The Silver Linings of 2021

I’ll be honest: There’s a lot on my mind and chest right now.

Where to start, where to begin…

To be fair, I’m sure the same could be said about you. After the last year’s whirlwind, it makes sense to hope 2020 is true to its name: In focus and further distanced in the rear-view mirror.

Yet, as we embark on a fresh journey in this brave, new world, there’s one step we must take before the next. One step to fuel them all.  That step…is to stop.

That’s right. Before we step into 2021, we must first stop and consider where we’ve been and where we’re…God is taking us. However, to do this in full, not only must we surrender our desire to change on our terms but be willing to pray for what we press into.

For instance, we can pray for wisdom and strength to be different, to be better…but unless we posture our hearts to receive from God, our expectations will not calibrate to His nature.

As such, I submit we enter into the hope of 2021 with the following three points in mind. Granted, there will be more we discuss in the coming months. For now, let’s start with this trio and see where our dialogue takes us.

Ready, set, let’s go…

  1. Remember Your Aim

We are a people who tend to bite off more than we can chew. Our hearts may desire change but this doesn’t mean they desire what’s best and/or know the proper portions. Left to our own devices, we often crave the quickest road to recovery, reward, and large-scale transformation; however, as the Word attests, progress isn’t achieved by overcommitting to paths we plan but is accomplished through small steps we take with God each day (see Psalms 37:23, Proverbs 16:9; more on this in a moment).

As the Spirit confirmed in my heart last week, God’s best can’t always be measured by magnitude but can always be maximized by attitude. Accordingly, if you reframe your perspective to view change through this mindset, not only will you better scale your goals upfront but seize the strength to scale them when you confront.

Bottom line: Small and steady wins the race. Remember your aim is Jesus, not winning the world to Him. Consider your goals and invite the Lord to help you scale them. After all, you cannot grow if you do not yield and aim for purity in your maturity. As you pray into 2021, understand the road forward and onward is always one step at a time.

2. Delight in the Journey

In recent weeks, I’ve been reminded how central joy is to following Jesus. If we long to live as Christ, then we will take pleasure in what tethers us to His perfect will. In Scripture, we find several phrases that capture this reality…

“I know also, my God, that You test the heart and delight in uprightness and integrity. In the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things. So now with joy I have seen Your people who are present here, make their offerings willingly and freely to You.” ~ 1 Chronicles 29:17 (AMP)

“Finally, my fellow believers, continue to rejoice and delight in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble for me, and it is a safeguard for you. Therefore, my fellow believers, whom I love and long for, my delight and crown [my wreath of victory], in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” ~ Philippians 3:1; 4:1 (AMP)

“…nevertheless I am with you in spirit, delighted to see your good discipline [as you stand shoulder to shoulder and form a solid front] and to see the stability of your faith in Christ [your steadfast reliance on Him and your unwavering confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness].” ~ Colossians 2:5 (AMP)

…but perhaps the one that strikes me most candidly is: Delight in God’s journey.

Again, I go back to Psalms 37:23: “The steps of a man are ordered by the Lord who takes delight in His journey” which fittingly aligns with Proverbs 16:9: “The heart of man plans his way but the LORD establishes his steps.”

This tells me two things:

  1. How God directs is meant to prompt us to His presence.
  2. What God establishes is meant to be a source of contagious joy and awe.

Consider this flashback from two years ago…

Written January 13, 2019

So today I’m walkin’ to work basking in the joy of winter feeling like winter when out of the corner of my ear, I hear ‘Joy to the World’ playing from a nearby corner street music station. At first, I’m like, ‘December is over. No more Christmas music!’ But almost instantly I hear that still, small voice whispering, ‘But Cam. Why not repeat the sounding joy?’

Of course, what can I say to that? Notes and lyrics that seem out of place by cultural timelines should always be in place by daily surrender. Better put, there’s a reason why certain Christmas songs like, ‘Deck the Halls’ and ‘Joy to the World’ are the only ones that can cure Everly’s nocturnal cries. Seriously, Caeden will start singing his ‘Fa, la, la, la’s’…and even if it’s a few minutes, all is calm and bright in the world.

As you walk with God, receive the practical, prudent reminders of His goodness, peace, and joy even they momentarily disagree with the senses.

Now, I know this may seem frivolous against the backdrop of recent political/social tension; however, we must not downplay delighting in the simple and spontaneous. For in this day, we may feel like we’re walking on eggshells more than sunshine…like we’re sinking in the decay around us. But this doesn’t mean we can’t take pleasure and hold of God’s best or stand in awe of what He has and continually gives.

Especially in seasons of turmoil and transition, our call is to participate in the divine and inspire likewise. While it’s okay to desire change, individually and corporately, don’t let this distract you from pointing people to Jesus as you work, as you wait, and as you champion appointed causes for such a time as this.

Bottom line: As you consider your 2021 riskolutions, make sure to take joy in God’s purposes and declare thanksgiving into places of doubt and uncertainty. Even in difficult situations, remember God only allows us to encounter what He allows (Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 4:15, 1 Corinthians 10:11-13). Whatever we face this year, know it doesn’t surprise God (Jeremiah 33:3) and He will provide a way before, for, and through us.

3. Persevere with Patience

No question, 2020 compelled many to higher levels of dependence with endurance and perseverance atop of the list. Yet, before we contrast 2020 to 2021, we should note endurance and perseverance are not the same things.

For example, endurance is staying the course when you’re tempted to give up; perseverance is leveling up when you’re tempted to get down. As I told LEGACYouth back in the day, endurance says ‘yes’; perseverance says ‘more’, but it all comes back to who we adore.

Consequently, while 2020 may have been a year of endurance and exposure for the church, I submit the pathway for 2021 is as follows: Perseverance, patience, perspective, and presence.

In other words, as we patiently await for the seas to calm, let’s persevere into God’s presence to gain His perspective on matters of culture, politics, and benevolence without yielding to churchspeak and hearsay. As the doxology of Jude reminds us…

But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

Jude 1:17-25 (ESV)

Bottom line: As you endure with expectation and persevere in joy, cultivate intimacy. Don’t just engage the ways of God; engage God! Reference Him in what you can and can’t understand…when the waves of doubt cloud your mind. Embrace discovery through seeking and pondering. And dare to seek His footsteps and follow them to clarity.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: Construction Executive

Yuletide Certitudes: A Truth From Charlie Brown & The Crown of Christmas

Well, folks. Ready or not…Christmas is here.

Time to deck the halls, throw cares away, and shake up the hap…ahhh…who I am kidding. After a year like 2020, after the two years in one the past nine month have been, Christmas just doesn’t feel right. Not to suggest there’s anything wrong being excited about annual traditions happening virtually in more subdued fashion. It’s just that…outside of Elvis, Bono, and Frank Loesser, this December has been hard to appreciate. Call it the fear of being blue with or without you ’cause baby it’s covid outside.

Yeah, yeah…I know that was bad. But in all seriously, it’s true. If it’s the most wonderful time of the year, why does the wonder feel so far off? Is it the fatigue factor, the mountain of forgetful memories in the back of our minds? Maybe the hesitancy to hope for holy nights to invade?

Whatever, wherever, however, the struggle, truth is there’s still plenty of reason to believe in this season. And while one post can only go so far, my hope is these three advent insights will encourage you in your anticipation for Christmas and the new year to come.

As always, let’s dive in…

  1. After rewatching ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ with my kids a few days ago, I find it interesting how Lucy, Charlie Brown’s nemesis, is the one who invites him to direct the school’s Christmas play. For most, the climax of the episode is Linus’s telling of the Christmas story (released blanket and all); however, it’s his sister, one of the most iconic animated bullies of all-time, who allows Charlie Brown to set the stage for this happen. Because Charlie Brown said ‘yes’ to Lucy’s invitation (and ‘no’ to fear by default), not only did he position himself to wrestle through weakness but aligned himself to ask one of the most important questions this side of heaven: “Can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?

As the story goes, Charlie Brown ends up discovering the true meaning of Christmas thanks to the tag-teaming efforts of Linus and Lucy; however, it still took a community of friends to help him arrive.

Accordingly, if you’re feeling alone, perhaps intimidated by a specific person/situation or overwhelmed by a bombardment of anxieties, consider God’s invitation for growth and discovery this season may very well come from someone you least expect. You don’t have to understand the timeline or the characters involved. You don’t have to make sense of your surroundings. Just lean into Jesus as you love unconditionally and give additionally. After all, to piggy-back off Linus, that’s what Christmas is all about.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father! So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” ~ Galatians 4:4-7

2. As Galatians 4 states, Jesus was born under the law to establish the freedom we were to enter into. The essence of Immanuel is rooted in this reality. Through the Incarnation, Jesus matured in holiness under the law so we could mature in His likeness within our new creation identity. Had Jesus not been born under the law, the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5) would have been compromised given Christ had to model the same identity through the fullness of time required for salvation, justification, and sanctification. Additionally, Jesus could not have paid our price, set the captives free on Holy Saturday, and secured our sonship if His entry point was above the law.

Think of this way: Jesus being born under the law laid a foundation for our salvation, freedom, and accordingly our ability to delight in suffering. Because Jesus faithfully endured AND delighted in suffering from ministry to Cross, we can likewise embrace the thorns in our own lives as we lean on Him. As we will discuss in future posts, there’s powerful symbolism and symmetry to how this relates to our new creation identity (i.e. being daily raised with Christ) and how it applies to the marketplace. For now, consider this a teaser for future January/February content.

3. Jesus being born under the law not only helps us grasp its necessity but reminds us to humbly honor appointed authorities, even ones we don’t agree with. Like today, political chaos and social unrest were backdrop realities Christ entered into; still God’s hand was steady and ever moving. This brings the idea of delighting in suffering full circle as we trust God through the temptation of fear into postures of holy expectation. Especially in this season, if we’re to celebrate our redemption as children of God, we must first acknowledge our helplessness in light of Christ’s sacrifice and desire to be forever Immanuel to us. Only then we can fathom the manger through the crown and cross He bore.

Think of this way: While some would say Bethlehem didn’t make sense as a landing spot for a Lord, it made perfect sense for a Savior surrendered to His Father’s will…born under the law. Through weakness Christ entered the world but this was not detached from yieldedness and surrender.

For instance, one can only imagine the pain Mary felt as she labored through greater discomfort and uncertainty. Trudging along in desperation, she likely expressed frustration, perhaps vented her doubts. Still, her soul kept magnifying the Lord. Even when the habitation of our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) was unknown, Mary kept it simple:

Count it all joy as the hope of glory is made known…Christ IN me.

Bottom line: Just as the stars aligned for salvation’s conception, so too can you align to Christ this Christmas through fearless intimacy knowing ‘Abba Father’ is on your side.

Selah.

‘Til next time, may you know the hope that is yours and the breakthrough that will be yours this Christmas season.

Blessings,

~ Cameron & Lyssah Fry

Photo creds: iDiscipleship

3 Ways to Be In Christ at Work (Part 2)

After discussing two ways we can vocationally abide in Christ in my last post, I want to conclude with one final thought…

…because we are in Christ, we have the mind of Christ and with it, we can see the Cross as an opportunity to go weak into Jesus.

As mentioned in ‘part 1‘, the Cross not only captures total weakness but is a way of life we approach God and minister to others. By daily recognizing our helplessness in light of Christ’s sufficiency, we engage our ‘new creation’ identity (2 Corinthians 5:17) and salvation through surrender (i.e. going weak into Jesus with delight and humility).

Unfortunately, remembering our ‘new creation’ identity in the heat of hustle isn’t always easy. While some may struggle to understand daily dying and rising with Christ, for most of us, the crux comes down to self-effort and independent thinking.

For instance, when we make a mistake at work, the temptation is to fix the problem before we invite God into the situation. Granted, reconciling errors is an important part of any job; however, as marketplace ministers, we must understand there’s a divine order for our faith and reliance to follow.

If our heart is to serve the Lord, then we can know the way to best serve our colleagues and clients is to focus on Jesus as we embrace our weakness. In doing this, we accept the fact we are loved by God as new creations with a purpose beyond perfection. Again, conflicts and miscues come and go but the source of faith is eternal.

As nuanced as certain situations can be, far greater the glory when we discover freedom in embracing weakness – when ‘I can’t do it on my own’ becomes a battle-cry of worship.

Think of it this way: The Cross, as a picture of total weakness, was the plan from the beginning. Accordingly, we can find peace knowing God designed dependence to be a lifeline in our relational pursuit of Him. To the secular world, dependence is weakness, the sign of our frailty, but in God’s eyes, dependence is a highway of intimacy and discovery. 

Practically, this can manifest several ways at work. A classic example involves our response to fear and anxiety. When we encounter gossip, false accusation and/or neglect, our default is often centered in retaliation or withdrawal as opposed to yielding in surrender with praise and petition. Yet, as our faith compels us, anytime we feel overwhelmed, we can see the pain and discomfort as opportunities to press into Jesus.

When we feel angry about subordinates or teammates not committing their all, we commit the frustration to Jesus and the need for immediate resolution. Remember peace is not simply an overflow of wisdom but the way we trust God when we’re struggling to connect, relate, or understand. 

If it helps, consider how Paul relished the thorn. In the same way the thorn became his icon of dependence, so too it can be our symbol of savor for Jesus as we yield and surrender. As for how we do this at work, I submit we follow a similar pathway:

As we depend on God by yielding to the Spirit and acknowledging our helplessness, we can…

  1. Surrender our struggle by receiving grace in place of fear and our entitlement to make sense of our surroundings.
  2. Remember the battles we fight are not against flesh and blood but of principalities of darkness (Ephesians 6:12).
  3. Approach suffering not only as a way we engage God’s Kingdom but as the core to our vocational identity (Hebrews 5:8).
  4. Enter into His courts with praise/gratitude knowing we’re called as faithful stewards and partakers of God’s divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
  5. Respond to Jesus in weakness through prayer, petition, obedience. 
  6. Walk in humility knowing Christ lives His dependence to the Spirit through us (Isaiah 11:1-5).
  7. Rest in knowing goodness and godliness will mark our work because we have been given the mind of Christ (Psalm 145:7, 2 Peter 1:3, 1 Corinthians 2:16).
  8. Tackle conflicts with confidence knowing it’s not on us to overcome. 
  9. Abide in intimacy through daily dying/rising with Christ (i.e. calibrating to the Cross).
  10. View dependence as a way we trust God for healthy working relationships and perpetuate peace even when we don’t feel it.
  11. Perceive the future with expectancy knowing God will transform our hearts through the renewing of our minds.
  12. Obey with joy knowing as we worship through weakness, our attitudes are shaped in peace by the same power that renews/transforms the minds of Christ we already have.

As Paul declared in Galatians 2:20, we don’t rely in our strength but yield to Christ who lives in us. Therefore, when the work gets tough, when the times get rough, dare to see your inward groans as worship unto Jesus. If suffering is the catalyst to embracing weakness and embracing weakness the key to pressing into God, then it makes sense why we can boast in God’s sufficiency. To live as Kingdom influencers at work, we must remember our success is not about what we accomplish each week but what we gain going weak into Jesus. 

Bottom line: Since we have the mind of Christ, we can experience breakthrough at work by the way we depend on Him. In times of strength, we honor God by acknowledging the good we contribute is because of Him; in times of weakness, we honor God by delighting in what we can’t do apart from Him. After all, when we work with the mind of Christ applied, not only can we taste communion with Jesus in challenging circumstances but embrace weakness as both the way we surrender to the Cross and the way we relate and endure as new creations. 

Selah.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I encourage you, friends, to let your thorn be a boost to Jesus. Don’t just press through at work but press in. Don’t just surrender on the go, but draw near and be still. After all, teachable hearts make preachable moments and you, brothers, are testaments to this truth.

Cover photo creds: Kirkland Baptist Church; videos courtesy of Steve Fry‘s Reset series @ The Gate

3 Ways to Be In Christ at Work (Part 1)

So lately I’ve been thinking…

…many of us get what it means to be of God, from God, near God; we understand what it means to live by Christ, through Christ, because of Christ…

…but at the end of the day do we truly appreciate being in Christ? Do we care to know what this means…how this looks as anointed, appointed Kingdom influencers at work?

Like some of you, I know in Christ I’m a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37), and have been set free (Ephessians 1:7, Galatians 5:1). But I’ll be honest: There are days I struggle to see how these truths translate to what I do. 

Perhaps tonight you’re reading this lost in a similar boat wondering how your skills are connected to your ‘in Christ’ identity.

If so, know this: If we’re to mature in this wisdom, we must see the pathway as embracing weakness in light of God’s sovereignty. As I explain in this post, our admittance of helplessness is not only the first step to being an in Christ worker but also the way we cultivate peace and joy as we work.

While doing so may be difficult depending on our occupation, if we commit to this forgotten Gospel, no question we will inspire cultural transformation as an overflow of our heart transformation.

Accordingly, here are three ways we can vocationally abide in our in Christ identity.

1. Yield first, submit second.

In a performance-oriented world, we tend to methodically approach our trust. Deep down, we want to depend on God but ultimately struggle as self-effort guides our surrender.

For example, we can confess our need for God while resisting our want for Him; likewise we can acknowledge the value of dependence while catering to our independence. As we’ll discuss later on, this is partly why some rush to deny conflict without denying it source…without acknowledging God’s presence.

However, we when consider the ministry of reconciliation, we realize we are born again into dependence the moment we accept Christ. Like the iconic Matrix scene, the adaptation to this new reality is powerful.

As baby believers, we learn how the Cross breaks the power of sin by severing the root of independence. From there, we grow in Christ as we develop intimacy with God through Christ by His Spirit.

The problem for some of us is how we abide in this intimacy. Especially when we’re at work, the temptation is to postpone intimacy as an experience we initiate as opposed to a mindset/reality we enter into. But as God’s Word declares: We were placed in intimacy the moment we confessed our helplessness (John 17:22-23, James 4:8, 1 John 4:13-16). As a result, we can draw near to God (at work) knowing…

1. Intimacy is already achieved because of the Cross.

2. Intimacy is the foundation from which gratitude and surrender flow.

3. Embracing our weakness redirects our focus to God’s strength.

4. Our work can be a response of worship as we embrace weakness and lean on Jesus. 

Bottom line: The Cross is not only where intimacy starts but also the reason we can embrace weakness; however, to do this, particularly at work, we must remember to yield first, surrender second. After all, it’s not the confession that aligns us but the heart posture we take to reference God in the moment.

2. See the Work, See the Cross.

We’ve established how admitting our 100% helplessness is the first step to embracing weakness, yielding before submitting, and maturing as a worker in Christ. But what if I told you there’s more apart from this rhythm? 

Consider this: While the Cross represents the finished work of Christ on earth, it’s also the way we do life for eternity.  \

So far, we’ve discussed this in individual terms, specifically our approach to work as worship and referencing God without striving. Yet, as for our colleagues and clients, this implies relationship marked by…

1. Love manifesting in harmony, unity, and sacrifice.

2. Dependence on God’s sovereignty.

3. Working unto the Lord as faithful stewards.

4. Working unto the Lord as worshipers aware of the good He’s given us.

After all, God didn’t give us expertise and influence to be confined within a vacuum. 

If it helps, here are some examples of how embracing weakness/God’s strength in light of the Cross can help us live in harmony/unity.

When we see the Cross at the core of our work, we’re more inclined to…

  • Own mistakes in confidence when we’re tempted to beat ourselves up.
  • Receive God’s humility into situations when relearning and reviewing is necessary.
  • Receive the Holy Spirit when our attitudes need adjusting.
  • Lean on God when we’re tempted to stress (i.e. trade our ‘I don’t want to do this‘ for His ‘You got this‘)
  • Lean on God when we anticipate confrontation and believing victory in our attitude before it happens. 
  • Forgive clients/colleagues in the moment knowing their sting doesn’t dictate the outcome of heart or effort.
  • See the brick we want to bless people with as the rock we lay down.
  • Lean on Jesus by leaning on people He has teamed us with (‘I don’t have what I need to help’/’I’m not sure how to help‘ as strength)
  • Trust God in our pursuit of excellence as opposed to metrics.
  • Cast our cares upon Jesus when we’re anxious about the status of our goals/how our initiatives are quantified.
  • Know full well in all situations we have the mind of Christ
  • Resist the temptation to view our status and purpose through what people edify. 
  • Know our best isn’t something we can strive for in our strength.
  • Believe God’s best will be accomplished through us knowing the guarantee is clinched when we surrender our will to His.
  • Perceive/inspire joy and peace as overflows instead of pursuits. 
  • View work not only as worship but intimacy knowing the yielding our jobs require is meant to push us closer to Jesus.
  • Believe God will help us develop and cultivate our colleague/client relationships. Again, it’s not about receiving favor from people but being at peace knowing we’ve already received favor. 

Bottom line: Living in Christ not only compels us to supernatural alignment but also to see the Cross at the core of our work. The more we abide in this reality, the more we will discover God within our occupational calling.

Selah.

Due to length, I’m going to save my third point for next time when I’ll examine 1 Corinthians 2 through a vocational lens. Teaser: If we’re in Christ, certainly we have the mind of Christ. But how exactly do we know we’re thinking and operating as Christ when He isn’t always at the mental forefront? 

Moving forward, I’ll aim to conclude this series prior to Thanksgiving before diving into a new one the first week of December.

Stay tuned…

Photo creds: The Christian Post

Rethinking Community: 3 Truths on What It Is & What It’s Not

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…

  1. God, as part of the Trinity, has been a relational reality for eternity.
  2. God has entrusted us to be intentional in our approach to unity.
  3. 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.

Therefore, if we truly want to live out Hebrews 10:24-25 we must be willing to allow the Spirit to stir us up so people can taste the sweetness of God’s presence through our interaction.

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…

True community can only be experienced by a group of people willing to love without agenda and encourage without fear.

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.

Selah.

Footnotes

1) By ‘different’, I mean anything from calling and character profile to age and race

2) Props to Steve Garrett for the inspiration given during the August 28 Pursuit Service @ The Gate Community Church

Photo Creds: a2ua.com