Contacting Versus Connecting

This article, Contacting Versus Connecting, is from the Church and Culture blog.

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One of the great myths of relational life is that community is something found. In this fairy tale, community is simply out there – somewhere – waiting to be discovered like Prince Charming finding Cinderella. All you have to do is find the right person, join the right group, get the right job or become involved with the right church. It’s kind of an “Over the Rainbow” thing; it’s not here, so it must be over there.

Which is why so many people – and you’ve seen them and probably flirted with this yourself – go from relationship to relationship, city to city, job to job, church to church, looking for the community that they think is just around the corner if they could only find the right people and the right place. The idea is that real community exists somewhere and we simply must tap into it. It’s not something you have to work at; in fact, if you have to work at it, then you know it’s not real community.

This mindset runs rampant in our day. If you have to work at community in a marriage, you must not be right for each other. If you have to work on community where you are employed, you’ve got a bad boss or bad coworkers or a bad structure. If you have to work at community in a neighborhood, you just picked the wrong subdivision. If you have to work on things with people in a church, well, there are obviously just problems with the church or its leadership or… yep, its “community.”

I cannot stress enough how soundly unrealistic, much less unbiblical, this is. Community is not something you find; it’s something you build. What you long for isn’t about finding the right mate, the right job, the right neighborhood, the right church—it’s about making your marriage, making your workplace, making your neighborhood and making your church the community God intended. Community is not something discovered; it is something forged. I don’t mean to suggest any and all relationships are designed for, say, marriage. Or that there aren’t dysfunctional communities you should flee from. My point is that all relationships of worth are products of labor.

This is why the Bible talks about people needing to form and make communities, not just come together as a community or “experience” community. It’s why principles are given – at length – for how to work through conflict. It’s why communication skills are articulated in the Bible and issues such as anger are instructed to be dealt with. It’s why the dynamics of successfully living with someone in the context of a marriage or family are explored in depth. As the author of Hebrews puts it so plainly:

        So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your

        feet… run for it! Work at getting along with each other.

        (Hebrews 12:12-14, The Message)

James Emery White

A Million Little Choices

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As we go into the summer months, where is God leading you? As we live a million little choices, we set a trajectory to our lives, our families, and our groups. More often than not, we make these choices without even recognizing what we are doing. Today, where is Jesus inviting you to align with His Kingdom? In the midst of a lifetime of choices, today will you make just one to align with Him? Maybe its showing grace to a coworker. Maybe its loving your spouse. Maybe its making time to be with Jesus today. Will you make the choice?

Click the link to watch this short (two-minute) video on RightNow Media: https://player.rightnow.org/98562

Distractions

What distracts you the most? Social media? TV? Magazines? Pastor Ryan has a message for you about distractions, take a moment to watch:

 

Stronger Than The Struggle

Next month Pastor Ryan will host a gathering for Group Leaders to discuss the topic of spiritual warfare (for more information click here). In a perfectly timed and relevant way that only God can orchestrate, I was recently invited to preview a book on spiritual warfare called Stronger Than The Struggle, by Havilah Cunnington.

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The book includes several hard truths about spiritual warfare, but it also provides words of encouragement, hope and reassurance. I was reminded again and again that even though we go to battle every day, the war has already been won.

Here are the top five lessons I learned from this book:

  • We can’t always grow up to be anyone we want to be, no matter what we’ve been told, what we believe, or how hard we try. But if our success is defined in a God-directed way, we will live fulfilling and successful lives knowing we became our personal best.
  • We have to move out of fear to walk into courage. We have to move out of shame to walk into purity. We have to move out of anxiety and worry to walk into peace and rest. Jesus will not do it for us, but he will invite us into it.
  • Jesus didn’t die on a cross so we could snuggle up to shame, fear or failure. He died to give us full access to everything he has to give, which is more than we could imagine.
  • The devil comes to shake you, but God comes to steady you.

This one is especially fitting for groups:

  • The enemy attacks at night because he knows our community isn’t always available in the evening. He lures us when we are isolated and most vulnerable. We are most powerful when we are around our community, our pack, our tribe. So it makes sense that many of our battles will take place when we’re not in the safety of that community.

For more information about Stronger Than The Struggle and Havilah Cunnington, visit www.havilahcunnington.com.

Book Review by Sarah Biggerstaff

Overlooked Aspects of the Christmas Story

Many of us will read the Christmas Story out of the Bible with our families in the coming days, and if you’re like me, the parts that stand out are the angel appearing to the shepherds, the faithfulness of the shepherds who went to find Jesus right away, and Mary “treasuring” the information the shepherds shared with her.

In this excerpt from his Christmas devotional, pastor and author Paul Tripp reflects on three aspects of the Christmas story that are often overlooked. Please take three minutes to watch this short video.

May you have a blessed holiday season as you reflect on the sacrifice, honesty and glory of our Savior.

How’s Your Prayer Life?

Take a moment to think about the way that you pray. Has it become routine, or do you feel like you’re really connecting with God and having a conversation? When was the last time you heard from the Spirit? What did he say? However you would rate your prayer life, I invite you to take about ten minutes to watch this video of Francis Chan talk about prayer. The stories he shares about the growth of his own prayer life are encouraging and motivating. Feel free to pass the link on to your group members if you’d like.

What Are You Thankful For?

This week, many of us will sit around the dinner table and discuss what we are most thankful for. Sometimes the answer is obvious, and sometimes we struggle. This video (less than three minutes) keeps it real. Watch.

From all of us at Lighthouse, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

The Bible in 50 Words

Can you summarize the entire Bible in just 50 words? Check out this video to see a unique summary of the Old and New Testaments, depicted with images and phrases in just under two minutes.

Skin In The Game

Andy Stanley, the Senior Pastor of North Point Community Church (Georgia) and author of many books including The Next Generation Leader, recently cancelled his weekend sermon to have a candid conversation concerning race, racism and faith in front of the congregation. I think it’s worth watching. Click below to stream it now.

If the video does not play, copy and paste the following address in your browser:

http://player.theplatform.com/p/IfSiAC/i9vn_pn1A1mB/select/rz1rhqVEPYlJ?params=affiliate%3Dnorthpointonline.tv

 

Soak It In

How often do you take the time to just “soak it in?” Try this, lay on the floor and put your favorite worship music on. Don’t try and worship your way to a ‘better attitude’ but just let your Spirit worship God.

Take some time now to soak in this amazing cover of Be Thou My Vision by Chelsea Moon.