Revisiting Fellowship and Community

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The following is a post written by Jill that was first shared a little less than two years ago. We’re revisiting it because it is still relevant and important. Enjoy.

“Service is the pathway to real significance.” ~Rick Warren

Connecting and serving with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is important for couples. Isolation is not healthy and feelings of isolation can be very strong even within a church.

Connecting Through Serving

Years ago, Steve and I were members of a very large church where it was easy to become a nameless drone of endless people. We chose to get involved and started helping out on Wed. nights by teaching the 1st graders. It really didn’t take much effort — just a little investment in time. Here’s what came out of that experience:

  • Kids are a hoot! Every evening was fun and we actually ended up going home with our “tanks” full.
  • The nameless drones of endless people began to be people we knew! As we began to get to know the kids, we came to know their parents as well. Soon it became, “Hi Susie!” “Hi Jeff!” And a little guy would run up and say “Hi Miss Jill, Hi Mr. Steve!” as we would walk down the corridor.
  • Conversations and playdates began to happen for us and our kids.
  • We began to feel a sense of community and belonging.
  • We found we enjoyed church far more.

This experience taught us that you can’t expect to feel a part of something if you’re not willing to invest in it.

Make It Your Church

If we are to emulate Christ — who came to serve and not to be served (Mark 10:45 & Matt. 20:28) — then we need to get involved with the church and help serve its needs. And trust me, there are needs.

Serving not only meets those needs, but you will actually end up being the one who will get blessed as well! Trust me on this. Please do not think of this as volunteering, because you’re not. You are serving and there’s a difference.

  1. A volunteer looks upon ministry as another commitment they’ve been obligated to fulfill, but someone called by God to serve looks upon service as an opportunity to be used by God.
  2. A volunteer sits back and complains about things, but a servant looks for ways to help.
  3. A volunteer is oblivious to the needs of those around them, but a servant is sensitive to them and prays for them.
  4. A volunteer’s main source of fulfillment is her talents and abilities, but a servant knows that being used by God is the most fulfilling thing they can do with their life.
  5. A volunteer can’t handle being put into a situation where she is “stretched”, but a servant responds to God with a humble dependence on Him.

Come. Serve. Invest.

We all need Fellowship and we all need Community, so get involved! Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t isolate yourself either and don’t come to church with a “self”-seeking attitude. Come with an expectancy to get involved.

You will be blessed!

photo credit: Gerry Dincher via photopin cc

The Most Astonishing Witnessing Tools in History

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This is one of those posts that has been brewing for some time. The one I haven’t, but yet have, wanted to write. So here goes.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35

Permission to Judge

In his book The Jesus Style, author Gayle Erwin pointed out an undeniable fact about this verse: Jesus is giving everyone permission to judge us by our actions.

Am I suggesting that God doesn’t judge the heart? No, not at all. I’m merely pointing out that Jesus said “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” so that I can talk about Facebook and all the other Social Networking tools.

Networks and Language

Several years ago while doing a Bible study I came across this quote in the introduction of a Commentary on the Book of John:

“Some suggest world conditions were ripe for the spread of the gospel. The Romans had ushered in an era of relative peace through law and order. Their network of roads made travel more convenient. Widespread use of the Greek Language simplified communication. At the same time, the proliferation of empty religions among many people created a spiritual hunger for something genuine.”
– Holman New Testament Commentary of John, Kenneth O. Gangel

Sounds like today:

  • The United States and her allies have ushered in an era of relative peace.
  • Networks of travel – roads, rails and flight paths – have made global travel beyond convenient and accessable
  • Online networks have literally connected us all. “3rd World Nations” are coming online at unbelievable rates because of mobile phones (many of which are Smart Phones)
  • English is the most common language online
  • And do I need to highlight the proliferation of empty religions and spiritual hunger?

Put this all together and we get the fact that conditions are ripe and you and I have access to the most astonishing witnessing tools in human History.

The New City Gate

And as a brilliant friend recently said, if you think these tools aren’t changing people’s minds, you are naive.

“Social media doesn’t just influence thinking. These days it OWNS how people think. Social media is the new water cooler, the new town hall. Ask anyone from Egypt if Facebook caused any ripples in their government in the last decade. People are thinking through issues and reasoning together in this forum. When you make the discussion meaningful, your voice makes a difference.” – Teri Modisette Unthank

Permission to Judge 2.0

So what is our witness when we:

  • Display anything but love to a person who posts and the people about which they are posting?
  • Defend our “right” to post untruths because “well, that’s what people like that would say!”?
  • Post anything that labels an entire group of people as anything except loved by God?
  • Accuse anyone of anything without solid, solid, SOLID facts?
  • Insult a friend’s intelligence by naming all the contradictory Scripture verse(s) that they’ve OBVIOUSLY suddenly forgotten?
  • Label everyone in a group of people mentioned in a post as damned to hell because well, they are sinners?
  • Use a tone of “voice” and language that we would NEVER use speaking face-to-face?
  • See ourselves as Scripture or fact police?
  • “Discipline a friend in love” in public instead of a private message or God forbid, in person?
  • Use these “astonishing witnessing tools” for anything less than showing the love you were first shown?

The next time you feel led to post or comment, think about the fact that the world is watching just as Jesus said they should.

Forgiveness

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This past week I came across a post on Facebook about someone with whom I had “crossed hairs” a long time ago. As I saw her picture, I felt a twinge of unforgiveness in my spirit. It was subtle, but it was there no less.

I went to God and asked for His help.

I Thought I Had Forgiven

I thought I had forgiven her and for the most part I had, but I guess there was still more to go because there it was as I prayed—the justification for why I was feeling the way I was feeling! When you forgive someone, you don’t justify. Period. The minute you justify, you are stating your case for unforgiveness. So I had to ask the Lord to help me forgive her and work on my heart.

The Bigger Loser

You see, if you don’t forgive, you end up being the bigger loser, not them. Unforgiveness eats at you like a cancer that over takes you. And by the way, this unforgiveness goes for ones who are now dead and yourself as well. Unforgiveness simmers and takes over as bitterness. Your face structure can change because you wear a scowl and your health can become compromised—all because of unforgiveness.

God wants us to forgive! Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.”

I want to forgive because I want to be forgiven, too!

“Blessed are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy” – Matthew 5:7

This goes for yourself, too. If you are embittered against yourself for some past mistake or shortcoming, forgive yourself. Then, to the best of your abilities, let it go and move on. Bitterness and regret are not part of God’s plan for your life, but forgiveness is!

“God calls upon the loved not just to love but to be loving. God calls upon the forgiven not just to forgive but to be forgiving.” – Beth Moore

Stop Fighting

There comes a time in life where you have to lay your sword down and begin the healing process and forgive. There may be consequences to your battle, but you still need to forgive. The Father commands it.

“”You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven.” — Matthew 5:43-45a

Will you pray this with me?  “I surrender all Lord! I surrender my heart to You Lord, and ask that you help me forgive those I hold unforgiveness against. Transform my heart God. Help me have mercy and forgiveness on others as You have had on me. Amen.”

photo credit: My Heart Is Hers via photopin (license)

Still Honored By All

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(Note: this is a post that first appeared in the first month of this blog nearly two years ago. In light of many recent conversations, it’s still relevant.)

An adult friend of mine and his Mother were at a wedding when she turned to him and said, “where is this kind of support when marriages struggle? I know a husband who is calling it quits after more than 25 years together. Where are the men questioning what he’s doing and encouraging him to stay and work it out?”

She’s right. (more…)

Another Cat Story

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Back in March, I wrote a blog post called, Cold Little Kitty, about a feral cat that found his way to our house. I’ve been thinking a lot about that cat. You see, we weren’t able to keep him. He was just too wild.

I’m also wrapping up a 30 week long, in-depth bible study this year on the books of Revelation and Daniel. Needless to say, after studying these books, I’ve been reminded that the choices we make in this life will have consequences…eternal consequences.

And the two thoughts have sort of molded into one.

Love and Safety

All I ever wanted to do when this cat came around during that ice storm was to help it. I wanted to shelter it from the cold. I wanted to make sure it had a full belly. I yearned for it to become part of our family and give it a better life – one of love and safety – just like our Heavenly Father wants for us – always!

He yearns for us. But like I said in the earlier post, we all have a choice.

Trust and Control

So many of us are skeptical of who Christ is. We don’t invite Him into our hearts because we choose not to trust. We think we know better, we don’t need Him. We are deceived into thinking that we are in control. But that’s a lie.

When you read about the prophecies that have been already been fulfilled and then read about the coming end – one begins to realize that everything is a part of God’s mysterious plan. He has a master plan for this world.

And most importantly, one begins to realize just how much He loves us and does not want us to perish. His master plan is to shelter us, feed us, love us – just like I wanted to do with the cat.

But after two months of trying, the cat just would not trust us at all. The cat wanted to stay wild and “in control”.

We Can Stay Wild

Because we have a domesticated cat already, there was a risk of making our cat sick from him. So we had to call animal control for help. That was really hard. My heart was breaking for him. But I had to protect my own.

Eventually, Christ will do the same. He will give us every opportunity to come to Him, because He desires to spend eternity with us. As with all things though, that time too will have an end and there will be a time to come when the gates of heaven will close. We will either respond to His countless efforts to woo us to Him, or we won’t.

Just experiencing the hard decision to call animal control to trap him and take him away, showed me just how much more the Father hurts when we dismiss His love for us.

Jesus Christ loves you. He wants to spend eternity with you.

Trust Him. Choose Him. Come in from the cruel world and find shelter in His love.

The choice is yours…

photo credit: Stuck in the snow. via photopin (license)

Leaving a Legacy

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As we approach the end of this year, I’ve begun to reflect on the past. Past events, relationships, conversations, goals made or unattained, etc… and I’ve thought legacy…

What kind of legacy am I leaving? And then I asked myself, do I leave a legacy or live a legacy?

Living a Legacy

Unfortunately people are often more concerned about how long they will live than how they live. They think that having a lasting legacy means living a long life. But Scripture teaches us that God is more interested in what we do with the lives He has given us.

Your real legacy is your life, your influence and your testimony. This is what your loved ones will cherish most, and it is also what matters most to God. Everyone has a testimony—good or bad, strong or weak, rich or poor. We are all building a legacy every day of our life. You have a legacy and you are living it right now.

Your Witness

Think about it…

  • Are you leaving your children a love for the Word of God?
  • Will they inherit a legacy of praying?
  • How have your children learned to spend their time and money?

We might tell our kids that it is important to make the Lord our highest priority, but if they never see us pray or give to His work, they will have no reason to follow our advice or follow Christ either!

Leave them a legacy of your witness. And keep in mind that the legacy you live is a witness to everyone, not just kids.

Encourage them spiritually. THAT is a significant part of your legacy. The way you react to difficulty in times of persecution, suffering and pain is a part of what you leave. People will remember your pattern of response during the tough times. When they see you put your trust in God, they will do the same.

Write It Down

Now let’s say you are at the end of your life and you are looking back on all that God has done for you—all the times He’s answered your prayers and met your needs. If you’ve never told anyone or written them down, write them down!! Stories are powerful and encouraging to others when they are feeling low. Journal!

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” — Revelation 12:11

As we approach this Christmas season and all the gift giving that goes on, I encourage you to think on these things – let others observe you and your walk with Christ, and give the gift of stories to your children.

This is your legacy that will have eternal rewards and it will last.

This is the truest gift you can give.

photo credit: Claudio.Ar via photopin cc

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