Last week Jay spoke on the need for each of us to have a supportive community, specifically a Home Church. People that choose each other and agree to meet in community for support and prayer. I have experienced this type of community in another Church, in a different State, and in a very different time of my life – a time before parenthood. It was fulfilling and rewarding. In fact, I had almost forgotten how much I missed this opportunity to share life with others in communion with Christ.
What I realized after the sermon last week was how very isolated my husband and I have become. We “know” lots of people. Having owned a store in Downtown Brunswick for 5 years, we have many acquaintances. However, we lack the deep spiritual friendships we once enjoyed in a different time and place. We have become consumed with our daily life and schedule; work, homeschooling, karate practice, etc. I put effort into making sure our son (an only child) has play dates and opportunities to make friends. Consequently, I do not make time to seek out and foster the kinds of meaningful connections that nourish my soul.
Becoming self aware is the first step, I suppose. I am not sure about step two. I have begun to pray for God’s guidance in building a spiritual community for myself. I am confident that He will show me how to move forward with finding a group of committed Christians with whom my family can be nourished, prayerfully support others , and “do life together”. One thing I know for sure, authentic Christian Community is worth the pursuit.
By nature, I’m a “fixer” and a “pleaser”. I feel good when I can make things right and even better when I’ve made someone proud. There have been seasons of my life, for example as a student, when this has suited me well, but I am finding more often that not, these desires keep me from experiencing the abundance of life…the kind of life that truly overflows. Over the past year as I’ve been called to stand up for what I believe in the workplace, pray harder than ever for my searching extended family, day by day struggled as a new mom and sought balance as a mom and wife, and met with dozens of hurting people through my practice, I’ve flat realized, I can’t please everyone…some days no one. And it seems the Lord keeps calling me into darker situations where “the fix” is beyond my striving.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 2:17
I don’t always feel like a new creation. In fact, sometimes I feel like the furthest thing in the world from a new creation, like a box of ill-fitting parts someone found in the junk closet. This feeling usually happens when I blow it, which at this point seems inevitable. I’m just driving along and someone else isn’t driving to the standard I think they should be, and they cut me off. Before I know it, I’ve told them they’re “number one.”
Or when I have to deal with a particularly difficult person at work and if you recorded the content of my thoughts into an album, you’d have to label it with a black and white “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content” sticker. Sometimes, I really blow it, and I sin, leaving me feeling red-faced with shame. Those are usually the times that I feel I’ll never get it right. I look around at all the other shiny “new creations” and I think “well, what the heck’s wrong with me?”
The reality is that, left to our own devices, none of us will ever “get it right” and that there’s something wrong with all of us. That’s precisely why Christ had to come. Verse 18 says All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Verse 20 says For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. God looked down at a race that was irreparably broken and extended His grace to us, for the simple fact that He loves us. We don’t have to strive, strain, and stress over how to become and be new creations. God’s already done the work. We simply have to abide in the grace that He has already given us. And if we fail, and we will, we have only to remember that The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
So many of us worry about our weight and how we look. Our culture tells us what we are supposed to look like, act like and think like, but those ideals are so hard to live up to. And why do we as Christians care? We know God’s word and it rarely lines up with “culture’s” idea of what is right. The truth is that even for those of us who strive every day and in all ways to live by God’s word, its really hard when everything around us says the opposite.
Well, I was chosen to participate in The Chapel’s Biggest Winner, and last week at our first weigh-in I gained a pound! I must admit I didn’t feel like much of a winner. Culture’s ideas overtook me and I was embarrassed and disappointed in myself for not at least maintaining my weight. But, the more I thought about it and was encouraged by my support team I realized I was a “WINNER.” Why? Because I had changed my eating habits, started an exercise program, and begun to get motivated about health.
I would encourage all of you to remember why we choose to stay healthy. We are called to service and without good health we are ill-equipped to serve. God does not call us to have the “hottest” body in the congregation, but to treat our bodies as a temple in order to be ready for service when God is ready to use us. Eating right and staying active helps us feel and be what God created us to be – so enjoy it and don’t let “culture’s” ideas get you down!
1 Thessalonians 3: 1-5
Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
This passage reveals so much about community to me. Paul says he sent Timothy “to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions.” He knows that the Thessalonians are enduring some hardship. When things get hard, when your life is shaken up and it seems like the very ground you stand on isn’t solid anymore, what do you do? In those moments it becomes so easy for the enemy to take hold of us. It becomes easy to forget that Jesus is our strength and the only constant in our lives. It becomes easy to be completely shaken up by our circumstances. One thing I got out of this passage is that when you have someone to encourage you and guide you in your faith, you are less likely to let your tough circumstances shake you up. The people in your life who are Christ-followers can point you toward Jesus, especially in times of need and difficulty. We should take advantage of any genuine community we have. Your next step might be joining a small group, or it might me calling up a good friend you haven’t seen in weeks. Whatever it might be, I encourage you to allow your community to establish and exhort you in your faith!
I think one of The Chapel’s greatest strengths (there are many) is the emphasis on being relevant without sacrificing biblical correctness. Last year our pastors led us through a series on “flipping our finances” so that we could discover the joy of giving, the contentment of financial freedom, and the ability to create change when we share His gifts generously. The series defined how our church uses its financial gifts to further “The Great Commission”. Matthew 28:19 tells us “therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
This year we’re beginning a health promotion series. The first phase is The Chapel Biggest Winner, a competition among 4 teams representing each of our services, to improve health and fitness. Each team is working with a professional coach, receiving workout and nutrition advice. Not so that we will be a better looking church (although we are a pretty amazing looking bunch!) but so that we can fulfill the purpose God has for us. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 asks us “don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” It further charges us, “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” When we’re early in our Christian lives, it’s enough to learn of His love and learn to accept it. But as we mature in our Christian lives, we must serve God by serving others. If we’re too tired and out of shape to get through the work week with anything left over, we clearly aren’t ready for the mission field, whether that’s Honduras or the homeless guy by Target or the struggling neighbor or co-worker. I don’t know about you, but I’ve not been a very good steward of the temple that God gave me, and it’s past time for me to “flip” my thinking about nutrition and self-care.
Don’t worry if you didn’t make it to the Biggest Winner teams. We have more health initiatives coming, so please make the commitment to “flip” your health so that we, as the body of God, manifest in The Chapel, can truly serve him as we are called! We are all winners in faith!
I have recently been researching my family ancestors at ancestors.com and some other sites on the Internet. I have also asked relatives about who they remember, what they remember about those persons, the relationships, the locations, etc. It has been an interesting process in which I am finding mostly facts and documentation of points of milestones of their lives. This includes tedious examination of digitized census records, which actually yield a lot of information, and they imply a great deal more. You can learn about relationships, roles, occupations, education. Looking further you learn about neighbors, extended families, movements. Looking across multiple years and successive census records over decades, you can see development, roles and relationships change, implied heartache and life troubles when you see a child listed in the uncle or aunt’s house when there is no longer any documentation of their own mother and father from the previous four years. You see relationships grow, as children become heads of households, and parents, grandparents, uncles, or aunts move in with them. Sometimes you see the actual draft cards signed, marriage license, military service records, then death records as they pass. If you are lucky you will even occasionally find photos, and hear an occasional story or glimpse of information that you get from your own family members as they stretch their memories to bring back aspects of that person and the times.
As you would imagine, the further back you go, the fewer stories you hear, the fewer photographs, the fewer records and documentation. The details become lost, but even the milestones are also lost, until the person that you are seeking, this person who you want to know is only a name and a few dates. Ultimately you lose the person altogether and you cannot trace any further into the past. The person becomes only known as a single point of reference, as a relationship to someone else that you don’t really know, such as Nathaniel’s Father (name and DOB unknown, relationship to you is great-great-great uncle). There are no more records, photos, stories…
I contrast that with our current state of society that is in constant documentation of life events and milestones. Either we are doing it ourselves, or our government is, or our friends are, or our credit card company, or our doctor, our schools, or….. The list goes on and on. If you consider the amount of documentation that is created for each person today, the amount is staggering! And it is not just events and milestones, but even little, normal, uneventful instances that happen in our lives. The equivalence of “sounds bites of our lives”. They also come out as random thoughts that we jot down and publish on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler. Photos that we take and share of ourselves, our children, our pets, our dinner!?!?! Really your dinner? You better be saying something really funny about your dinner if you share it…
When I put these two thoughts together, I makes me wonder. What will our ancestors think of us in 100 years? Okay… what will my ancestors think of me in 100, 200 years? Surely they will have access to these records, photos, stories, comments, that we are recording of ourselves and others. What will they think about the silly photos, the self-grandizing, the “selfies”, and the self obsession that we have to publish ourselves to the world? But they will also see some of the wonderful things that we care about, the comments and show of love that we have for one another, our families, our friends. Maybe they will see that sometimes the technology that is allowing this extreme documentation of our lives, really is allowing us to connect with one another in meaningful ways.
They will see whatever it is that we are putting out there. But essentially, they will see us. At least, they will see an image of us that we reflect to the world, intentionally or not, consciously or not, self documenting or others documenting. What are we ‘putting out there’? This image that we are putting out there isn’t just in the form of technology either.
The realization however, is that, it just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t. It doesn’t matter what our ancestors will think of us, though I am sure we all would like to be adored, honored, respected, admired, and remembered. It doesn’t really matter.
What matters is … “who” are we reflecting as we live our lives? It doesn’t matter if it is documented or not. What matters is if we are reflecting the life of Christ in how we live our lives, in those milestones in our lives, in our relationships with one another, in the roles that we take on, in the family that we love and take care of. It also matters in those small moments, most of which go undocumented. It is those uneventful instances, those random thoughts, those moments that we photograph, those moments that we don’t, those moments that we make a statement about a political party, a comment made about someone else’s comment, those moments that we think to make a comment to another person, or… about another person.
In examining my public reflections, documented and not documented, digitized and not digitized, I have to consider, am I pleased with my reflection? Will I be pleased with what my great-great-great-grand nephew will think of me? It doesn’t really matter. The question that does matter is, is God pleased by the reflection of His Son that I am living? As imperfect and flawed as it is, I know God can do great things with imperfect and flawed. Am I living my life to fully allow Him to?