Church as ‘Your Village’

I recently posed this question in conversation: What is the ‘reason’ for the church? There are so many answers to this question… more than can ever be fully explored in one conversation or one bulletin article. One of my favorite definitions though, is church as your family or church as ‘your village’. You’ve probably heard the old adage “It takes a village to raise a child.” Questionable grammar aside, I think that adage doesn’t quite go far enough. It truly takes a village to thrive in the way humans are meant to thrive. We are pack animals. We were never meant for individual lives lived in gated communities, exiting our cars behind closed garage doors, never knowing our neighbors. We were created for community with each other and with God. We don’t have many outlets for community, so realize the church can be your village in modern day America. BUT it isn’t as easy as it sounds! I recently read an interesting article that described the truest village as ‘people you can happen upon in unplanned moments.’ Think about what that means. How many people are part of your village? And how we can create a greater sense of community among our membership here?
One way is by taking part in events like the recent Lads and Dads Retreat at Central Florida Bible Camp. Taking time out together in recreation, fellowship, and spiritual growth will naturally tie tighter the bonds of deep friendship.
So here is your homework this week. Read up on the concept of the village from that old adage. Then email me your ideas on how the church can be Your Village. minister@jtcoc.com I look forward to the dialogue!

As I have…

A few hours before Judas would identify Christ to an angry mob, and a few hours after pointedly washing His betrayer’s feet, Christ was talking to His disciples about being identifiable. Sandwiched between prophesying Peter’s denial and watching it come true, Christ explains to His disciples how they can be visibly like Him. In the time between eating the Passover and Being the Passover, Christ tells us something about what it means to sacrifice a bit of yourself for others. And yet, with all of the emphasis Christ, the Gospel writers, and we ourselves, put on Christ’s words, sometimes we miss them completely.
“By this all men will know that you are My
disciples, if you have love for one another.”
It’s so important, John gives us at least three different times when Christ tells us this “new commandment.” Notice Christ is very specific in John 13:35. We won’t just be following Christ, but this will be how people know we follow Christ. But Christ knows us. He knows that we can say and do what we want and still find a way to call it love. So He is even more specific: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
“…Even as I have loved you…” (John 13:34)
How has God loved us? He has loved us in the middle of our betrayals and denials. He has loved us when we were sinning and when we were self-righteous. He has loved us when we were wrong and thought we were right. He has loved us when we were right, and yet still got it all wrong. He loves us by His sacrifice, in spite of our selfishness, and for our own salvation. And He asks that we love others the exact same way.

It’s Worth Twenty Seconds

Orlando can be a peaceful drive. It can be a time to reflect, to listen to a book, to enjoy music or quiet. It’s pretty rare for the drive to be very busy or congested. There are pockets of congestion, yes. Especially when you see a “snail race” ahead – a tractor trailer trying to pass another one. But the roads are good, the exits are sparse, and the cops are napping, which usually means 2 ½ hours of enforced reflection. On this particular day, though, the reflection was my worst enemy. Specifically, the one glinting off the cars around me. The sun itself was a pain, also, but the reflections were worse. I was squinting for so long, I’m sure it has had a permanent affect on my scowl lines. Squinting doesn’t lend itself to peace. And it definitely doesn’t make a 2 ½ hour drive feel any shorter. What made the difference this time? Why was I squinting now when it was not usually a problem? Well, this time, I had walked out of the house and left all 6 of my sunglasses at home. The six pairs should tell you about how often I am struck with this particular malady. And since they are cheap sunglasses, I can’t lose them or break them. I could have found a pair in short order… but I was in a hurry. I didn’t think I would need them. Or, that’s what I told myself. Truthfully, we all know that 20 seconds isn’t going to make any difference in a 150-minute drive. Unless that 20 seconds is spent looking for sunglasses. Otherwise, you will spend the trip regretting your haste. Have you ever done that? Have you ever decided against something you knew you would need, but chose to just leave it behind? Umbrellas come to mind. Snacks, too. Lea and I left for a plane trip without our suitcase because we were sure the other one had gotten it. But long trips aren’t the only time we leave things undone because we are in a hurry. Today is the 100th day of the year. When the year started, you might have had plans to start your day with a prayer or a Scripture reading. But those got pushed aside for the sake of busyness. Maybe you were so busy that you didn’t try to insert them into your schedule. Take the time. It’s worth the 20 seconds you would need to start the habit.
Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Magnetic Life

I have loved magnets ever since I was a kid. I had those alphabet fridge magnets when I was little. I didn’t really use them to spell things. There was usually a war involved in some way. The vowels were usually the heroes. In school, we had those big horseshoe magnets – the ones you see on cartoons. To this day, I remember that experiment where the teacher has us try to use the magnet to pick up different things. I licked the piece of straw to make it stick to the magnet. I was amazed that this invisible force could draw iron to itself. How did it know what was iron? If you surrounded iron with play-doh, the magnet still knew. It didn’t matter what color the iron was, what shape it was, how old it was or anything else. All that mattered was that it had iron in it. I “borrowed” one from the teacher after school and tried it out on everything. Sure enough, there was no way to fool it, although I really wanted it to work on money. But no matter what I tried, magnets need iron to work.
What is true of magnets is true of Christ, as well. It doesn’t matter what kind of person you are. It doesn’t matter how big, small, short or tall you are, Christ wants to draw you to Him. It doesn’t matter what color you are on the outside or how long you’ve been around, Christ wants to draw you to Him. That’s the reason He went to the cross:
John 12:32 – “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
But just like that magnet, there is something between Christ and the lost. For a magnet, it is a field. For Christ, it is us. We are the ones who bridge the gap between Christ’s message and those who need it most. As Paul told the church at Corinth, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)