Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Beauty and Pain of Community

Have you ever been hurt from another follower of Jesus?  Has your church community ever let you down?  I’m sure we all can answer "yes" to this question at some time or other  in our life. 

Have you ever noticed how oblivious you are to the problems  of your church when you're just an attendee?  It's really not until you become vested by joining a small group or serving somewhere that awareness of those problems become recognizable and then inevitably disillusionment moves in and makes its home in our hearts.  Is this really what Jesus intended when He established His church? 

The simple truth is that being in community is both wonderful and painful all at the same time.


Webster’s Dictionary defines community as a unified body of individuals and unity as a condition of harmony.  God’s design and intention was that the church would be a body of individuals living in harmony with one another.

Harmony in music adds dimension, fullness to a melody.  The beauty of harmony is its different parts working together to enhance the song; adding flavor and depth.  Harmony is NOT all the individual parts singing the same thing. 


The same is true of community.  It is not all the individuals doing and saying the same thing but all of them working together towards the same goal each using their unique gifts and abilities to bring depth and dimension to the ONE purpose. 


And there’s the rub.


Working together brings friction, conflict and tension and in our “want to make life easy world” we don’t often see the good that God can bring from this pressure.  Wouldn’t it be easier if everyone were all the same?  No conflict, no difference, no divergence.


But God didn’t create us to be the same, he made us each unique and distinctive.  And He chose to have the church made up of individuals, one of a kind, working together to accomplish His plan.  

We are like rocks in a tumbler; bouncing, rubbing and polishing off each other’s rough edges.  


God understood that working together; rubbing up against each other would bring about an unspeakable beauty not only in our lives but in His church. 


Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the Word of Life.   (Philippians 2:15b, NLT)


The world is familiar with the rubbing, the friction but they don’t understand what beauty can come from this.  We as followers of Jesus should!   We know that learning to listen to those who challenge our behavior, our attitudes stretches us, remakes us and molds us into the person that God intended us to be.  Working together with other people who are broken and imperfect like us is God's design.  So we welcome the tension, open the door to conflict and allow it to polish off our rough edges and make us more like Jesus, then we will shine with a breathtaking splendor.


The next time you find yourself in conflict with another follower of Jesus, don’t be surprised, after all we’re ALL still in the process of be perfected.  But know this; God wants to use this upheaval in your life to polish you into a beautiful star that shines brightly for the entire world to see.

Will you throw open wide the door and welcome it or turn your back and walk away?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Refrigerator Friend

A year and a half ago, our lives changed for the better when we welcomed our exchange son into our family.  This was a first for all of us!  And we marveled at how brave he was to leave his home and all that was familiar to him, go to a foreign country that spoke a different language and live with a family he did not know.  And he did this all at the ripe old age of sixteen! 

I spent a good amount of time in those first few days, showing him around our house, explaining where things were and how they worked.  My one desire for him was that he would eventually come to feel like this was home.  So I told him more than once, “I will know that you feel at home in our house when you go to the refrigerator and get a drink or something to eat without asking.”  I will never forget the first time I saw him do just that! 


While reading Ephesians 3:16-17 (NLT) this week,  “. . .that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him . . .",  I was reminded of what I had said to our "adopted son" in those first days in our house.   


As I reflected on what it would look like for Christ to be at home in my heart. I wondered how comfortable Christ was in my heart.  Was He relaxed enough to open my refrigerator and get something out?   Would I qualify Him as my “refrigerator friend” or would he just be a frequent guest? 


I want Christ to be at home in my heart.  I want it to be a familiar place where He resides.  But I confess that I often close areas of my life off to Him that I don’t want for Him to see; sin that I don’t want to look at (much less confess), things that I want to keep under my control and thoughts that I want to keep to myself.  What I forget is this; when I close off bits and pieces of my life to Him, I ultimately slam the door in His face. 


The astonishing thing about my Savior is that all I need to do is open the door again and there He is, ready and waiting to make his home again in my heart. How amazing is that!  Sin has a way of pulling me away from my relationship with God but confession and surrender to His Holy Spirit immediately restores. 


If you’re wondering how Christ can become a “refrigerator friend” of yours look at what it says in the verse right before, “. . .  that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.”


Through His Spirit and the limitless resources that He provides, we can experience intimacy with our Lord!  We simply need to open the door (we do this through confession and surrender) and He does the rest!


Monday, January 7, 2013

Our Stubborn Stains

When my son was around three years old he found a red permanent marker. (I can hear the collective air intake of every mother reading this – it is definitely NOT a good thing when a toddler finds a permanent marker.)  He decided to color a beautiful picture on a freshly painted wall in our home – on Mother’s Day no less!  I tried everything I could think of to get that stain off my wall but no matter how hard I scrubbed it was still there.  I finally gave in and painted the wall, only to find that the stain bled through the paint.   Who knew a permanent marker could be so permanent!  I’m happy to report that after many coats of paint it was finally gone!


 But I’m reminded often of how like that permanent marker is my sin?

 Have you noticed we like to call sin anything BUT sin – it’s a bad habit, “just the way I am”, a disease or a mistake?  Sin separates us from our Creator.


And we try the only way we know how to clean up our own mess but it never quite works.   From the beginning humanity has done this; Adam and Eve tried to cover their sin with fig leaves and we find other ways to try and clean up our our sin.

We can take the strongest soap we can find and scrub away . . . but no matter how hard we rub, no matter how strong the soap, we can never remove the stain of our sin.  Look at what the prophet Jeremiah says . . .


“No amount of soap or lye can make you clean.  I still see the stain of your guilt.  I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”  Jeremiah 2:22 (NLT)


Where is the hope?  How can we ever be clean? 


Titus 3:4-5 (NLT) says, “But – when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous thing we had done, but because of his mercy.  He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”


Only through the cleansing power of Jesus, God’s Son can our stain be removed.  There’s nothing we can DO to clean ourselves, it’s all been DONE for us!


When we acknowledge our sin, believe that there is no way for us to make ourselves clean, that it is only through Jesus - we hand the soap and sponge over to Jesus and let Him do His cleansing work in our lives.  He does this through the sacrifice He made for us through his shed blood; making us into His brand spankin’ NEW creations, His Masterpiece.


Have you experienced Jesus’ cleansing power in your life?  If you haven’t, don’t put it off any longer - today is the day, my friend. 

Heavenly Father, I acknowledge that I am a sinner and I cannot save myself.  I need You to wash me clean and make me new.  Will you come into my life and do your cleansing work.  Thank you for saving me.  Amen

Jesus paid it ALL 
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow.
                              -Elvina M. Hall


(I’d love to know if you made this decision today, you can email me at