Posts Tagged ‘Lifesong’

Roman 12:13 — In these remaining verses of Romans 12, they are a collection of one line encouragements about how we should live and act as Christ followers. Today we look at verse 13, “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”

When we think of belly buttons, we think of “innies” and “outies”. This verse is a charge to us about the “innies” and the “outies”. It has two parts. The first part is about inside the church and the second part is about outside the church.

The first sentence tell us that we are to ready to help those of our local fellowship who are in need. We are to be ready to help them. Being an regular attendee at LifeSong or any Christian church is or should be more than sitting in a pew on Sunday. The church that Christ created was to be more than just gathering together on Sunday to hear great music and to hear a great sermon and that be it. We are to get to know each other on a deeper level. We are to connect with each other. We are to get to know each other to the point that we know each others struggles, victories, needs, gifts, you name it. Sure, in a big church that is hard to do. But, that is where small groups are important in a big church. Small groups make a big church small. Small groups are where we learn to be first century church. In small groups, it should be more than just getting together on Sunday or Wednesday or whenever for a couple of hours and that be the extent of it. Paul here calls us to love on the people in our church and specifically in a big church, the people in our small group. We should get to know our small group members beyond the meeting and our meetings should be real and honest. In small group, we should minister to each others needs. We should be the first ones there when crisis happens. We should be the first ones to give comfort. We should be the first ones to love on our fellow members in times of financial, emotional, and spiritual need. My small group that meets at our house has become so special in that regard. We certainly have areas to grow in such as service outside our meetings but as for the rawness, realness, and support that Paul calls us to here is found in our small group. We truly do love one another. We do care and take care of one another. It took a while to get there. But, we all took risks and let these other folks into our lives.

In this first sentence too, we are called to love on people that we don’t know within our church’s fellowship. We have a responsibility not only to our small group but to the larger fellowship of our church as well. When there is a need within our larger fellowship that is made known throughout the congregation, we should respond because it is God’s people. Our LifeSong Cares ministry was created for just that purpose. LifeSong Cares matches needs within our fellowship with those who can meet that need. Even in the absence of the LifeSong Cares ministry, we should care for those within our fellowship without even thinking of whether it’s going to cost me something – time, money, resources. We should be willing to help our fellow Christians at our local fellowship because they have a need. It doesn’t matter whether we know them or not. They are part of our local fellowship of believers. Nuff said! We help them. Father help us to dive deeper into the service of fellow believers within our fellowship.

In this first sentence too, we are called to help all of God’s people even beyond the borders of our local church. We are called to do whatever it takes to help our fellow believers locally, nationally, and internationally. We are all part of one family with many local expressions. You can bring Christians from completely opposite parts of the world and have them with completely different languages and they can communicate one common theme to each other. We serve a mighty God. We are joyous in our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. We all have that in common around the globe. It is for that reason that when we are called to help fellow Christians in need around the world, we are to respond. We share the same faith. We share Jesus. When we see images of persecution of our fellow Christians around the world, we should not think twice about helping them. We should help them in real ways not just throwing money at them. We should care enough to find out what their real needs are and help them. We should pray mightily for them. We should sometimes be moved to go help them directly. I lift up our fellow brothers and sisters in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, North Korea and China right now. They need us. They need our help. They are not foreigners to us. They are members of the Family. God’s people!

In the final sentence of this verse, Paul calls us to be hospitable. This part of the verse, to me, calls us as Christians to be loving and caring not only to God’s people but to everyone. We are called to give of ourselves to others even if we do not know if they are part of God’s people. So, if the first sentence calls us to love God’s people from our small group to our larger fellowship to all Christians around the globe, then this sentence tells us plainly we are to love those who are strangers to us and those who are strangers to Christ. We should love those who are not Christ followers just as if they were. As we discussed yesterday, the only way to truly love someone is to invest in them, get to know them, taking a risk to let them inside our facade that we present to the world. Love takes being vulnerable. Love takes commitment to stay the course even when exposing our most inner feelings is risky. So, we open our hearts and develop relationships with people outside those who have accepted Christ as their Savior. We are to open our hearts, our homes, our wallets, and ourselves to those who do not know Christ. We get to know them. We meet them where they are at. We meet needs when they have them. In so doing, we soften their hearts toward Christians. We soften their heart toward Christ. Maybe so maybe that they will come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ themselves. Then they become part of God’s people. They become “innies”. They then love on their small group. They then love on their church. They then love on all Christians around the world. They then love on other non-Christians and they take another to the cross. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Making outies into innies!

Have you ever felt like you were coming up short? And, no, I’m not talking about the fact that I am vertically challenged! I am talking about that feeling you get after maturing in Christ for a while and you feel like you are not doing enough to spread the gospel, you are not saving lives, not saving souls. Have you ever felt like you were missing out on opportunities to serve the Lord because you had to work? Have you ever felt that even if you were not chained to your desk for 60 hours a week that you would be doing more? Have you ever felt that nothing is going to happen when you finish seminary though it is my hope that I will go in the ministry sometime soon after graduation? Have you ever felt that you would not pull the trigger to do so when it is time, after graduation? Have you ever been surrounded by people that seem to be spiritual giants to you – who can quote Scripture easily at key moments, who are out there on the cutting edge doing real things for real people – while you feel sapped and stuck in inaction? These are the feelings that have been plaguing me lately.

I accepted Christ as my Savior in December 2001 and Christ went to work in removing layers of crud in my life, but most particularly removing the idols in my life. That took a long time. It was not until about August 2009 when Elena and I joined a church similar to Lifesong when we were living in California (Livermore Alive Community Church in Livermore, CA) and it was there I began maturing after shedding many of the ghosts and fears of my past with the help of the Holy Spirit. Prior to that time, I was a spiritual baby or a toddler. Just learning to walk in my new legs. There, God let me know that it was time to start stepping up my game not because He had a checklist but because it was just time in His plan for me. Then, it was time for the big leagues…at Lifesong Church. Here, I have learned that you are not going to be asked to do something as in most churches. In those churches, you have to earn your way and have seniority and such. Here, if you want to do something, as long as it is consistent with the mission of the church and with Jesus’ command to us (Luke 10:27), then, you are empowered to do so. Here, I have grown so much in my faith in and my walk with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I have gone from greeting people as they come into church on Sunday to leading one of the five stakes of ministry at our church. But therein lies the rub, the more you mature in Christ the more out of control, the more “less than” that you feel.

I have truly been blessed to participate in some of the truly community transforming activities of our church. It has been awe inspiring and empowering. So much so, it led me to go begin seminary two years ago. This experience has been one of the most beautiful and challenging experiences of my life, of my walk with my Savior. I am generally recognized as a pretty smart fellow and fairly gifted in “getting at the heart” of Scripture. However, I have been so humbled by the things that I don’t know about the Christian faith, about the plethora wonderful literature and research out there about the Bible and about Jesus himself, about the depth of knowledge and depth of faith of my classmates and my professors. It has and can at times make you feel like you are coming up short – making you feel “less than”. I compare it to the first day at school each and every time I moved as the son of Methodist preacher. That insecurity. That feeling of “less than”. At my church, there are spiritual giants. My senior pastor, Jeff Hickman….oh man, what a giant (not a comment on the fact that he is 6’3″ and 220 lbs). He is an intimidating figure physically but more so spiritually. He is so on fire for the Lord! In his presence, I feel less than. Equally there are others at our church that just blow me away with their spiritual intensity. And, its not a holier than thou intensity. It’s real. It’s impact the world for Christ real. Hayden. Humbert. Ginger. Danny. Scott. Brian Sr. All giants to me. Then, there is my wife, Elena, what a whirlwind for Christ she has become since she was saved by His grace three, almost four, years ago. She is a giant to me. All of these people can make you feel “less than.” Not that they are trying to do that. Most assuredly, they are not.

In thinking on this subject the last few days and being Jacob wrestling with God, several things have become clear.

First, earlier, I told you that after my salvation, God had a LOT of work to do – cleaning out the crud in my life, my soul. The biggest thing was that I measured my worth by the woman who was in my life. I lived and died by their approval or disapproval. That expressed itself in me valuing myself by how much intimacy I had with women. When there was much intimacy, I had great value. When the intimacy was down, so was the value I placed on myself. I allowed intimacy to rule my life. In that, I allowed the women in my life a great deal of emotional power over me. In that, I allowed the women in my life over the years to become my god. It caused me to de-elevate the things that should have been important in my life—my children and my integrity. These things took second place to access to intimacy. Anything for intimacy including not having the relationship I should have had with my children during my second marriage. That began to change when my salvation came. I got a late start on this thing—when I was 39, when I got God. So, I am only 11 years old spiritually and it is my personality to be slow to recognize things. Thus, these spiritual giants are ones who God has been able to work with longer and probably faster.

Second, and this is the biggest point, maybe at this point in my life, where I have grown so much in Him, He is wanting me to see that it is REALLY not about me. Cause, even when I was subverting myself to the women in my life, it was still in a way (a weird and twisted way) all about me. This is the point in spiritual maturation that I could easily get a big head about what He has allowed me to achieve, to be. Here among the true spiritual giants, I see that I have a lot of growing to do in Christ. Still a lot of crud to get rid of. Here among the true spiritual giants, it is clear that God wants me to be a cog in His machine. It is clear that I have so much to learn. Watching these giants is what He wants me to do right now. Watching and learning. He wants me always to feel “less than”—not in some low self-esteem way. He wants me to feel “less than” Him because that IS the way I should feel. My Savior is Jesus. Jesus is One with the Father in Eternity. He is amazingly way more powerful than me in a way that I cannot even begin to comprehend. I am “less than”. I do come up short. It is only through the grace of Jesus Christ that I am alive right now. He drew me out of the pit of false gods and false hope and has kept me from destroying myself. In that, on my own, I come up short. I am less than my Savior. But my Savior in me, through the Holy Spirit, makes me of great value. It is through this writing, through the Holy Spirit’s hand, that I realize that He is still working on me. He has me here to watch the spiritual giants. He has me married to one! I am to learn. I am to be humbled by how their faith works. I am to be broken of my pride. I am to have this moment of time of doubt. I am to have this time to break me down. So…..He can use me for His purpose at His time.

Patience. Humility. Learning. Timing. Broken. Useful.