Tag Archives: Jesus

Church Community

Community. It is a nice little tag word that Christians like to use at church. “Be part of community” “Join a community group” “What I am really looking for is a community”

It is supposed to communicate a close group of people that can really share life together. Unfortunately, to commonly our communities look more like a shared social media page than an actual community.

This past Sunday while I was at church we were asked both before and after a short video to answer a prompt, “What causes you to feel / press closer to Jesus?”

“Being in nature really helps me appreciate who he is… When you almost die from….” During the conversation it appeared as though everyone discovered their hands for the first time. One person was picking at their hand. Another yawned, examining their fingers. Everyone paid just enough attention to be able to respond.

After the video the same level of involvement continued. When I pressed one couple as to what they were going to change to make Christ a priority, they listed off reasons as to why it is hard. No commitments. No confessions. No one was sharing a part of their lives with any intent to keep up with the other people, to be held accountable, or to be actually known. They were answer prompts the same way people answer Facebook’s status question, “What is on your mind?” Thrown out to an audience that won’t walk with them.

If we really want community we need to put away the status update conversations, and the when in church relationships. Status update conversations are those that you have because, ‘it is the thing to do’ like standing up or sitting down when everyone else does. ‘In church’ relationships are those you have only at church. Not the weekend. Not in evenings, and certainly not when you need support, to be held accountable, or pressed on towards Christ.

You will really know if you are actually sharing life if you go to your group of people when tragedy strikes, or when you need accountable help. If someone suddenly dies in your family, would you show up to church? I have been a part of several groups I would have. In fact, while I was part of one bible study a very emotionally traumatizing event happened. I went to community group, and slept in the corner. I was able to be un hidden processing what had happened.

Strikingly there was a moment that could have shown the church as a community. A not very old individual had died unexpectedly just a few days prior. I don’t know if the family showed up to church. I don’t know if people cried in the previous service. But I began to really wonder, would most of the families show up to share their pain, or their joys, with the church family when it happens?


Living in the Noise

Previously I wrote about the danger of busyness. I hope it was impressed upon you that busyness can become an idol. However, there are times when we really are just justifiably busy. Similarly, there are times when we just get lost in the never ending options of how to spend our time. We can fill our time with more work or play or badminton, bad kittens, remote controlled cars, television, cat videos, and almost anything you can imagine.

The never ending options is more than just options of doing, it is also options of relating. our One can spend time with family, friends, significant others or acquaintances through in person encounters, telephone, texting, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, or any other medium.

The question I see is, how do we serve God in the middle of all of the noise? One answer is to simply remove a lot of the noise. I support anyone who wishes to do this act. I find it helpful and refreshing to remove oneself from our current isolation in ‘social’ media or remove activities to ease the stress on our life. It is a healthy practice to replace the cyber with the real communication.

However, there are also those that have no desire to depart from such activities. And as I am a firm believer that we should serve God wherever we are at, that means there must be a solution for how we are to serve God in the middle of the noise. In my current situation I am afraid that I am justifiably busy with a more than full time job and a master’s program.

I can go all week from waking, work, gym, homework to bed without a single ‘ministry’ receiving my time or energy. So I ask, God, what shall I do? Currently I travel for work so do not have a home church to serve in. Most all of my friend are just as busy themselves and so finding time to regularly communicate is a difficult process.

I have not landed on a satisfactory answer at all. However, I have come to realize a few little pieces by watching the world around me and asking God for wisdom. In recent personal situations I ask repeatedly, “God, please help me respond and work through this with grace” granted I have failed more than I have seen grace work. But, I can still focus on responding how Christ would with patience, kindness, self control and humility among others.

In my professional life, there is a disease of gossip and negativity at work. I can live counter to this with encouragement in Christ. So though most of the hours of my day I cannot directly account for or tie to a specific heavenly focus and affect, I can humbly walk knowing that God has a way for me to present my life as a sacrifice to Him.

 


Busyness

In modern America there is a fascination with being busy. Individuals will take on work, hobbies, sports, church, and try to have relationships all at the same time. Even those who are not over achievers and try to at least appear and sound busy. It is bragging rights to say that you worked fifty hours a week are in school and still have time to iron your clothes.

But what are we as Christians supposed to do in this culture? Where do we put Christ? Is he part of our bragging rights of reading our Scripture every morning as part of a routine? Attending church services and bible studies. Helping with a kids service and still attending other services in an effort to be busy for Jesus seems to be common for the Spiritually dedicated.

Jesus took time to leave the crowds and pray. He listened to the Father and spent alone time with Him often. Not on a schedule or routine but on a basis of relationship.

One side affect of all of this busyness is that we schedule God to just one part of our day. We have a morning prayer time or bible reading. We have church on Sunday and bible study on Tuesday. This is far from the faith of relationship that we claim to profess. It is kind of hard to swallow that we are willing to die for Christ and plan him into specific parts of our lives.

I posit this response. That regardless if we are busy or not that in addition to any sort of scheduled time, for I will not deny the importance of planning time with those who are important to us, that we should also practice a daily listening and attentiveness to the working of the Holy Spirit. We should definitely set aside time with no schedule. A prayer time with no end date such as the evening before you can sleep in or before a day with no plans. But also, that we should slow down or stringent busy faith and just start allowing Jesus to work in every part of our lives. From the calendar to the rush out the door for work.

When we do this then we may begin to fill our time with more important things. For me, the leading that Christ has given me is to write. So I write this past my planned bed time (my new planning on goals I will speak of later) not to be busy but to carefully do what I feel the Spirit calling me to do.


When Friendships in Christ Fail

I have this almost constant battle in my mind of what should happen, and what actually does. One of the most difficult for me is relationships with Christians that fall apart. Everything in me screams that we are supposed to love each other and that Christ at the center can fix it. I hate saying goodbye to anyone. And even years after I lose contact with a friend, I still think of them fondly, regardless of what brought about that change.

He came to set us free from our sins, and really it is our sins that break relationships because if we were all perfect, we would all get along. Even within the broken world I so desperately want my relationships with my fellow followers of Christ to be different. So at the recent loss of yet another close friend (I remember each and every close friend I have ‘lost’ to a relationship breakdown, and I think of them throughout the year) I must ask myself, what am I to do? I cannot make others happy. I cannot control their actions, so when they wish to leave, I must let them leave and live in peace. But how shall I respond.

At this moment, I cry. I cry because I see that is what Christ did. When I read the story of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead, I don’t believe that he was crying because his friend died. Christ new that he would raise Lazarus. Crying over his death doesn’t make sense.

Christ tells them that he is glad that he was not there in order that they may believe, and that his sickness would not end in death, but was for God’s Son to be glorified through it. Christ tells them that he is the resurrection and the life, and not that he is the life that will bring Lazarus back from the grave then, but eternal life for, “they will live even though they die.”

When he saw them weeping, even after he explained this, he began to weep. Not because he was sad for his friend, but because his dear children did not believe. They did not see the truth of life that he had brought. In a sense he is crying because his relationship with them was broken, or at least very childish. Rather than having belief in who he is, which is required of eternal life. So he weeps.

I may be stretching this exact passage a bit, but if we look at a lack of faith as being a broken, or at least immature relationship with Christ, and that is what Christ weeps over, then we to in being like God are to cry over broken relationships.

So, as I continue to wish that Christ would return and make all things right so that I can have wonderful perfect relationships with my friends, I do what I must now, which is cry my temporary loss of relationship with them.


Life Worth Living: Purple vs Green part ii

Life Worth Living: Purple vs. Green part ii
Purple. Green. Yellow. Purple. Or green. Why should I like purple or green? Or purple instead of green. I often wonder why people like anything. If I was an evolutionary naturalist, it would make sense for me to question such things.
After all, according to evolution, every aspect of a person is the sum total of all of the random chance that came before me. My emotions are merely the sum total of my biochemistry, (genealogical input) plus the stimulus I receive. If I like purple, it is because I have been condition that way. If I believe that it is better to work hard than be lazy, it is because of my upbringing. A romantic evening is all random chance and physics.
However, I am not an evolutionary naturalist, I believe in a living Holy God who deeply loves his people. He has given them the whole expanse of creation to enjoy, and has given His only Son in order to draw us into a perfect relationship with Him. But I get hung up on the eternal focus. Why bother with the imperfect when the holy awaits? After all, we already established that the wicked will prosper and the righteous will perish. Children will cry, and lovers will be broken.
But here is the catch, here is what I cannot escape even though I feel that I am often running. Christ’s love finds us, his creation, in our sin and imperfection. God did not wait to love us until we were made perfect. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were imperfect. He is also continuing a good work in us until its completion in the day of Christ.
Even though the world is broken, as the tears of a single child make it that way, it is still meant to be loved. God knew his creation would fail, and become imperfect. Yet he made it anyway. He also knew that his creation would cause him deep pain, as to love deeply is to be hurt deeply. And he still chose to create us, and love us.
I feel a call to love everything God has made. To run in the wind and enjoy the sun. To climb, (or kiss) trees and enjoy the sunset. To laugh at nothing like a little child simply because Christ has chosen to love, and one of his gifts is the world around us. Imperfect, but enjoyable because he is working redemption despite the brokenness.
And yet. As I look at a beautiful morning sunrise, that slowly changes the clouds from pink, to purple, I am afraid of that love. The love that I have no control of. It is there because it desires to be there. I cannot earn it. I cannot make a claim on some higher principle that it should always love me. But I must rely on the Love of God Himself. Just as God swore by himself to Abraham, and Abraham trusted him, I must make the leap of faith that his love will not leave. And in that peace, I can enjoy his creation.


Life Worth Living: Purple vs. Green

Life Worth Living: Purple vs Green part iii
In my last post I shared that it is only in God redeeming the world by loving us while we were still sinners that I may enjoy creation. However, this understanding is part of a struggle I deal with daily. I waft to and fro between believing it and acting on it with joy and peace, and despairing at the monotony of life. It God’s use of other people in the body of Christ that I have had the biggest move towards understanding his love and redemption.
I have a problem. I have a personal fear that all of my wrongs and mistakes will be held and accounted against me. It is not just wrongs within a certain incident and the time frame it takes to resolve it. I remember mistakes I made when I was five.
I went shopping with my mom one day, and as we were checking out I wanted to be helpful so I turned around to the people behind us and without asking began to try and move their groceries onto the conveyer belt. As I grabbed a loaf of bread and felt its softness squish just a little, I also felt a firm uncomfortable grasp around my arm as he stopped me from helping. He was angry. I felt awful for not asking. This memory will periodically pop into my head. Even now as I write this I feel some sense of regret over the incident.
I have one very close friend that I have had for many years. With this friend I share my heart. My hopes, fears and dreams. My friend both celebrates with my success, and mourns with me in my sorrow. Unfortunately I made a long series of sinful choices that hurt him/her deeply. My friend had every right to be angry, and cut off the relationship. However, I vividly remember, one late Saturday afternoon, as we both stood leaning up against my car, we talked. I was asked how I was doing, “Fine” I replied, then, “How are you really doing” I fought back tears as I confessed I was doing terribly. Throughout the conversation it became obvious I regretted and felt anguish over my decisions.
“You know I forgive you right? I was angry, and pissed, and I cried. But I forgive you. I don’t regret any of the decision I made, and I do not regret being friends with you. I still love you and forgive you.” At this point I began crying. It didn’t occur to me then, but this conversation changed my whole outlook. I have been forgiven by others. Yes. But not for as bad of choices and not one so well communicated and acted out. That friend stood in the face of my broken decision, accepted the pain, and then choose to act lovingly and keep no record of the wrong so as to be willing to still assume the best and continue in a friendship even though it means they will be hurt again.
In that moment I found freedom. Christ revealed himself through the body of Christ. My friend acted out the forgiveness of Christ for me. Now whenever regret overwhelms me, I remember God’s redemption through forgiveness, not just between God and man, but between men through Christ. This redemption and forgiveness of brokenness makes brokenness worth loving.
I can love life because love is perfect in brokenness.
With this story in mind, I think of one of my family friends, who loves the color purple. She is the one who loved mischievously in one of my previous posts. She is one of my good friends, and her whole family at that, I trust to stick by me no matter how weird I get. She isn’t perfect. She can be stubborn and a bit irritable at times, but I enjoy hanging out with her even when she isn’t acting perfectly. So as I ponder on Christ, and the family of Christ that teaches us and acts as Christ to us, I know exactly what color I would choose. Purple. Why? Because Ashley loves purple.