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
Are You More? You Are More!
We all have some kind of God given talent. Why is it so hard for others (including myself) to recognize our talent? Even worse, why don’t others knowing they have one…just don’t want to share it? Isn’t the purpose of the body of Christ for us to come together as a community of believers to share, grow, and pray with each other? Shouldn’t we be lifting each other up to Him, and all for the glory of Him?
Maybe there is more? Maybe we are more? There are so many people who have great talents to share, and in many different kinds of ways; such as through poetry, good communicated thoughts, through art and music, and even from experiences or intuition that allow for sharing of wisdom. People might begin to realize that they have the potential to be more than they think they are…or even more than what others might expect.
I love Tenth Avenue North‘s song, “You Are More“! The making of the video (http://tenthavenuenorth.com/videos) is a testimony in and of itself. The band members are lighthearted in the making of the video; but, definitely get their points across. The making of the video and the song should both be viewed. Below is a portion of their song:
“‘Cause this is not about what you’ve done,
But what’s been done for you.
This is not about where you’ve been,
But where your brokenness brings you to.,
This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you loved.
You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.”
~ Tenth Avenue North “You Are More”
The band, and the producers, had people write in words and/or phrases that might include mistakes they have made, things they may have been labeled as, or painful experiences or secrets wanting to hide.
The lead vocal, Mike, reassures us that we all make mistakes. No one is perfect (but Christ). He also reaffirms that the good news from the gospel tells us that despite our mistakes…and because of the blood of Jesus…we are made new. Do you hear that! We are made new! We are made in His image. We can be forgiven for our past mistakes, our heinous secrets, or whatever lies the devil wants us to believe.
The fact they used real people in the video made it more apparently real to me. Also, at the end when the water flows over the chalkboard, like art or a beautiful poem, I hold a visual in my head of these mistakes being washed away. I can have a clean slate because of what He did for me!
…going back to the wisdom from others. Not all wisdom needs to be taken as the “only” way. That is why we have the good news of the Gospel. We also have learned and trained pastors to help us better understand the wisdom that has been bestowed upon us—through His words.
So if we have good news to share why is there a lack of sharing it? Could one person do all the “reaching out”—trying to make a difference? Of course not. The problem may be that others don’t have the confidence to share. More sadly, others may have not found their strength to share. Sometimes a strength may come about from a weakness made known. It could be right under their noses, and they not even realize it.
There is an exception to this rule. The only One that could reach to everyone–did just that for us. Jesus took it upon Himself to make a difference in our lives, and for our lives, by letting us pin Him to the cross. In essence, we abused and neglected Christ by standing by, and doing nothing, watching Him suffer. He gladly did this for us.
There is so much pain and affliction in this world. I could not even make a dent in the list; but, one very dear, and close to my heart, is that of abuse and neglect. I realize this topic can be very broad with many different types; but, nevertheless…abuse is abuse…no matter how you look at it.
It is also a topic most don’t like to acknowledge because it is dark, and holds many secrets.
Abuse and Neglect can be an act or failure to act on the part of [the one being abused] which could result in serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; sometimes even death.
Lots of people don’t understand abuse; because frankly, unless they have experienced it…they can’t comprehend it.
The sad thing is that many have been abused, and don’t even know it. I have had people tell me that they have never been abused. After getting to know them, I may hear them tell a story of an incident that happened to them. In all aspects, it sounds like abuse to me.
There are no criteria, or levels, one experiences in order for it to be known as “abuse”. It looks different to each individual; however, some abuses are blatant and are definitely noticeable. I would hope others might learn the warning signs, and try to reach out to those that have experienced such things rather than looking upon them as if they were a leper. This may compound the issue, and break trust within the person needing help.
There are different coping skills for different circumstances. Finding a healthy coping skill is important for healing to begin. There are lots of resources; but, it is a matter of being able to utilize some of those resources.
The community of church is a great resource for helping survivors of abuse. This allows for sharing, praying, and encouraging. It not only can be a blessing to the one receiving; but, for the one giving.
The problem that arises from this situation is that some, who have been sheltered, may not be as accepting of the brokenness as the one whom it involves. The one, who is dealing with the pain of the abuse, may feel as though they are being judged. In most cases, the abused person desires to know that His grace is real, and to be accepted despite their heinous secret—their brokenness.
Trust needs to be made, so that healing may begin.
There are lots of Biblical resources that are accessible to those needing encouragement. I would hope that His body might utilize some of those resources to help the afflicted. Sometimes, not knowing what to do, the body may ignore the warning signs rather than aggressively seeking to help heal the part that is ill. But, these are very rare instances.
Other resources may be groups that have people who have survived particular abuses. They have the knowledge, and experience, to help with coping skills, give encouragement, and direct further—if further direction is needed. There are many books, blogs, websites, etc. with a plethora of information. It could be as easy as a click away to get some of the help needed.
Reading books about surviving abuse is great; but, having an actual human that will share (or is able to share) their experience of how they found hope and changed their coping skills, is vital to the process of healing. That is why a need for a “close” community is important. One wouldn’t go to a Chemistry class if British Literature was what was needed to be learned. The same goes for a group that understands the abused person’s particular needs.
I realize that I [one person] can’t inform the people of the world, nor do I desire this; but, I do desire that we bond together, and gather as a community to inform. Who knows, we might begin to make a difference in each other’s lives…and maybe that would help us in the community of the people of the world.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ~Matthew 18:20