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?

Attention Retained

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:17-19 NLT)

Why did the apostle Paul pray for the church to be rooted and grounded in love?

In a 2012 poll taken, 76% of Americans identified themselves as Christians while only 36% of those attend church on a weekly basis. We attend church and listen to a sermon, message, teaching, whatever the title of the talk is, the point is the same- to teach us biblical principles and how we can relate to scripture and apply it to our own lives. The trouble with saying we are christian but not having regular church attendance is the lack of retention of what we learn or the ability to carry the principles we learn on any given Sunday morning into the rest of our week. Well, we can hardly call ourselves something we know nothing about. It would be like me calling myself a pilot because I fly as a passenger to Florida once a year. What’s more, there are different styles of learning and if we are not connected to a christian community the chances of retention drops dramatically.

Paul wanted all people to be made complete with the fullness of life and God’s power. To fully experience God and the love He is takes training. By learning how we and our children retain information we will be in a better position to practice biblical principles in all our affairs and thus gain a better understanding of God’s love and experience the promises He gives.

There are four styles of learning. They are visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. Here is a description taken from and article by Dr. Mary Smialek.

“Visual learners best remember what is seen. They tend to remember faces instead of names, are good readers and have good imaginations. They respond best to instruction that includes reading, posters, graphs and videos. Visual learners:
take copious notes
often close their eyes to visualize and remember
usually neat and clean with carefully coordinated clothing
benefit from illustrations and visual presentations
are attracted to written or spoken language rich in pictorial imagery
seek quiet, passive surroundings ideal

Auditory learners best remember what is heard. They remember names well, respond easily to phonics instruction and may like to talk when writing. They benefit most from instruction based on lectures, discussions and questioning. Some good methods to use with auditory learners include singing songs or listening to tapes that relate to content area to be studied and developing rhymes and mnemonics to help remember information. Auditory learners:
remember names, tend to forget faces
may not coordinate clothes but can explain what they have on and why
hum or talk to themselves
enjoy listening to themselves and others
likes to read aloud
remembers best by verbalizing
have difficulties reading maps or diagrams
have little trouble learning in a noisy environment

Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing, experimenting and involvement. These learners remember what was done, not necessarily what was seen or heard, and might have difficulty paying attention and staying focused on their schoolwork or homework. Kinesthetic learners benefit most from hands-on instruction, using manipulatives, role-playing or building things. Kinesthetic learners:
need to move around, be active and take frequent breaks
speak with their hands and with gestures
seek out and find ways to move around
tinker when bored
rely on what they can directly experience or perform
enjoy manipulating materials

Tactile learners like to use their hands and fingers to learn. Those learn best by writing, drawing, doodling and tend to be creative.They benefit from instructions such as sewing, painting or drawing. Tactile learners:
need to touch or feel objects when learning a new concept
enjoys designing things
likes to illustrate written work
finds sculpting, painting and drawing relaxing
Appreciates physically expressed encouragement (e.g. a pat on the back)”

It is not only helpful as individuals and parents to know the differences of learning styles to understand how we learn but it is helpful in understanding how we can teach. When you are involved in a church community you begin to serve. Whether you serve in a church service or the children’s programming, creating an environment that serves as many of these styles as possible helps church attenders retain and grow. And the more we know, the more we grow in Christ’s love. Make church attendance a part of your life, find one that suits not only your style of learning but everyone in the family. When we are connected to a church family we gain wisdom and understanding of humanity, ourselves and in the fullness of God, we are made complete.