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
Strength to Carry On
I have been thinking, and trying to pinpoint, on how to express myself on the particular topic of strength. Some kinds of strength are good. After all, it is a reflection of God Himself, and He said this is a good thing. But, I think some strength, if misused, can be hurtful. It does not have to necessarily have to be physical strength (like tackling someone to the ground); it can be as little as a look of disapproval.
Certain strengths have the potential to become an intimidating misuse of power over another person. I think it is important to know, that if gone unnoticed, strength could get out of hand and end up hurting others (like a form of bullying). My disclaimer is that I have taken part, and we probably all have taken part in a misuse of power some time or another. I myself can be rather dominating and/or manipulating. It is a control thing. It’s the power within me thinking that I can fix things on my own…instead of truly turning things over to God. I have finally realized that can become a misuse of power that I frequent.
I think that it is God’s desire for us to use our positive strength to lead our families; like the Sanctus Real song says, “To stand up for them when they can’t”. To be a wall…a somewhat pillar of strength. God’s own characteristics include strength & tenderness; respect & forgiveness through His grace & mercy. Only God can be the true judge of our life.
If we are truly made in God’s image, then we must have a desire to gain those characteristics—to be strong and loving.
There is nothing wrong with being physically strong, if one acts in an appropriate manner. I guess I am trying to say that maybe a better strength to “workout” for–would be the strength that comes from the heart. Reading the Bible, worshiping, taking part in a community are all great ways to strengthen your heart.
Strength looks different for different people. It could be a silent strength, verbal strength, strong- heroic type strength, being protective and gentle for the abused, or even having the strength to be humble.
In Genesis, we find out that Eve was very manipulative. Granted, she probably could not have wrestled Adam into eating the apple; instead, she used her verbal strength and tempted him in this way. Although, Adam had been informed of this particular tree prior to Eve being created; he chose to remain silent, or passive. Adam could have spoken up and said something to warn Eve about not eating from this tree. Eve obviously did not understand the importance of not eating the apple from the tree. She insisted, to Adam, that the serpent was telling the truth…so they ate from the tree, and we know the rest of the story.
Eve using her verbal strength to tempt Adam led to his passiveness…which led to other problems; for instance, violence followed once they began procreating. This violence started between brothers and definitely became a misuse of power and strength. I believe many have seen this kind of power misused at some point in their life. This type of strength does not discriminate!
I also believe that we have the capability to misuse our own strength of power at times. We are all sinners! An extreme misuse of this strong power can be destructive for all involved.
So why do people misuse their power?
Maybe their “good” strength was ignored, or shamed, by someone. Maybe their insecurities lead to their downfall. Maybe wanting the other person to change encouraged manipulation of others…which is a misuse of power.
I am guilty of this sin. My idol of controlling outcomes of others is one of my gross misuses of power.
God was proud of Jesus. He claimed Him as His son, and said He loved Him. Affirmation is really important! Although men and women like different kinds of affirmation, that does not mean to ignore each other because of the differences. We all feel that we don’t measure up. We are all insecure at one time or another—made vulnerable. For some, the vulnerability might come from past abuse; belittling could be happening presently. Finally, some are scared of what the future has in store for them. Will I be made fun of because of my lack of _?_ (fill in your own blank).
Abuse is a type of strength that is blatantly misused. It comes in many forms. It could be words spoken, or not. It could mean being aggressive physically, or passive emotionally (not being protected). It could be getting fired for something that one did not do—maybe simply because you’re too old. It can also come as sexual abuse. This type of abuse can have many levels of abuse: from harsh words spoken to the extreme of being beaten, or even worse things that I don’t really care to mention.
Sometimes rather than being a strong leader, we give in to our fears and insecurities. Sometimes, we are just plain jealous of other’s strengths. I know this all too well. Sometimes, I am more concerned about what people think of me, rather than worrying about how I am alienating God. I also get caught up in wanting something that I really don’t need and may want to coerce someone out of it…or want them to give it to me. It doesn’t have to be a material object; it could be as much as wanting protection, love, and respect.
When a person lashes out physically, or verbally, they feel as if they have some kind of strength (or power); but, in essence, it is not genuine strength. It is hurtful, and it might be considered bullying. Again, this could stem from their own insecurity or weakness.
This is not always true; but, some may have a deep rooted insecurity that they may not even be aware of within themselves. I will say nothing really justifies bullying, or being manipulative of others. It is very hurtful to those that are on the receiving side.
Loving accountability must take place to help achieve the goal of healing from misused strength. This can be done through community; such as with a church, some peers, or a strong group of friends. Loving accountability must also take place to help one not to misuse their “weak” strength. Both types of accountability need love and encouragement.
I will say that pointing out the misuse of power of another will usually not help. Often times, it will make things worse. Learning to love boldly would be most helpful in this situation. Dan Allender uses an example of telling a story/example so that another may see their misuse in character. It’s like a mirror; thus, one could see the reflection of their action. This may allow them to see how they are truly behaving.
The act of “loving boldly” does not always work. One may have a change of the symptom, but not of the heart. To love someone boldly takes some practice. For one thing, the mirror would have to be turned one self first before reflecting the mirror on the other person.
Good strength, or power, can lead to good things. Just look what Christ did for us so that we could live. It took great strength, courage, and forgiveness to be able to do what He did. I could never really fathom what He did at all. It was the greatest heroic act that has ever taken place.
Knowing that there is freedom in Christ, the heart will need to go under a complete restoration. One might begin with being less self-centered. I struggle with this quite often as well with many other idols. I may think that it is all about me. How I am feeling? I may not always take into consideration how the other person may be feeling, or what pain I may be causing to them.
One thing that needs to take place for restoration to occur may be admitting that a change needs to take place…especially in one’s heart. If you can’t admit your weaknesses, it will be almost impossible for restoration to take place. Blaming others will not make a change in the heart.
Now some may say that the other is too sensitive. Of course there may be times when one can be too sensitive. If others continually make others feel that they are too sensitive; then, it’s possible that the weakness of the one pointing out may hurt others.
Now a misuse of power can take place within one self. One can blame them self or have a self loathing of self due to guilt and shame. All of this can lead up to the misuse of power within one self, and will usually get worse.
There will be times that one may tell their self that another person may be the problem, and that the other person needs to get the help. This could be an excuse which seems to cover the true problem…maybe the problem is within them. Literally, the misuse of power can’t be seen by the person abusing it.
Surrendering and/or confessing your misused strength to Christ is essential. It is important to acknowledge what you have done to hurt others, and it is important to ask God for forgiveness; but, it must be sincere.
When talking with another be genuine, and give many details. This allows the other person to know that one is truly sorry. Being humble is good when it’s sincere.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Luke).
Let God love and forgive those that misused strength. His grace and mercy should be all consuming. One must accept the fact that God can use a restored heart to further His Kingdom, despite one’s weaknesses–past or present or even future.
Again, responsibility and accountability should take place. This is one of the first steps to restoration of misused strength. It is not just enough to say sorry; but, to truly understand why. To tell the other that one is sorry, and act upon it, is a great strength. Those that take responsibility will take their consequence and learn from it to become a restored person.
Now understand that restoration may not always occur; but, when one realizes their sinful nature, the process can begin to take place. One must learn to put off “your old self” so that one can “put on the new self. To know that we are created to be like God”. (Ephesians)
God wants to bring true healing; but, it can’t happen without humility. If one continues down the wrong path they might become self-destructive, or may be the root of someone else becoming self-destructive. Being humble does not mean to let others run all over them; but, to just stop misusing the strength that God has given.
One must become totally broken and surrender to Him. God is for the brokenhearted and He will make the heart new. We are sufficient in His grace, and He finds strengths in our weaknesses; thus, we will be given strength to carry on. The kind of strength to carry on restoration due to grace, love, and humility.
“…but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31
We will have the strength to carry on…with the Son, and through the Son. Power will be given to the weak, and make us strong!