Day 5 & 6 – His Family
“People say, ‘love is blind’, but in fact, it is only Love that truly sees.” – Denise Jordan
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. – Ephesians 1:4-6 (MSG)
I trust that many of you have been able to find some unique ways to reduce the “weapons of mass distraction” in your busy lives these past few days. It’s never easy to say ‘no’ to some things we do in the normal patterns of our lives in order to spend more time with God. Work, children, studies commitments big and small don’t simply drop away when we seek to spend more time with God.
Saying no to social media, TV, entertainment, exercise, eating etc are for me those precious slices of time where I can exchange those moments for “listening” for Gods voice. Although the windows of time is seemingly small, I have not yet been disappointed. I have learned that although I may have wanted more time, he knew what was feasible for me – each slice of time I got, I never heard “is that all your giving me ?”, I heard quite the opposite – each slice of time he indeed has met me. Love is like that – it revels in every moment with no condemnation.
Some of you have been emailing back some or the highlights you have been experiencing in your moments – a number of which were related to reading some of the words spoken over this peculiar tribe. Some of you have been “hearing” God speak to your hearts from the word. It’s amazing to see the diversity in how Father God speaks and works so uniquely with each of is kids.
Today as we head towards our family reunion on Sunday, I felt prompted to leave you with some insights to encourage you in our collective journey… tidbits to ponder and seep in.
The Heart: In our relationship with God we relate to Him heart to heart. He doesn’t look on outward appearances but He looks upon the heart. He himself is a “heart’ person. We can do many things for God that are not from the heart, simply out habit or form – for example we can say grace before a meal purely out of ritual or tradition but many times it doesn’t come from a heart that is genuinely grateful. Don’t get me wrong, say grace, but when you do, let it be an expression of your heart. When you do things towards God that are not out of your heart, then it is just religiosity. Remember, God wants to clean, heal and continually change your heart – when your heart changes, so will go all your behaviors as well.
The Word: The great adventure of being a Christian, is that we are continually learning there is so much more about God we have yet to know. Despite our innate drive at times to master Christianity andmaster the holy spirit from our human tendency to be in control, we soon learn God cannot be mastered by us. Rather He simply reveals himself to us as we explore this unfolding mystery of who He.
One thing we do know about God is that He is love – he doesn’t just love us, He IS LOVE! As we read scripture we begin to understand that it cannot be understood by intellectual study. It in itself is a revelation; a revealing of Himself and his dealings with mankind that can only be grasped when He shines his light on it. Its as sharp as a two sided blade – to the heart.
Unless he reveals the truth of himself and His ways to your heart, the scriptures become speculative opinions. The things we don’t fully have understanding on, we often try to put together in some logical study form. As you already know, there are many opinions in the world today that see scripture in very different ways. This is in part why there are doctrinal differences in the body of Christ. Of course, Jesus did let us know, the simple way through this challenge – he was very clear, the holy spirit would reveal, teach our hearts EVERYTHING we would need to know. Heart to heart – revelation.
When I came to understand the Holy Spirit will teach us through the words of scripture to our hearts, the Bible shifted for me from a owners manual for Christian life, but rather a place to meet God. We read the Bible to touch God, not to form opinions on what it means. Like prayer, it is a place where God can speak to you. He reveals Himself to you. He longs that we would “know him” as HE knows us. Christianity is based on nothing else but the revealing of who God really is. And the church, us, the people whom He has been revealing himself too, is how he reveals himself to this world. We become the temple of His Holy spirit; His nature comes to dwell within us – and as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, we are transformed into the very image of His Son. (1 Cor 3:18, Phil 1:6)
Real Community : In every case, the Bible reveals what real community is like for those who are being transformed. And it’s not defined by being an institution.
When we experience the simplicity and power of God’s love you will instinctively know why it can never be vested in institutions or anything built from human hands. God is a relational God, Jesus reveals to us He is our Father inviting people to walk with him and to live in His family. An institution mindset will focus on conformity and on process, rather than people. The efforts of institutions are limited at best, for they exist for crowds, not individuals. Jesus regarded people’s needs as too important and too unique to commit to the rigidity of a program.
Authentic community is people simply learning to live out the same love with others that they have discovered in Father through Jesus.
When people are being transformed in their hearts by Gods revelation, they become more and more like Him – and having experienced his love and generosity, they can’t help but let that love and compassion overflow to others. That alone is all God needs to accomplish His purpose in His church. Its life literally flows from His presence in our hearts, and in doing so makes that presence visible to believers and unbelievers alike.
Father gives us the gift of being his children, Jesus gave gifts to the ‘church’ to prepare and equip us to know this love (Eph 4), and the spirit gives Gifts to us to give away to others when they need it. Quite the parents of this family…
All these are so amazing we can get caught up the wonder and application of these gifts that we can lose site of the priority.
In the letter Paul writes to the church explaining all this 1 Cor 12,13, 14, He describes to the community the priority for the community, “Let love be your highest goal” (1 Cor 14:1). Everything else as good as it appears is nothing without Gods love.
Paul continues by reminding them what love them does; “desire the special abilities the spirit gives, especially the gift of prophecy… because one who prophesies is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them”.
Why prophecy over other gifts? It is the Fathers heart directly expressed through the spirit to his children who are in need of comfort and encouragement.
Before I ask you to think about how your experience is shaping up in UChurch community, I want you to ponder how the first century church formed.
No one told the early church to actually form a community. I can’t imagine the disciples gathering on Pentecost evening trying to figure out what to do with 3,120 people. Can you see Peter suggesting an idea like this?
“Let’s have everyone meet together on Sunday mornings and we’ll organize home groups for midweek. Andrew and Nathanael, find us the natural leaders out of this group and take them on a retreat this weekend. They’ll lead groups for us. Thomas, draw up some guidelines for participation and we’ll have people sign them. We’ll require attendance and the rich to sell their property to help the poor…. “
Absurd, isn’t it? Without anyone even thinking of organizing, the church became a full on loving community that was worshiping and growing together. The people shared resources so well that there were no needy among them. Even secular historians of the time marveled at the love they had for each other.
Over time this began to fade unfortunately, and church morphed into institutions with programs run with good intent, but miss the mark. Despite the shift, Father never stops calling us back to the real deal – to real relationship with Him and with one another – for this we are very grateful this is what he has been doing in our midst and to anyone who has ears to hear.
Joy and hunger are the foundation of authentic biblical community. Without it everything else is merely an exercise in human relations. Jesus prayed that all his followers would find unity together, but even his prayer makes it clear that there is only one road to unity: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:22). The unity that marks Christian community cannot rise out of charity, compromise, or concession. It rises only out of people who are seeking, hungry to be changed into God’s image. As God is changing me, I find incredible connection with others he is also changing. Without even trying, I’m suddenly aware of their needs and how I can help, while also being aware of gifts and insights they can add to my life.
For people hungering after God, opening our lives to others is not a cumbersome obedience, but a means to allow the transforming love of God to bring tangible encouragement, strength, and comfort.
If your like me, it take a process of time to ‘be in family” like this; it took much time for me to begin to move out from behind insecurities, fears and wrong perceptions of God and myself and interact; David noted, He is a Father to the fatherless and puts the lonely in family. It was true for me – I simply cooperated despite my shy demeanor and fear of rejection, He led me, He placed me, and has been changing me ever since in community.
If your reading this and think your stuck, not sure if your able to lean in – simply tell Him – he will give you His courage to risk authentic people who are just like you.
There is a cost: real community, real spiritual family, can only happen among disciples—people desiring to be changed by Christ and the power of Gods love into his image.
The cross is the heart of all fellowship, and it is only through the cross that fellowship is deepened and matured. This will involve the frequent and painful crucifixion of self in all its forms—self-seeking, self-centeredness, self-righteousness—and the willingness to remain vulnerable with others in the family.
In other words, if we preach the cross in all its power and invite people to come and engage the wonders of relationship with the living God, community will spring up all around us. If we were to preach community until our voices whither with age, and create programs to facilitate it until the second coming, we would never see it emerge.
Real community cannot happen until self has surrendered at the cross. Jesus told his followers this was the key; Deny yourself daily, pick up your cross and follow me. In John 6:63-69, Jesus shares this same truth with the large crowds who wanted all the benefits of community – it says many were unable to believe this was the Fathers invite into real life – they opted for self and scripture notes many walked away. Was Jesus being mean? How was that loving ? Was he saying the church was an elite crew of blind followers ? of course not, He knew real community is not possible without real love – and that love can not come from human effort, it first has to flow from God (he first loved us) into our hearts. And to receive this love, it requires 100 % surrender to our being self led.
Self centered people can’t make a real home, only a Father can.
Challenging the ‘orphaness of self’ is at the same time the cost of community and one of its greatest gifts. Since our orphan self diminishes our ability to perceive God, denying self leads to closer deeper relationship with God and his other kids. As we choose to deny self, He alternately in perfect correlation continues to define your heart with the immense value you have as His child, in His family.
As we prepare for coming together Sunday, let God speak to your heart on any of these things. I have not given you a list of verses to go read; I sense He will lead you to the portions of scripture that you have time set aside for – He will reveal Himself and further His revelation to your heart.
See you Sunday family…
(I wish to acknowledge much of what I wrote above has been stimulated through the lives and words of James Jordan and Wayne Jacobson. I would highly recommend James book, Ancient Road Rediscovered and Wayne’s book, “He Loves Me – Learning to Live in the Father Affection” (note Wayne’s book is now free on line in PDF version – Dowload it Here