Are You a Question? Be an Exclamation!
This past weekend I went to Waco, Texas to visit my oldest at Baylor University. We went to visit her church, Antioch. The Senior Leader, Jimmy Seibert, asked the congregation this crucial and “radical” question, “Do you go around wearing a question mark, or an exclamation?”
Pastor Seibert says too many of us go around wearing a question mark. He says we spend a lot of time wondering… “Who is God? Who am I? Where am I going?”
It’s true! I often wonder these things myself. I wonder who I am in relation to God. I wonder who or what does the relationship involve, where is the relationship going to take me, and how will I get what I want?
Guess what? God has a plan for me. Instead of worrying about being a broken person, and rather am I worthy of His grace, I need to focus on being transformed from the inside out.
In Psalms it says not to worry because at the end of the day…God is in control! When I doubt myself and I question God, then I am putting something or someone else before Him. I lack concentration. In essence, it’s like I become ADD in looking for Him. [No knock to ADD because I truly have it.]
So who is God?
I loved what Pastor Seibert said, “Who’s the final authority? Let it be Jesus…because in the end it will be Him anyway.”
The whole congregation laughed, but it’s true. HIS GRACE ALONE SAVED US!
“For by grace you have been saved…” ~ Ephesians 2:8
Like Saul/Paul, we are blind in our own chaos. Fear is not spoken from the Lord. We don’t suffer apart from God. He suffers with us! God wants us to see and understand that concept. He wants us to know that within our own broken lives we are a treasure. We are God’s treasure!
You see, God reveals within us our question mark that is so easy for us to wear and often worn; BUT, if we allow Him, He will change it into an exclamation…an exclamation for Him.
Who am I?
I am His beloved! I am adopted and loved by God! Yes, we all have family problems. Some of us have our fair share; but, when we are adopted by God we move from one family into another family. We move into the family of God.
Sometimes we act like we are not adopted; but, through Jesus we become “joint heirs” to the family of God. We have a great inheritance! Christ is the One who has vested great interest in us, and died for us so that we could live.
We are born again and made new in His image. We are no longer chained to the past…to our family mistakes. So stop walking around with a limp, and get into the real spirit. Start with walking from a place of victory—walking with Christ Jesus!
Where am I going?
I am free of my past. My past, heinous secrets were getting me nowhere; but, through Christ, I’m free! God brings about a conviction within me to confess my very sinful nature, and then be able to “move on” through the love of God. Satan brings about condemnation. There is no condemnation in Christ who strengthens me—just forgiveness!
Now, I seem to be moving at a snail’s pace; but, I’ve begun to inch forward since learning this revelation. His desire for me is to know Him and to glorify Him. I find it funny that he knows us more than we want to know Him. He does know the desires of our heart. He makes a point of this.
After beginning to understand some of these questions, I should live life with a new purpose. My purpose should be to know Him with all my heart and all my soul. My desire is to know and understand Him. Through His grace and love becomes the reality of my faith and hope; thus, learning I have received His grace despite my past. I know that I have not received grace on my terms; but, His. He loved me and showed me grace before I was born.
I should no longer wear a question mark. I am not my own; but I am free to glorify Him. He will lead me in the way I should go. I should follow Him with exclamation.
Don’t be a question mark; but, be an exclamation…an exclamation for Christ!
“…and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’ ” ~ Romans 15:20-1
Grace Should Arrive Within a Generous Community
Recently I began to think about what a generous community of believers should look like?
I thought that maybe their mission statement might say:
We, as a community of believers, feel that kindness and love should be shown toward others with special attention being given to mercy, truth, faith and hope. Because we all fall short, there will be times that members will need to be treated, and respected, with special attention. Grace will only arrive from within a generous community from which attention is given to the ‘needy”. Grace will also arrive when His characteristics flow abundantly within and begin to pour out from the community. No one should be left behind; thus, making a difference in others.
The RUF Pastor at my church, Mike Novak, said, “Community begins and ends with Jesus. Jesus was so passionate about community that He was willing to be severed from His community of believers so that He could be in community with us.”
Knowing that Christ was the most generous community member, we can begin to acknowledge that because He gave up His own life–we can now live abundantly through His grace which was made sufficient for us!
So why don’t we show grace and encourage each other within the community more often? Is there a limit to how much one should be encouraged? Should you only be generous because we are told in the Bible to be generous? Should generosity and servitude come out of the hearts who have been adopted by Him? It’s definitely something to ponder.
It’s time that communities get caught up with the freedom of the new testament covenant. Let Grace Arrive! Grace does not depend on whether or not one is adequate to show it, or be shown it; but to put someone else forward, or to lift them up. Being a servant of grace does not always mean thinking about self; but, really thinking about how to encourage someone else. Maybe rather than treating others like they are a part of the “projects”, lets make them feel as if they are part of the “community”.
Recently, as I was preparing for the worship service, and the “Order of Worship” had a quote from Tim Keller:
“Christians commonly say they want a relationship with Jesus; that they want to ‘get to know Jesus better.’ You will never be able to do it by yourself. You must be deeply involved in the church, in the Christian community, with strong relationships of love, and accountability. Only if you are part of a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus will you ever get to know Him and grow into His likeness”
Pastor Mike said that a common bond, a common goal, and our Savior is the key to building great communities within the body of Christ.
The community of the church can be a great resource for helping build relationships. This common act of community allows for sharing, praying, and encouraging each other…essentially making a difference in each other’s lives. It not only can be a blessing to the one receiving; but, for the one giving. That’s the way the community should roll!
Maybe within our church communities a little more time could be spent on improving personal relationships…and not just with each other; but with God, Himself. Think about what’s more important…balancing His truth and grace in personal relationships to be more like Him, or deciding to build a personal relationship with yourself, and only for yourself. I know which one I prefer. I have a passion, and desire, to be more like Him with my growing faith and the help of accountability from my community
Because we don’t live in a perfect world, let’s step back and analyze some potential problems that may arise when commonality is not included in the community.
What if there were some believers in the community who had been sheltered, or may have not “experienced” certain situations? What if they were not accepting of another’s brokenness? For the one who is dealing with the pain of brokenness, they may feel as though they are being judged. They may feel abandoned, and not included. In most cases, the broken person desires to know that His grace is real, and merely wants to be accepted within the community despite their heinous secret—or past mistakes. Sometimes, not knowing what to do, the community may ignore the warning signs rather than aggressively seeking to help heal the believer that is needing the help; but, these are very rare instances.
Grace and truth is a “must have”, and is needed to be made known to all believers within the community, so that the healing of the brokenness may begin. Pastor Mike talked about how community is built around honesty and His grace. We all need His grace…all day, every day. “By loving others with discernment, we can achieve the ultimate loving community.”
Grace is not for the elite; but for everyone!
I feel that we often need help from others to make sense of what is going on within our inner-selves, and to help us break out of patterns of sin and brokenness…to be held in some type of accountability. Such freedom to discuss our inner-selves with another person creates a bond whose acceptance is not based on performance but on unconditional love.
Having an actual community that will share (or is able to share) their experience(s) of how they believe and experience the hope and love of God’s grace is what is needed for a “close” community. Belonging to a group that understands one’s particular needs, lifting each other up in prayer, and holding each other accountable, is vital to making a difference in each other’s lives…becoming more like the image of Christ.
I desire to bond together with a community of believers, and to have an intimate relationship with Him. God intends for us to live a life that is authentic, and that life includes Him. Pastor Mike also said that community is designed around the Gospel.
FYI: Brandon Eggar (another pastor), once told me that, “The Gospel are God’s words that are God breathed.” I loved that analogy! I envision His words coming to life, and me feeling alive.
Going back to topic…did God design us to want to be with others in a community? I say, “Yes, He did! I, personally, have an inner longing, in my heart, to want to belong to such a group. Pastor Mike also emphasized this same feeling in his sermon the other day.
The Bible says that people are of great significance because of being made in the image of God—which is for His glory. We have become adopted into God’s family. We must learn that it is not what we’ve done to deserve to be a part of His family; but, what He did for us. Christ’s death is the reason for our acceptance–by God, and through God. He promises to never abandon us, or let us go!
In searching for our true identities within a community, we want to know if we are of equal value as any other human within the group. Despite our weaknesses, or brokenness, we all desire and need to understand that we are valued as a person. Sometimes we don’t value ourselves; but if some value is felt by others…we may become strong enough to help build meaningful relationships with others…helping each other…and all for God’s glory.
We are all unique, and each one brings a different gift to the table. In fact, we all probably want to be a blessing to the community, and have different gifts to offer. Therefore, by sharing our gifts and working together, we can become His body, or community, that represents the very image of God.
Pastor Mike says community is like a team sport. No one should be left behind. He said, “What one does could affect the fruits of others. In essence, the community becomes as strong as there weakest link. Helping others should be the focus of the community.”
For people like me, because of the “hidden secrets” within our community, I may think that others do not have problems, and that they have it “all together”. I found that often times the ones that are struggling–try to become more hidden, or withdraw, from the community because they also fear that their secrets may be “found out”.
There is truth to making individuals feel safe in a community…through restoration. Sometimes sharing our “secrets” can be a little scary. But, being safe doesn’t always have to mean to feel safe to fail; it can also mean to feel safe to succeed. I think most of us want to be encouraged. The Biblical truth is that it should be okay to feel safe within a community to succeed or fail. The important thing is to focus on Him, and to remember who is the judge.
Brokenness doesn’t always have to mean weakness either; but, being able to show strength in our weakness by God’s cleansing power, and to know His truth. That’s where encouragement from the community can be such a blessing. That’s where the healing can begin. Knowing that the only thing that can wash my sins away is the cleansing blood of The Lamb.
It’s also important to learn the process of helping each other by praying for one another. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ~Matthew 18:20
As I close, I am reminded of the three common designs that Pastor Mike said were needed to build a great community: a common bond, a common goal, and our Savior. Without the design and foundation of these building blocks, the structure of the community has the potential to be demolished. Keep in mind though that renovations can always take place.
Let us encourage one another, be balanced in His truth and grace, and the building of believers will be strong and stand strong…because His love endures forever! If we share our gifts with other believers, then grace should arrive within our generous community. None will be needy, nor left behind, and it will thrive!
“The community of believers was of one heart and one mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.” ~ Acts 4:32
Where is My Love? Where is my Hope?
The question arises, how can a “faithful” Christian have such depressed thoughts that they may consider hurting themselves? Even worse, what if they actually take their own life? Could it be an alternative to facing their fears of rejection (broken trust), shame & guilt from some heinous secret, or a feeling of worthlessness and disgrace?
The Bible does say in Romans that we all sin and we all fall short. We are human living in a fallen world. But, knowing that we were sinners, God sent His son to be pinned and die on the cross for our sins. Christ took our desperation and turned into something great to live for.
Granted most people, at least one time in their life, have probably had thoughts of ending it all (suicide). The amount one dwells on suicide, or letting it consume their being, plays an important part in the level of depression one may be experiencing. We live in a valley of shadow and death; but, within that valley there is life.
Christians are definitely not immune to trials. Being a Christian does not solve all problems; but, it does assure one thing—His forgiveness of all our sins. This is great news! Also, a lot of people think that Christians are “exempt” from the worst of these things.
HELLO! So not true! The devil works overtime to put Christians in a head lock that is impossible to get out of…on their own. Look at Job, Paul, and Moses…they were in some “real” messes that they became desperate enough to want to die.
You may be thinking, “What kept those ‘men of the Bible’ from doing the ‘unthinkable’?” It was love for Him! It was hope in Him!
God intends for us to live a life that He desires for us…a life that includes Him. God promised us a life of hope, love, grace, and mercy; but, He never promised a life where bad things would never happen to good people.
The truth is that the more we “live” our lives for Him, and through Him, the more the evil one tries to breakdown the life of His body in us; thus, trying to destroy us. Because God gave us the freedom to choose, the evil one uses it to his advantage. Satan tries to convince that harming each other, or to telling lies to disgrace…is the way of this world. Sadly, many fall for his trap, and cause much pain for others…including myself.
The “world” can have two different meanings: 1) the world (biosphere) we live in, and 2) the struggles that we experience while living in this world. Sadness and depression is a natural part of life. God gave us these emotions (as well as many others) as a way of dealing with the brokenness of the world we live in. It is the degree that we carry these emotions that can be detrimental to self, or others. Sometimes the reactions of our emotions may be due to an early childhood type of abuse; therefore, it is a way of coping. The problem is as adults those same coping mechanisms don’t work the same way as they did with the child.
The key, in overcoming severe depression, is community…with others. Community can be within a group of church members, or within a support group outside of church. Both can be vital in the healing and recovering process of the oppressed and depressed. Research shows that a committed community, to those that are inflicted with brokenness, can become a vital part in the healing process.
We often need help from others to make sense of what is going on within our inner-selves, and to help us break out of patterns of sin and brokenness. Such freedom to discuss our inner-selves with another person creates a bond whose acceptance is not based on performance but on unconditional love.
The devil does not want hope or love to be found. He will do everything in his power to divert the attention from Him to the lies of desperation that make us feel worthless (which pleases him the evil one). He seemingly causes a feeling of overwhelming disgrace that begins abounding in once joyful hearts. Depression can often become more agonizing than physical pain.
The Bible says that people are of great significance because of being made in the image of God—for His glory. We have become adopted into God’s family. We learn that it is not what we’ve done to deserve to be a part of His family; but, what He did for us. Christ’s death is the reason for our acceptance by God. He promises to never let us go.
This “amazing grace” that God has given us should lead to a life of dedication to Him…allowing us to fight the ongoing battle against the world of sins. God uses the trials of our life to help become more aware of Him, and to have a desire to be more like Christ.
God sometimes uses difficult trials to discipline. In the fight against the evil one, hope is vital. We must listen and draw near to Him. We must be encouraged that this is His sign of His love.
We are reminded that we don’t just struggle against our own idols, or sins; but, against “spiritual forces of evil” in the idol “world” of sin. We must learn to put on the full armor of God. We must wear it every day and always. This will provide protection from the devil’s “fiery darts. We also must “pray just to make it through the day”.
We live with many emotions. We live with groaning hearts. We live with rejoicing hearts.
Where is my love? Where is my hope? It lies within my faith knowing that there is a Lord, Jesus Christ, who sanctified me with His loving grace–by dying on the cross.
This is the day that the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! ~Psalm 188:24