Saturday, September 12, 2009


God’s stirring something. Alright, that’s a really bland/general/duh statement. Okay, specifics. God’s stirring community here in Jacksonville. Hmm…still general. Let’s try: God’s stirring deeper community in my heart and in the hearts of others. Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.

Over a recent period of time, I’ve realized I need deeper spiritual intimacy with my close brothers and sisters than I’ve had. I think the dangerous “Christian culture” has slipped in and settled quite comfortably. For a while, I’ve been satisfied with just hanging out with Christians, having fun moments together. And that’s good and I feel to be desired and sought, in its proper place/proportion. But when that’s as deep as it gets on a regular basis…I need more.

Now, bringing this up demands definition. What is community? What does the Bible say about how we are to live with each other? What I’m I looking for? Spoiler alert: this note will NOT answer all that :). My, that would be a chore not only beyond my ability/knowledge, but beyond my pressure-bearing point as well. But hopefully this can spark discussion, here or in person, within my community and within other ones.

Acts 2:42 (and more in the chapter) is often used to help define community: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” That doesn’t seem hard. I mean, really, is there anything in there that’s difficult? Oh, wait, we’re people. We get distracted, we have emotions that take us in various directions, we struggle with sin, etc. Yeah, that makes it a bit tougher. But obviously does not make it impossible.

So, deeper community. Maybe I’ll just go with some of my own thoughts/desires, and continue from there. I want to be truly “involved” in others’ lives, in knowing how they’re really doing, how I can be of help to them, how I can pray for them…and to actually pray with them. I’ve read recently about how the Body of Christ is a place for people to be accepted and known, and a safe place to grow because of acceptance. I want to help make that safe place, and I myself need it. Symbiotic beauty of intentional Christ-centered community…it’s good.

I discussed this topic over lunch the other day with a good friend. Both our hearts yearn for this, yet at times, perhaps most of the time, we feel somewhat helpless/lost in how to go about it. I do think this kind of community takes commitment, and it can be awkward, to me, to go through some form of “are you committed to this?” stage. But there comes a point where we must advance forward in our walks, and I feel this is something that has to happen. I’ve seen so many scriptures point to the idea that we’re either gaining life or we’re dying. The middle ground (think lukewarm) cannot sustain.

This all takes sacrifice. I’m not sure in what ways it will reveal itself for me, but I will have to sacrifice for this. That’s hard. I’m selfish. I don’t like sacrificing. But though sacrifice feels like death, without it, we will die a slow death, indeed. I’m in agreement with my friends who say we don’t want to live a mediocre life, have a mediocre walk with the Lord. And that’s going to be costly. Sigh.

So, what does this look like? How does this start? (Some/most of this application may be more for my situation specifically, where we have a small “core” group of friends already). I think sometimes that may be to pray, then to go out and do something fun. Sometimes to pray, and go somewhere God leads us and help someone/people. Sometimes to pray, and to stay and pray some more. There’s no perfect formula, no set program or way to do this. It does take a group of people, who’s hearts are prepared by the Lord and enabled by the Holy Spirit, to come together and be of one heart and united in seeking the Lord and His kingdom. You don’t find that just anywhere, or randomly. It’s intentional, yet God-given and God-grown.

Life is hard. We need each other to carry on; relationships are one amazing way God grants grace and helps us persevere. We can’t make it in this race alone. We weren’t designed to do it that way. I want to challenge you to pray over these things, and to discuss them with your community. If you don’t have one, seek out others who are seeking the Lord. I feel trite in saying that, but do it. If you are in a community that maybe isn’t quite what you desire, be the change that you seek. And trust me, don’t do THAT on your own; go to God for the strength necessary.

Our Father’s heart is for His people to be in right relations with each other, spurring one another on, building one another up. Let’s do that.

Oh, and Acts 2:47: “…praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Don’t forget to be out-reaching. I’ve seen really good communities dissolve because they became inward-focused only. There’s a balance, as you do need to look after the health of the “internal” relationships. But don’t settle there. Bring others into the fold. That’s Jesus’ heart.


So I have been going through a tough season of late. Well, I really don’t want to use that phrase, but I don’t know the best way to describe it. In generalities, there have been some strongholds I’ve had to face, one in particular of great impediment. But over time, I’ve seen that much of my sin is really just a symptom of some deeper problem.

There have been countless nights I’ve gone to bed, crying out to God, saying I don’t what things to be like this. I’ve felt helpless in my struggles, though that’s been hard to accept because I know I have a will and have felt I should be able to choose the “right” thing. I’m convinced of the Lord’s love and goodness, and I couldn’t imagine Him doing more for me than He’s done; I feel He’s given me the ability to walk in His light. So that leads me to conclude that I must have to do something different, because He’s already doing His part. What you end up with there is the idea of “I have to fix myself”, a pretty big lie.

Wednesday night, as I was driving home from playing frisbee, the thought came to me that perhaps this was a season, a season of struggle that the Lord wanted me to get through. I was very nervous to accept this, because it actually gave me hope (though claiming to love logic, I'm quite often irrational :). Still had a hard night, but something somewhat clicked there.

Then, there was Thursday morning. I don’t imagine ever forgetting this day. I woke up really tired, in a crabby mood, snoozed a bunch, just didn’t want to get up at all. I really think God uses those times on purpose :). On this morning, I finished the book of Hosea. Chapter 14 is incredible. Really. If you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s your background: imagine a people doing the worst possible things to a God who loved them the most. Then read the chapter. The rest of this note can wait.

In verse 2, Hosea exhorts the people to take words of repentance and return to the Lord. The whole middle section is deeply moving, portraying God’s unending love for His people. The chapter ends with this: (v.9) “Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” After reading it, I was challenged to follow this message, and to bring words to the Lord in repentance.

But how do I repent of things I keep turning back to? Eventually you get dizzy after turning to the Lord, then back to sin, then back to the Lord, etc. I’ve questioned if I’ve truly repented of something if I later go back to it. I did forget here a teaching I’ve heard in the past that dismisses this worry, basically saying that though you may stumble, if you’re heart is truly turned to the Lord, that is repentance. I didn’t consider this wisdom until later, so at the moment I was struggling. I knew what I needed to do, but felt unable to do even something as seemingly easy as bring words to the Lord. But God was gracious, and He gave me the words. I repented and cried out for help. I also cried out about the near constant voice of condemnation I feel I’ve had for as long as I can remember. I know some of it has been me being hard on myself, but much of it has been the enemy. I sat there broken, helpless. As I cried out, I felt Him say, “Okay.” And I felt something physically change within me (won’t bother trying to explain it exactly). The voice was gone. Seriously. And the whole day was absolutely unbelievable. The condemnation was gone. The specific hurtful/sinful desire I had been struggling with was gone. I felt a freedom that I honestly do not think I’ve ever had before. Our God is mighty and sovereign and powerful.

I do think much of my struggles have been due to problems with acceptance, something I recently wrote about. I think the sin issues have been a symptom of the condemnation, a way to try to soothe the pain. I’ve known that I needed deeper healing, not just a band aid for the surface level problem. And He provided that. After a season.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Prov 3:4-5)

God’s been teaching me a lot about grace and acceptance and forgiveness. This moment seemed to be a sort of culmination. And I say that not in whole, as I have so much more to learn and experience.

I do admit that the whole day Thursday was quite a mountaintop experience itself. I know not to expect that as the norm, but to enjoy it when He graces us with it. He gives us those moments to help us through the valleys.

For anyone struggling now, hold on. It feels so banal/cliché/insufficient to say that. But for those who truly believe in God’s power, it is rivers of living water, hope in a dry desert. And I say that to others in hope that they will remind me when I’m in the valley, in the desert.

Praise God for His faithfulness. Hallelujah, and Amen.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


God gave me this blog early Sunday morning. Been busy/drained till now.
Recently, a few friends have said I’ve challenged them. Great. I mean, really, I am grateful the Lord uses me. But so often it doesn’t feel like “enough.” And I question, “What’s my purpose?”

I know the general purpose of my life: to praise and worship God, and to bring Him glory. Really, to just “be” with Him. I so often question if I’m doing that. I think at times it seems to be that I am doing those things, but so often not. I feel if I ask certain people close to me (especially my mother), they’ll say I am. But I dismiss it so easily (and foolishly). I have such a high need for affirmation, yet I truly seek affirmation from the harshest critic, whoever that may be (I’m not thinking of anyone in particular). It’s like, “If I can get their affirmation, then I really know I’m doing things correctly.” Umm…“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Romans 4:1-3).’”

So, A or B: do I think God’s acceptance isn’t enough (pride? confusion?), or do I not truly believe I am completely accepted?