the ‘why’ to which I am called.
Of course, this is just a proposed template; obviously, be Spirit-led and discerning in your approach. For now, I pray and trust this guide can help start your ‘restart’.
Finally, we come to reset, which if you think is similar to ‘restart’, you’d be correct. To reset is to essentially restart, but with one caveat: A reset requires change; a restart doesn’t.
You see, unlike the glorified mulligan that is a restart, a reset goes beyond a redo and into the realm of upgrade. To upgrade anything, you have to put it all on the table. Every detail, every piece, every character…every little thing must be re-examined in the spirit of inevitable revision.
Now, if you think I’m taking a scenic route in describing repentance, I’m not trying to per se, though it is certainly applicable. Rather, my takeaway with ‘reset’ is the context of the action. Specifically, all of us should regularly take time to get away with God – to retreat with Him for the sake of being intentionally disrupted.
Consider this the full-circle moment of this post: To be disrupted is to know God has a message for you. Whatever the message is, you have to first position yourself to receive it. Hence, why resetting often can’t happen without a break from the ordinary. To receive from the Lord, you have to eliminate potential interferences including innocent routines. It’s not a knock on your daily rhythm, but a call to push to pause knowing God is more important.
My encouragement to you, my friends, is to heed these differences to know the season you’re in. For some of you, God wants to refresh your moment. For others, He wants to restart your walk and/or reset your faith. Whatever the case, don’t hide in the shadow of uncertainty or anxiety. Instead, know the time has never been better to supplicate – to ask God in earnest, ‘Is there a new idea, a fresh work you want to begin in me? Is there a lost truth you want to illuminate in me? Is there anything in my heart that needs to be uninstalled so you can install something in its place?”
And if it helps, think of this way: When you let go of the ‘me’, you can receive the ‘re²’; when you receive the ‘re’, you can find the ‘renew’ – the Isaish 40:31 – in each step:
“…but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
- Or is the start of rest itself
- Whether it be a refresh, restart, or reset
Cover photo creds: Generals.org (edited in Canva by Cameron & Lyssah Fry)
Written March 15, 2017; Revised July 12, 2020
Bible verse: Hebrews 12:28-29 (MSG)
“Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!”
In light of much shaking in the world today, it’s fair to wonder how the church is to become more Kingdom-aligned.
From liturgy to doxology, theology to ecclesiology, there are many topics worth discussing, perhaps more than we like to admit. But before we dive into any ‘ologies’, it’s important we examine the church relative to God’s first command (Genesis 1:28): The family.
As Scripture attests, belonging to a family culture is not only a crucial part of our relational perspective but also our call to engage fellowship and know intimacy. A brief exegesis of Genesis 1 and John 1 confirms this: Before man could exist, there had to be a communal model for him to operate in; however, for this model to also exist, there had to be a holy community sharing everything in common (Acts 1-4) in perfect harmony. Hence, why from the very beginning, the church¹ was a sparkle in the Father’s eye.
Unfortunately, this sparkle is now contending with a culture eager to redefine identity and blur the line between love and tolerance. Stir in a coronavirus, racist divides, and fear propaganda, and there’s even more to distract us from what matters these days. Take it from a brother: If you’re a believer and have struggled lately to combat new deceptions while living your faith, my heart goes out to you. You’re certainly not alone.
Still, despite the challenges, we can’t let temporary headlines shield us from important questions worth asking. In this case…
1. While the church may be conveying truth, is she allowing it to be tasted and seen? Is the church delighting in what she’s demonstrating?
2. If not, how can we expect those outside the church to do the same?
While most would cite an answer between leadership and service, I submit part of the solution to both questions concerns how the church develops and facilities discipleship within the family dynamic.
For instance, in most structures, discipleship is perceived as in-house mentoring with evangelism serving as the primary faith vehicle into the ‘real’ world; however, if the church desires to be more Kingdom-aligned, it should further seek to prioritize these elements in the home. Yes, small groups are essential, but then again, so are Zoom calls, spontaneous texts of encouragement, one-on-one coffees, even charitable support. Like any family, tending community involves systematic and impromptu engagement. And if the church is to be the church today, we must realize this can’t happen without interactive/virtual collaboration on curriculums, events, and leadership/volunteer development.
But reeling it back to 2020: While the COVID-19 epidemic has been discouraging, the evolution of church into the home has been a significant silver lining. While not every experience has been the same, many congregations are discovering new ways to be salt and light in a crooked and twisted time. Accordingly, it’s my hope the church will continue to be Spirit-led as…
1. Her boundaries adapt
2. Her creativity sharpens
3. Her definition of evangelism expands remotely
4. Her definition of discipleship expands virtually
Assuming all four mature in rhythm, no question, believers will be more equipped to walk in authenticity, confidence, and love (1 Peter 3:15) as immediate and church family relationships strengthen.
Bottom line: If the church wants to mature in her ‘unshakability’. she must also extend her ‘open door’ policy to the home and places of influence. After all, before the church can model grace and love to a deceived generation, she must already be doing so to the next generation. Given we want our church families to be more effective in culture and at work, let’s remember to the extent we desire the unshakable Kingdom, to that extent we must pour into unbreakable family.
Stay tuned next time when I’ll explore how faith in the marketplace can help bridge family dynamics at work and home. I must admit I’m excited about this new series as it seems largely unchartered.
‘Til then, have a great week, everyone.
Rootin’ for ya as always,
- Not to mention her approach to family discipleship and co-equal in value, diverse in function theology
Cover photo creds: Life Pointe Church
Written 2/15/14; revised 6/1/20
Back when I was a young buck studying the Word, I had a bad habit of downplaying settings. Geography, time, historical backdrops…I figured by skimming the peripherals, I’d discern the passage more quickly without distraction.
However, as I now know, when we consider the Scriptures, we find every word, pronoun, and article carrying strategic purpose and placement.
Take John 4 for instance…
In this chapter, not only do we find Jesus ministering to a woman at a well but [literally] going the extra yard in finding her.
Yet, before the encounter takes place, we’re given important context retroactive to John 3:22-23:
“After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized.”
This in mind, let’s flash-forward to John 4:1-5:
“Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.”
In these two passages, we’re given three regions as backstory to John 4: Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. With Galilee and Samaria, we’re given specifics; with Judea, the reference is less clear. Still, we have enough detail to discern the relationship between the communities.
Note the maps below as they will come in handy in a minute…
Going back to v. 2, we find Jesus leaving Judea for Galilee from a somewhat debatable departure point. Assuming Jesus started where John was baptizing, we can deduce Sychar not only as a sensible midpoint but a contrast to how Jews traveled given the cultural climate between them and the Samaritans (see black/white graphic above). While traveling through Sychar made sense in terms of mileage, it’s only fair to wonder:
Why Jesus did go there in the first place?
To answer this, we’ll need to examine two more components…
Relational Dynamics: Back in Jesus’ time, it was culturally unacceptable for a Jew to enter a Samaritan town. As we see in the Good Samaritan parable, Samaritans were widely considered half-breeds (half-Gentile, half-Jew). If a Jew was departing Jerusalem on route to Galilee, he likely would have traveled east of the Jordan to avert Samaria (a difference of a marathon give or take); however, in Jesus’ case, he took the road less traveled by for two reasons:
1) To shatter the mold of social norms through his message of unity.
2) To share the Good News and preview the Spirit as part of an emerging worship culture (more on this in a future post).
The Timeline: Additionally, we must consider the timing of this passage as v. 6 indicates:
“Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.”
Again, it’s worth wondering why John would emphasize a topical detail like the “sixth hour”. At first glance, one would think the “sixth hour” to be 6:00 am; however, according to the Jewish clock, the “sixth hour” would have, in fact, been 12:00 pm. Like the location, the ramifications of this observation is significant. If Jesus arrived at noon, then he would have appeared during ‘peak heat’ – a time when many were indoors. With well activity peaking during dawn hours, had Jesus wanted to preach, he would have needed to arrive in the morning or evening. Accordingly, one must wonder: Did Jesus arrive at random or did he time his journey to Sychar?
In short, ‘yes’, Jesus had every intention of meeting the woman exactly when he did; however, the longer answer integrates the ‘why‘, specifically why Jesus came to inspire this particular woman at this particular time in light of her history (v. 16-19).
Based on these verses, I submit the ‘why‘ is as follows…
Jesus came to change a woman’s life through the revelation of his divinity so she could inspire a town through the revelation of his compassion.
As the Spoken Word attests, Christ so loved this woman at the well, he couldn’t help but transform her from an ostracized outcast to a victorious vessel. From the very beginning, this woman had been tapped to speak life into a cultural revolution. And now here she was – once an adulteress, now a mouthpiece with testimony and a message to share. If that’s not the Kingdom, I don’t know what is.
Bottom line 1: When we consider Christ’s intentionality, his strategy to free this woman from bondage and ignite her hope through his identity, how can we not get excited? Like Jesus, we should want to restore life amidst the broken hearts and dreams we encounter. We should want to ignite change in those who doubt their worth. But above all, we should want to accept the call to lead others to a greater understanding of who God is. Because at the end of the day, God’s love is contagious and captures why we’re here: To encourage the discouraged, to be salt and light, to be unity in community, and stir love as the root of faith.
As the story concludes, the woman accepts Christ, his prophetic declaration (v. 21-24), and fearlessly saves many Samaritans as a result:
“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.‘ After the two days he departed for Galilee.” ~ John 4:39-43 (ESV)
Not bad for an ex-social leper who wasted years trying to find her identity in relationships and social status.
Bottom line 2: Scenic and demographic details are valuable in studying the ministry of Christ. As this chapter reminds us, God can use the lowliest of men to sow the highest good for His glory and in bringing communities closer to Jesus. As for being that catalyst of change in your arenas of influence/expertise, dare to seek God like no one else so you can live intentionally like no one else. By believing God has established your steps, you can trust him to help you get to where you need to be even if it’s mean a few extra minutes or miles along the way.
Looking ahead, I will look to build upon this post by examining the worship culture aspect of John 4. I’ll also break down what the ‘radical middle’ (i.e. living in Spirit and in Truth) looks like as present-day Kingdom agents in the marketplace.
‘Til then, you got this.
Cover photo creds: Million-Wallspaper.com