Common[Unity]

There is something that is inside each of us that pulls away from feeling like we belong. Instead of identifying with a common thread in a group, we look for ways to distance ourselves from the group. Poor me, I’m the only one who doesn’t have a job, or I’m the only one with kids that act like this, I am the only one who doesn’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Right? Don’t you think that so many times we think our issues are so separate than other people problems? 

It is satan’s great plan to distract us and separate us from each other and God. Satan gets us trying to answer questions no one is asking… and we lose focus and drive and motivation to keep moving forward in recovery. But lets be clear, in terms of heaven and hell, they are real places on opposite spectrums but satan and God are not equal, God still has victory over satan, so no matter what we go through, what conflict we need to work through or addiction we need to kick or pain we need healing from, God is still victorious and we can also be victorious when working in line with him!

When we invite the Holy Spirit, He goes to soul to soul to soul, we can’t do this life on our own, it is more than mere friendships, we are redeemed and redeeming, transformed and transforming loved and loving, Jesus asks that we do to others what you would have them do to you…so what does dealing with people really look like biblically? How are we to BE community and not just do community? How do we be recovered from addictions and compulsions and not just go to recovery meetings? How do we not feel so alone with our problems? You can tell me to love like Jesus loved, but without some tangible takeaways, I have no idea what that means, and then I start misinterpreting what I am supposed to do and I start picking and choosing what I want the bible to say to me instead of reading it for truth. I need tangible ideas to practice on.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NLT)

Dang, if I just stopped there I would be like, looks like I am so not getting into heaven! Isn’t it funny that when people see other people, especially christians doing life with impurity and outbursts of anger and wild parties and the like, there first accusation is hypocrite! You are a big fat hypocrite. We use that as an excuse to not attend church or believe of a better life. 

What we have to keep in mind is that it isn’t hypocritical to sin. It isn’t hypocritical to continue to go to church in your sin, to go back to Jesus and go back to Jesus and go back to Jesus. What is hypocritical is to deny Jesus’ love and Grace to wash over you, to deny the Holy Spirit to work in your heart and your life and to be transformed. We can have a transformed life that leads to a transforming community. We can be a part of something. We don’t have to be alone. 

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT) 

Ok, this is where I get tripped up…so I can identify with all the bad things that are going to keep me from the kingdom of heaven. I look at this list: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control AND I FALL SHORT. EVERY. TIME. 

Here are four things that make up a healthy community that can allow us to practice this list as best as we can.

So what does healthy community look like?

1. Progress not perfection.  What is so great about recovery and recovery in community is that it is about progress not perfection. So we can look at this simple list in Galatians and say, ok…how can I today breathe positivity into my life and those around me using this as a sort of guideline? See, we do not need to be perfect before we join a group or volunteer somewhere…we are not going to be a kinder person if we never practice being kind. This means we need lots of practice…and Im not talking the be kind to your friends kinda practice…I mean God put those people hard to love in our lives for a reason! Those people that just get under your skin and annoy the heck outta you? Yeah, they are there for us to practice patience and peace and joy. Jesus said to turn the other cheek…yeah, I got your cheek right here, go ahead and kiss it, that is my first instinct!

The more we are in relation to Christ the more we can be containers for the Holy Spirit and the more that happens, the less work we actually have to do to be who God designed us to be. 

 Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them and accept the insults of their enemies. For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:30-32 NLT)

2. Give up your right to be right.  In community we also have to give up the right to be right. When we can get to a place of humility where the team success is more important than my opinion, we are working in a healthy community. You see this in marriages all the time, it’s bad when two people who both need to have the last word get married, they never shut up and just talk in circles!  

3. Don’t be afraid of conflict. Many times we don’t deal with conflict properly. We avoid or deny responsibility. This is why step 8 is so important. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. in order to be willing to make amends to people and say we are sorry, we need to recognize our part, our side of the street, the behavior that we contributed to, in an unhealthy way. And in order to recognize our part…and properly make amends and truly let it go, we need to forgive their part. Give grace when they don’t deserve it, forgiveness always.

4. Principles before personalities. Don’t be afraid of feeling betrayed. Don’t hedge your bets with people in community. Don’t only talk with or associate with people you get along with, you won’t get much practice if you only hang around friends.  

 There are so many promises in the bible that are for us! We are promised transformed lives and with that we can have a transforming community! And God promises to help us.

For I hold you by your right hand— I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. (Isaiah 41:13 NLT) 

I pray that our community can grow, that we can see fruits in our own lives, in our behaviors, in our habits in everything we are Lord, let us see hope and not despair, let us feel faith and not doubt, let us feel love and not hatred for those we need to forgive and who need to forgive us. Like it says in scripture Christ has truly set us free. Thank you Jesus, please help us to stay free!

  
 

Lost your sense of Belonging?

There is something that is inside each one of us that pulls away from belonging. Instead of identifying with a common thread in a group setting, whether it be at work, at school, at church or at family functions, we look for ways to distance ourselves from the group. We think ‘I’m the only one who doesn’t have a job, or I’m the only one with kids that act like this, I am the only one who doesn’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend.’ We are not focussed on things we have in common, things in life we can identify with and therefore we do not feel unified with the whole.

It is satan’s great plan to distract us and separate us from each other and God. When we are distracted, we try to answer questions no one is asking.. and we lose focus and drive and motivation to move forward in life and recovery. But lets be clear, in terms of heaven and hell, they are real places on opposite spectrums but satan and God are not equal, God still has victory over satan, so no matter what we go through, what conflict we need to work through or addiction we need to kick or pain we need healing from, God is still victorious and we can also be victorious when working in line with him!

When we invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts and everyday lives, He goes to soul to soul to soul, transforming our lives. We cant do community ourselves. It is more than mere friendship, we are redeemed and redeeming, transformed and transforming, loved and loving, Jesus asks that we do to others what you would have them do to you…so what does dealing with people really look like biblically? How are we to BE community and not just DO community? How do we be recovered and not just go to recovery? How do we not feel so alone with our problems? How can we have a transformed life and contribute to a fruitful, transforming community?

Here are four key concepts that make for a healthy community.

1. Progress not perfection.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22, 23 NLT)

Note how it is the Holy Spirit that produces this fruit in our lives. I think we get tripped up by not feeling good enough, we see this list and remember all the times we felt impatient. All the times we gave in and had no self-control, felt fear and not faithful, we focus on the have nots instead of practicing the haves in partnership with the Holy Spirit. We do not need to be perfect before we join a group or volunteer somewhere…we are not going to be a kinder person if we never practice being kind. This means we need lots of practice…and Im not talking the be kind to your friends kinda practice…I mean God put jerks in our lives for a reason!! The people that just get under your skin and annoy the heck outta you- yeah, they are there for us to practice patience and peace and joy. The more we are in relation to Christ, the more we can be containers for the Holy Spirit and the more that happens, the less work we actually have to do to be who we want to be.

2. Give up your right to be right.
When we can get to a place of humility where the team success is more important than my opinion, we are working toward a healthy community. I see this all the time in meetings. When two or more people who all need to have the last word try to accomplish something, they just talk in circles and don’t actually accomplish anything. How much wasted time has satan distracted us with petty judgments or arguments? Give up your right to be right.

3. Don’t be afraid of conflict.
Many times we don’t know how to deal with conflict properly, so we avoid or deny responsibility. This leads to gossip or unresolved resentments that get built up in a community. Ever hear of ‘Minnesota Nice’? Nice to the face but cold as ice? Yeah. It is real. And it is unhealthy. The bible is quite clear.

“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17 NLT)

4. Principles before personalities.
Don’t be afraid of feeling betrayed. If we think in terms of principles before personalities, we gain tolerance, peace and understanding of people who are different than us. When we think of principles before personalities we tend to take less conflicts personally, we do not get offended so easily when we focus on principles before personalities. We are also less distracted by satan so we focus on the importance of building community, not building walls.

We are promised transformed lives and with that we can have a transforming community! And God promises to help us.

For I hold you by your right hand— I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. (Isaiah 41:13 NLT)

What principles do you think make for a healthy community?

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Wagon Training

Since we are living by the spirit, let us follow the spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. -Galatians 5:25

We are original. Each one of us from our genetic make-up to our life experiences, there is no two humans alike. God made us that way on purpose, with a purpose, for a purpose. He did not mean for us to covet what someone else has, this is why the entertainment industry can be harmful if not seen through the filter of our identity in Christ. To share in human creativity in all its various mediums is a good thing. Artwork in its many forms is an expression of our thoughts, feelings and experiences. There is much to be said in the beauty of paintings, poems, tattoos and movie scripts. We can understand each other better, we can relate and identify and feel a common bond in our culture and learn from others when we are open to different interpretations of life. But too often we allow the distraction of these things to detract from our purpose, closing us off from God’s plan for our life.

Think of a wagon wheel. We are the center axle. From each spoke extends a part of our lives. Family from one, spouses, work from another, school, kids, friends, church, God, they all have their own area on the wagon wheel revolving around us as the axle. This is the way most of us relate to people, places and situations in our lives.

Let’s say we have a habit of praying and reading the bible with our morning coffee. Great. That gets finished and then we move onto the next thing, tackling the kids, getting them off to school, heading to work, making dinner with the spouse, round and round we go, day after day after day. If this is all you want your life to be the goal is simple. However, life is never that easy. We are usually not that comfortable. Accidents happen, betrayal occurs, and pretty soon we live a life that is spiraling out of control, the kids are skipping school, dinner is McDonald’s and you and the spouse are arguing non-stop. But think about this…

The reason your life is out of control is you were never meant to be IN control.

What would happen if we put God as the axle? He would be in every aspect of our day, not just when we squeezed him in with our cuppa joe. He could direct our relationships, guide our steps, help us raise our kids and have a great marriage.

God is interested in every part of our lives, not just the spiritual part. As we live by the Holy Spirit’s power, we need to submit every aspect of our lives to God-emotional, physical, social, intellectual, vocational. Paul says that because we’re saved, we should live like it! The Holy Spirit is the source of your new life, so keep in step with his leading. Don’t let anything or anyone else determine your values and standards in any area of your life.

Who is the axle of your wagon wheel?