Archive for the Community Category

Community, Sin, and Love

Posted in Community, Love, Sin on October 28, 2014 by nmpreach

Community

Most of us know the story of Creation and The Fall.

God creates. Everything good. God creates man in His image. Everything very good.

“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'” (Gen. 2:18, ESV, emphasis mine).

Don’t miss what’s going on here.  Being alone without a helpmate was less than God intended.

God creates woman from man. A helpmate.  Man excited.

“Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man'” (Gen. 2:23, ESV).

The narrator of Genesis then offers readers an interesting declaration. Read it slowly and as many times as needed.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24, ESV). Other translations use words such as cleaved, united, or joined, where the English Standard Version uses the phrase “hold fast.”  The point the narrator is making is they were in communion.  They had a relationship with one another and with God. Enter the serpent.

Sin

Serpent offers doubt and accuses God of wrong doing.  Woman rebelled and ate from the tree.  Man did likewise.

Everything changes!  Shame and guilt arrive.  Man blames woman.  Woman blames serpent.  God is heart-broken.

The communion once enjoyed by the first family was destroyed in a single second.  God tells the woman in part, “…Your desire shall be for your husband” (Gen. 3:16, ESV).  But this is no longer as it was.  Read on!

“…and he shall rule over you” (ibid).  Sin changes everything.  The narrator now describes an authoritarian relationship that didn’t exist prior to sin.  But it didn’t stop there.  Man and woman are forced from the presence of God.  Walking with Him on a daily basis is no longer possible.

The Apostle Paul writes of sin, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12, ESV).

It’s obvious communion/relationship was part of God’s original plan – communion between God and man and between man and man.  However, sin destroyed the innocence of community.  The consequences of sin include a severed relationship between man and God and constant struggle between mankind for relationship.

Love

The question becomes, “Is there anyway to restore communion/relationship as God intended?”  In other words, “What would it take to walk with God daily or love one another with no boundaries?” That’s the process we call sanctification.  Loving as God loves means becoming more like Jesus.  As we become closer to God and His character, loving those around us becomes second nature.  That said, it’s crazy to think we can love our brother without loving God first.  We know love only because God loved us (1 John 4:10).

God created.  Everything as intended.  Man screws it up.  Jesus offers restoration.   Man chooses!

Created For Community

Posted in Community, Love on October 23, 2013 by nmpreach

Those of you who know me at all, know what I believe about relationships.  The first book (outside the Bible of course) in which God began to reveal to me my need for others was Stanley Grenz’s Created For Community.  Although I read the book over ten years ago, I still refer to it from time to time.  In my opinion, Grenz, as we say in the Southwest, “hits the nail on the head.”

Life is not meant to be lived alone.  We need each other.

I can’t number the times I’ve preached on the idea of community/relationships.  The Bible is full of texts that speak to this truth.  And yet, the longer I’m in full-time ministry, the more I realize in myself and see in others the challenge to be intentional with relationships.  In other words, I must choose to love.  I must walk with others – those like me, and those not like me.

Most likely, we’re all familiar with Jesus summarizing the commandments:  Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself  (Mt. 22:37-39).  Most of us, have no problem with the first command.  It’s that one about our neighbor or brother that we struggle.  “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ (Lk 10:29).  Hear that?  How often to we attempt to escape the second command?

Grenz makes the point that Christian belief should lead to Christian action.  Much more to say about that in another post.  But think about it!  What you believe is only half of the battle.  Now what?  You can say you love.  Show me!  Jesus prayed for unity for a reason (Jn 17).  Ted Gossard has some great thoughts at Jesus Community.

Here’s another thought.  God has a relationship with man until things are turned upside down.  “But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Gen 3:9-11)  That division caused by man affected all relationships.

And as long as we live separate from God and from one another, we never experience the life God intended.  Satan attempts to convince us we don’t need one another.  Our society adds to the lie of individualism.  The guilt we experience over sin causes us to hide from one another (and in our mind we hide from God).  It never works out.

I firmly believe when we understand a bit about grace and begin to live as gracious people, it’s much easier to walk in relationship.  Let’s commit to do that.  Let’s agree to lose the masks, act as if everything is alright, and attempt to fool one another.  We both know it’s not right!  Let’s not listen to the enemy and walk alone.  You need people – even those much different from you.  It’s what makes a family.  It’s what God intended.

My Heart Hurts

Posted in Community on August 29, 2012 by nmpreach

For those of you who know me well, I ask that you bear with me.  For those of you who don’t, here’s some of my heart:

I believe whole-heartedly part of what it means to be created in the image of God is to be concerned about community.  In my mind, community means relationship, first of all with God, then with others.  Jesus Christ says it this way:  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second (commandment) is this:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.  (Mark 12:30-31 ESV)

Jesus makes the point that everything hinges on loving God and loving others – community.  For my own benefit, I like to say it this simple way:  To love God is to love others.  To love others is to love God.  We need a relationship with God of course.  But we also need one another.  God places people in our lives who allow us opportunities to grow.  For that reason, community/relationship is so important.

If relationship is what God has in mind, don’t you think Satan would like nothing better than being divisive within those relationships?  Of course, he wants our relationship with God to be severed (Cf. Genesis 3).  But we often forget that he attempts to drive wedges within every relationship possible.  He destroys relationships from the inside out.  That means he gets involved in the little things, in things that don’t seem to matter at first.  But the little things add up and become big things.  The big things often seem to become insurmountable.  And much too often relationships are destroyed.

Please hear this:  Relationships are fragile!  Relationships are fragile!  RELATIONSHIPS ARE FRAGILE!  Don’t think this can’t happen to you.  Satan wants to cause dissention in every way he can.  And he begins with relationships.  Until we understand that, we’ll never experience peace in our families.  In our marriages.  In our communities.  In our individual lives.  If we’re not intentional about realizing this truth, Satan continues to win battle by battle.  And God grieves.

Don’t be a casualty.  Don’t allow Satan to destroy your relationship with God or with anyone else.  We live in a broken world where broken people hurt other broken people.  It’s only through Christ Jesus redemption and restoration can take place.  My friends, this is what we should be about!  Love God.  Love others.  Receive grace.  Give grace.  Be concerned about what God is concerned about – relationship.

 

Freedom

Posted in Community, Discipleship, Jesus on March 21, 2012 by nmpreach

Have we redefined freedom?  As Americans, we appreciate our freedom – especially during the month of July or when reminded of the sacrifice soldiers have made on our behalf.  But I ask again, have we redefined freedom?

Once outside the patriotic theme, freedom is defined subjectively.  Freedom has come to mean one is free to do whatever they want.  Postmodern thought tells us “If it feels good, do it.  You’re free to make your own choices.  Don’t be hemmed in by what society tells you is right or wrong.”

But is that freedom?  Civilized societies believe (no time/space for debate here) that if one uses his/her freedom to the detriment of others, they forego their right to freedom.  They’re kept away from society and their freedom is greatly limited.  In the worst cases, the chance for freedom is taken away for the balance of their physical life.

Paul wrote to the Galatians, For you were called to freedom, brothers.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (5:13)

If freedom is about me and only me, it’s not freedom at all.  It’s self-serving and leads to what Paul calls to consuming one another.  Freedom is about sacrifice – sacrifice for others.

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – Jesus

 

God Hates Divorce. But Why?

Posted in Community on July 26, 2011 by nmpreach

Most likely, you’re well aware of the numbers.  Research professionals tell us there is not much difference between the failure of marriages, whether those involved claim Christianity or not.  The Old Testament has much to say about divorce – the reasons permissible, those that are not, and the result of a dissolution.  The prophet Malachi speaks of God divorcing the Israelites because of their sin.  After all, God cannot coexist with evil.  In the New Testament, those concerned with the Law, attempted to trap Jesus with their questions about divorce.  Paul also had a few things to say about the subject.

Here’s something to chew on.  The marriage relationship is about several facets – spiritual, emotional, and yes, even physical.  A Biblical view of marriage entails giving up one’s selfishness to live in a selfless community.  The writer of Genesis is clear about this community when he writes of the two “becoming one flesh” (2:24).  When relationships are based upon God and His principles, selfishness isn’t an issue.  However, when one or both parties remove God from the equation, trouble will ensue.  And often times, trouble leads to demise.

So what’s the problem?  It’s been said, “Sin causes divorce.”  Although that’s true, in many ways it’s an oversimplification.

Divorce means a severing of community.  Of course this involves a marriage but also involves relationships in general.  God created mankind to live with each other, to live in relationship.  Sadly, all too often, relationships are dissolved because there is no relationship.  Sure!  We know about each other.  But do we really know each other?  In other words, relationship entails a knowledge much deeper than surface level stuff.  Relationships require effort.  And the fact of the matter is, unless God is involved in every genuine relationship you have, divorce will most likely follow.

Jesus Himself speaks of divorce in the Sermon on the Mount.  It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.  But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the grounds of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matt 5:31-32 ESV)

Based upon that text, how important was community to Jesus?  If one leaves a relationship simply to begin another, they are deemed an adulterer.  Not only that, but notice that even the one who is the “third party” commits adultery.

We think of divorce as being the end of a relationship between a man and wife.  However, it’s much more significant.  Divorce eliminates community.  Lack of community promotes arrogance and pride.

Do everything you possibly can to live in community!  As Jesus prayed in John 17:20 ff for unity, so we must also.  Relationship involves that with our Father and that with those around us.

The Heathen

Posted in Community, Discipleship, Grace on June 1, 2011 by nmpreach

Often times, we in the western world think of heathen as being those who live in what is deemed “third world countries.”  Their society hasn’t progressed to where ours has.  They have limited resources.  And often times, crime is rampant due to survival instincts. 

For centuries, the Western world has sent missionaries to these people – in an effort to convert them to the Western way of life to include (but not limited to) government, economics, infrastructure, and religion.  Because of the lack of progress – at least in a Westerner’s mind – those they hope to convert are deemed “heathen”.  Synonyms might be uncultured, uneducated, or uncivilized.

But is it fair to deem one a “heathen” just because they don’t believe as I do?  carry an iPhone like mine? or have the luxury of a supermarket down the street?  In other words, maybe we should rethink our idea of what it means to be a heathen.

Paul writes to the Romans, For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things (1:21-23)

Our tendency is to look at the last phrase images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things and conclude Paul is speaking of those uncultured, uneducated, and uncivilized.  He’s not writing to people like me.  That thought is not only arrogant, it’s also completely wrong!  Notice the phrase in verse 21  For although they knew God.  That’s what we so often miss.  Paul is speaking of those who had a relationship with the Creator.  So why would they ever exchange truth for a lie?  The answer is three-fold.  1)  They didn’t honor God or give Him thanks;  2)  They became futile in their thinking; and 3) Their foolish hearts were darkened.  Summary:  Paul says their pride and arrogance was their downfall.

Thought:  It’s easy to recognize God when He comes through.  For example, when a prayer is answered the way I want it answered (and at the right time) or when it rains after a long drought.  But what about when God doesn’t answer prayer my way?  What if the rain comes slower and slower each year?  It’s a little harder to recognize God then.  In fact, often times we blame Him for our circumstances.  And slowly we line up with those whom Paul would describe as being futile in their thinking.  Our hearts will eventually be darkened, meaning the absence of God.  Who is the heathen now?

An Arrogant Body

Posted in Church, Community on May 13, 2011 by nmpreach

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body…On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honor we bestow the greater honor…

1 Cor 12:12-15, 22-23

I’m often reminded of how much emphasis Jesus placed on unity.  He modeled it, taught about it, and prayed about it.  Of course if our Lord placed an emphasis on something in His life, perhaps we should learn why and strive to do the same.  Within the Church, there are well-intentioned believers who think they have a “handle” on what God’s will is…for everyone!  In other words, using Paul’s analogy to the Corinthians, an eye might say to the foot, “You’re not doing it right.  Watch what I do.”

In the Church there are those who believe they and they alone have a discerning spirit.  They’re willing to tell the community what needs to happen, how it needs to happen, and when is the right time.  The trouble is: When these people don’t like how things are going or the timing of things, they become frustrated and question the validity of the community.

The same well-intentioned believers are also available to tell each person in the community what their particular gift is.  And they are happy to do so.  The trouble is: When those in the community don’t use the gifts like they’ve been advised, their commitment is questioned.

Of course we in the Church are to hold each other accountable to be what Christ desires us to be.  We need constant encouragement to persevere to the end.  But how arrogant is it that one or two people in a community think they have a “handle” on what God wants to do?  Your gift is what God says – not what someone else thinks it should be!  Our role in the Church (discipleship, missions, service, etc.) should be defined by God and not others.  It’s much safer that way.

If you’re a hand, stop listening to a foot.  Be a hand.  If you’re an eye, understand all parts of the body have a function.  You might not like their function.  But be what God called you to be – an eye!  That’s how the body works.