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!

  
 

The Point of Love

  Many people are looking for a formula to their problems. If I pray the right prayers, do the right things, don’t do the wrong things, then life will be peachy keen.   We look for excellence in our lives and while seeking a spiritual life helps us do that, helps us to know how to line up our works with God’s will…we sometimes miss the point. We inadvertently keep the focus on us instead of focusing on Jesus. 
The point of it all is Jesus. God’s love is pointed to us through Jesus.  The point of it all is understanding our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What habits or routines do you have in place that keep the focus on your relationship with God? What habits and routines keeps you distracted?  

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Colossians 3:16

 We are all different. What practices that keep me close to God may not work for you. I love going on hikes. The fresh air and beauty of creation, the birds, the sounds, the feel of rough terrain, they all remind me of God. To others though, these things may be a big fat distraction. Bugs buzzing, over stimulation of senses due to leaves and trees and rustling of branches. I liken it to camping. Some people love to camp. There are others, though, that would rather be staked through the heart than have to eat a cheap hot dog on a stick and poop over a log out in the woods! 
Some people feel close to God worshipping in a church, others feel close when they can give to others in generosity, still others feel connected to Jesus when they are serving others or when they are studying or learning new things.  Whatever the spiritual pathway, the key to a personal relationship with Jesus is to seek out what disciplines make you feel connected and practice taking a risk in faith.  

 When we have relationship, we can have trust and faith.  God wants us to put our trust in him not the money in the bank account. Not the relationship with the guy or girl, but in Him! To trust in the knowledge that the all powerful, all knowing everlasting God loves us and desires an abundant life rich with peace and serenity and goodness.  We get the promises of God when we remember to focus on Jesus and on His love for us.

 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:9, 10 NLT)

It isn’t so much about how hard we work or how spiritual we seem.  It isn’t even about how much we love God.  It is all about His love for us, His sacrifice to us and how He desires a relationship with us. When we can tap into believing God’s love for us, love will overflow, abundance will overflow, our life will be overflowing.

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT)  

What do you need to do to spend some time in relationship with God today?

Acquaintance with the Spirit

Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. (Proverbs 12:25 NLT)

There are three stages of relationships. The most basic is the acquaintance stage:

“Hey, how are you?”
“I’m good.”
“Good.”

End of conversation. Maybe sharing details of lives, maybe not.
The next stage is the personal stage. This is when we can actually share details of our lives and our feelings surrounding these details.

“Hey, how are you?”
“Oh, not good, I am dealing with a difficult time.”
“That’s too bad, I’ve gone through hard times too.”

And then there is a third kind of relationship. There may actually be very few people we allow into this stage, the spiritual stage. In this stage, we not only listen to our fellows and friends, but we invite the Holy Spirit into our conversations and time together. We pray for them and we pray with them, and we allow them to pray for us.
Look at yourself frankly and ask, where have I physically isolated from dealing with my relationships? Where have I spiritually held back and isolated, either by way of not making time for my own growth or not working on a spiritual relationship with others?
If you want to have deeper level of friendships with people, take a chance and begin praying with them.

“…and though perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray.” -Big Book of A.A.

Father, thank You so much for all three levels of conversation. But thank You most for designing us to yearn for depth in relationships. Thank You for meeting us as we meet each other in honesty, integrity, and transparency before You. I pray for each of us to be willing to be transparent and grow deeper in faith with you and stronger in relationship with each other. May we see the fruits of honest relationships in our lives. In Jesus name, Amen!

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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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Who doesn’t love that first date?

Realize that most stress and tension is just growth trying to take place.

The sadness creeps in like the sneaky woodtick on a dog-attaching and burrowing into the skin, feeding off any positive inklings one may have felt only moments before. Don’t worry.

You could have a blossoming romance developing, the first stages of dating when all you want to do is know everything there is to know about the tocking of the mind and the ticking of the heart of that special someone. Staying up all night to talk, don’t need to eat or sleep cause all you need is to hear the voice and feel the hope of this perfect love. Each day you could feel reborn. Each day you learn more about yourself as you learn more about him and what he want for your life and the lives you influence. Earthly desires fall away when you are close to him, when you can sit with his hands wrapped around your shoulders, or holding your hand, filling your heart with hope- the things you have gone through, the mistakes you have made do not matter when you are with him.

When you are with him you can use your past to not only mold your future for better but help those who need and desire a better life too. To be not of the world but still of use in this world means you do not isolate but instead extrapolate a better situation to put yourself and your family in.

Don’t get caught up in the worries of things not gotten. Quit searching for answers to questions not asked. Just let the trinity unfold the story before you for the next clue in the amazing life.

Come to Evergreen Community Church this Friday at 7pm and again on Sunday at 10am to meet the man of your dreams.

The Main Question

Who has played the game monopoly? I can pretty much guarantee no matter your age, you have probably played at least once in your life, right? Growing up, in my family we would have monopoly marathons…me and my cousins would have sleepovers and play it all weekend long, breaking to eat and sleep, picking up where we left off if we got bored and needed a break.. or if grandma kicked us out of the house to blow the stink off us (as she put it.)

Isn’t it funny, no matter how many times we did great at getting park place first, or boardwalk, or all the utilities, even if we collected all the sets of colors, all the blue properties, all the greens, built houses and hotels, at the end of the game…what happened to it? It all ended up back in the box. It all goes back in the box.

Is that not an accurate picture of the game of life? Life on earth is not going to last forever. This is true whether you are a person of faith or not. You may act like the game is going to last forever. But it doesn’t. We all end up in a box sooner or later. The thing we spend our time on, the worth we put into things, is it stuff that just goes back in the box at the end of the game? The everyday idols take over and soon we are so off track, so lost we don’t know what happened!

In recovery we talk a lot about the old life and the new life…this isn’t so different than becoming a Christ follower, in both instances we have the old life and the new life and we aspire to improve that new life, make it better than the old, otherwise, really what is the point? If we continue to do the same habits as we did before our life will not change. I propose a different scenario for 2013. To shift our focus off of things in a box, and onto something different.

In 2nd corinthians 5 verses 16-20 in the message version, the bible states, “Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!”

A new life grows, it flourishes, erupting forth! Through the holy spirit and our faith and works, a new life flourishes!

How can we create this new life and actually create new habits? Ask yourself what are you valuing?

Jon Ortberg, a pastor and author in Menlo Park, California says in his book, “when the game is over, it all goes back in the box” that nothing else in this world matters except these 2 things:

Who you loved and who loved you?

Nothing else matters, not money, not fame, not how many possessions you own, but who you loved and who loved you. if you can keep that thought in mind, it could change the way you make decisions and change what you value and make lasting life change.

Doing Less Requires More

I was with my 2 year old nephew yesterday. Getting down to the level of a toddler is such great therapy. No matter what stressors my week entails, my weekly playdate helps my sanity on so many levels. Being able to hear his vocabulary grow as we discuss hot button topics like who is more awesome, Thomas the train or Percy? The magnetic force of a mudpit drawing us to land palm-first in squeals of laughter. The connection between a dog and his boy as they romp in said mudpit. These are great times. But I would not do any good if I do not continue to challenge my sweet newphew’s vocabulary, introducing him to new words, creating new worlds with full sentences. If I did not teach him to wash his hands or rinse out the filthy jeans after letting him play in the mud, he would grow up thinking it is absolutely fine to be Charlie Brown’s friend “Pigpen.” And as cute as a dirty 2 year old is, a filthy 40 year old man…not so much. Sure, it is easier to just do it all myself, takes less time too…but, if I didn’t teach him to clean himself, feed himself, talk himself, I would be too busy cleaning up after him, feeding him and interpreting baby language to help him build a foundation for life. I would be stunting his growth and development.

In the local church, I think many get stuck in the basement foundation that keeps sinking in quicksand, instead of moving believer’s further up their spiritual path, higher to the skies of their true purpose. We get stuck in the distraction of each other’s problems instead of pointing to Christ as the solution.

“No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up to know the whole truth and tell it in love- like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.”-Ephesians 4:14-16

At EVERGREEN we keep it simply about Jesus. We do a few things and we aspire to do them well. We study the gospel. We serve each other. We invite others to know Christ too. We do this by creating a creative distraction free environment on sunday mornings, learning and teaching how to serve others. By investing in young leaders in our leadership structure, kids and student programming. By encouraging personal growth by attending our newest experiment Evergreen Recovery, where we learn to break down life in manageable chunks in large group teaching and small group sharing. We give generously to organizations that are better equipped than us to help locally and globally in like minded missions.

No one is perfect. Not one person on earth has all the answers. But we can all have an influence that is positive in the lives of others.

When you do for others, do you also take the time to teach?

Grace as Promised

“Do you suffer from burnout?”
“Five signs to tell you are near burnout.”
“How to prevent burnout in your job.”

These phrases are everywhere I look! Ministry blogs, leadership articles, tweets and statuses and whatever have you, the term ‘burnout’ is overwrought with a variety of meaning and circumstances and reasons and justifications. Let’s just be honest…burnout happens when we worship our own activity instead of God. . Point blank. End of story. So what next?

Once you grasp the truth of why you are feeling burnout, you can see your part, then you can begin to see that it was probably inevitable. Burnout is sometimes the only way for us to fall on our knees and see the difference between our works and God’s grace.

The Big Book of A.A. describes what is called ‘The Promises’.

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace…we will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Sounds great to me! But two sentences later…”They [the promises] will always materialize if we work for them.” This is a misnomer. Don’t get me wrong- there are action steps we need to take in order to fully accept God’s promises for our lives, in order to accept the abundance he has promised. Evergreen is launching a faith-based recovery ministry on October 30 so we can teach the actions steps but to always remember, God gave us Jesus. We often forget the importance of this sacrifice. We misunderstand the grace given to us in this one act.

Maybe we don’t realize the longing in our deepest desires is a longing for God, the hole we are trying to fill with earthly things is really our desire to know Him, we want to feel unconditional love. So we try to earn God’s grace. Many of us have never witnessed or felt true agape love, it always had conditions set. Attention from parents only if the grades were good (or only when they were bad!) The boy who is sooo cute will like you only if you do what all the other girls do. Friends will value you only if you dress, talk, act a certain way.

The truth of the matter is I can control my actions better than I can control love, this is why I get stuck in self-reliance and not God-reliance. No good activity, no good deeds, no set of rules will ever satisfy the longing for God. But good news! Our works can come from a simple loving response to God’s grace! Although even then it is not of us; Agape love can burst through us but is not of us. This concept can give us peace that we can work in reverence and praise to God, but do not need to work FOR His love and salvation. The longer you spend with God, the easier it is to wrap the brain around God’s grace. Wow, could that be the prevention to burnout we are looking for?

The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.-2Corinthians 13:14 (msg)

Destination Mind Shift

Isn’t it funny how we need permission before we can make a mind shift? That it often takes another’s perspective on our situation or advice before we can take action on a problem or fear we have? Joshua 1:9 grants us the permission that may be holding us in the bondage of fear. It simply says, “This is my command- be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

The mind shift we are afforded when we get another perspective on our situation is why it is so important to pay careful attention to the influences in our life. If we accept the advice of someone who is far from God, we will be steered far from God. If we inundate our senses with experiences that God would not approve of, we are taken further from the beam and thus further from contentment and fulfillment of our life.

The bible is the BEST way to learn who to listen to and what help we can give others. It can help with our finances (Hebrews 13:5) our relationships (1 Cor. 13:4) and our work (2 Chronicles 15:7). It truly is an endless resource to finding that contentment and achievement in all areas of our lives. Are the influences in your life bringing you closer to your destiny or further from it?

DON’T BELIEVE WHAT YOU THINK

YOU CAN’T ALWAYS BELIEVE WHAT YOU THINK.

Yup. I know. This concept from Proverbs 14:12 is hard to wrap the brain around:

There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death. (AMP)

See, when I make choices I absolutely need to ask questions and get help outside of myself in the form of prayer and council and process with those I trust and respect. I cannot trick myself into thinking that I know what is best, that I got it handled on my own. I can never think that I am above needing God’s love and grace in my life.

Remembering that we can’t always believe what we think is also helpful when making decisions and in dealing with conflicts. Let God determine the truth, not our finite selves.

If I forget to let Jesus lead me in ALL things, I tend to look to human weapons in dealing with conflict. When we try to meet our own needs, working independently of God we turn to manipulation, gossip, slander ridicule, threats, blame, nagging, deception and silence. These tactics are a cycle of dysfunction and need to be immediately rebuked. Here are some things I try to do to rebuke my human weapons:

Courageously speak up with questions.

Remain in a teachable spirit, not looking for what is “fair” but what is truth.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY- Design your own private time with God.

Others can pray for us. Others can encourage us. But if we don’t make space DAILY to get with God alone, we aren’t going to experience the life change God wants for us, our church and our community. At Evergreen we understand that the Church of Jesus Christ is the only hope for the world. But if you think that me eating healthy in hopes that you lose the weight (but you are still stopping at Mickey D’s every other day!) can happen, it’s time to stop believing what you think! Life Change cannot happen without YOUR intention. Miracles cannot be seen without YOUR surrender. YOUR own walk with God will not happen with another’s legs.

HOW WILL YOU PRIORITIZE TODAY?