Community. Whether we want to be or not, we are in community. And lots of it.
And the list could go on. And in all of these various communities we find ourselves in, we have a role as either a receiver or a giver; ideally, in the best of communities, we all work at keeping a good balance of actually being both.
We tend to focus on how much giving determines a community’s greatness. Generosity no doubt strengthens every fiber of a community. But let’s be honest; there are some challenges with being all about giving and disregarding the value of receiving.
Jesus illustrated this in the scene where perfume was lavished on him. No one could out give Jesus. Yet he illustrated the humility to allow someone to give to him. Did he really need what he was receiving? Some thought no; he believed otherwise. A better question would be, how did Jesus receive the service from others that he taught them to give? In order to fulfill his own teaching of love and peace, he had to allow himself to receive it.
I’m not the best receiver. I’m a much better giver. What has helped my growth in receiving is this definition of community: experiencing Jesus’ love through other humans. I can’t control their giving and receiving, but I certainly can control mine.
Here’s to balanced giving and receiving in all our communities!
It’s possible for someone in my position to ask myself this question more than others; but the reality is we all ask it, consciously or not: “Why is this person in my life?”
Reality also is we can ask that question from a negative or a positive place. The negative place might contain spoken or unspoken expletives. The positive place would not; they would be replaced with a better question, something like this: “How can I fulfill the reason God placed me in this person’s life?”
When you read John’s account of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (chapter 4), you get the sense Jesus asked this better question. It’s most likely what prompted him to start the conversation. He needed something from her, yet he wanted even more to reveal to her she needed something that only he could provide. The Father had brought them together for a reason.
If you were to make a list of those people you believe God has put in your life for a reason, who would make the list? What if you wrote their names down and then added by each name what that reason might be? It could be something as simple as to listen. Maybe a slightly bigger reason of to recognize. What if like Jesus, God has given you something unique that, with his help, only you could provide for this person? According to Paul in Ephesians 2:10, God’s already given you what you need to fulfill your reason. Nothing stands in your way. Go ahead. Give ’em what God gave you.
This quote came from my @youversion devotion this morning:
“My perspective of every situation will either encourage or dishearten my trust in God.”
I believe that. So to put it to a test, here’s a simple exercise I started as a journal entry. You might give it a try also.
Make two headings on the page: Dishearten & Encourage
Under dishearten, write a perspective that clearly lacks trust in God. Maybe something like, “God doesn’t care.”
Then under encourage, write the perspective that counters this statement. Possibly, “God is always at work.”
So far I’ve written four competing perspectives on my page. I’m going to review it daily and add to it throughout the week. The goal-build trust instead of sabotage it.
What exercise might help you build your trust in God?
“Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow yet with a sure hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the holy scriptures and proven by all history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord, and in so much as we know that by his divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
-A proclamation by the president, March 30, 1863, Our Presidents and Their Prayers
Abraham Lincoln proclaimed this 156 years ago. What might he proclaim today if he were president? What national sins would he call us to confess?
I picked up this audio book last weekend at the library. It hasn’t disappointed. Here’s one example why:
“I know there is a God, and that he hates the injustice of slavery. I see the storm coming, and I know that his hand is in it. If he has a place and a work for me, and I think he has, I believe I am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything. I know I am right because I know that liberty is right; for Christ teaches it, and Christ is God.” -Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois, 1860
Anything you read or watch about Lincoln depicts the burden he carried. What man or woman can imagine it? But when I heard this note read, I heard how he managed the burden.
- He managed it because he believed the burden came from God.
- He managed it because he was discerning to see it coming before it arrived.
- He managed it because he trusted the work, call, and preparation by God for anyone to carry any size burden.
- He managed it because he knew his place, which he chose to humbly embrace.
- He managed it because he viewed it as a burden for truth and right.
- He managed it because he was aligned with God, the life-giver and sustainer of all burden carriers.
What can you learn from Lincoln’s example? How could you better manage your burden with these principles?
If awe is a longing, then embedded in that longing is the cry for a destination. And if awe requires a destination, then every moment of awe in this life merely prepares us for the incalculable awe that is to come. You just can’t write a book about awe and not talk about eternity. Perhaps we can find no more real and present argument for heaven in the angst that we all carry in the face of the temporary and dissatisfying awes of the present. Whether we know it or not, the awe of every human being-that desire to be amazed, blown away, moved, and satisfied-is actually a universal craving to see God face-to-face. All the awesome things in creation point me to the awesome God who created and holds them together, and his presence is the destination where my hunger will finally be satisfied. God designed this present world to stimulate us so we would hunger for another world. On the other side, we won’t need the fingers of creation pointing us to God’s awesome glory because we will see that glory face-to-face and dwell in the light and heat of its sun forever and ever. We will finally stand in the actual presence of God, and we will bask in heart-satisfied awe, never to long again.
This paragraph comes from the epilogue of Awe, a book I first blogged about in 2016. I just finished my annual reading of it. I committed to read it annually to renew my awe. But I also read it this week in order to consider developing and offering a study of it for groups at my church. If you attend First Baptist Bradenton, stay tuned.
While reading the epilogue, I also couldn’t help but think about Frank (see post from May entitled Serving Frank). We celebrated his life yesterday. His longing is over. His heart is satisfied, never to long again.
It’s been a good week.
I have a new favorite verse. At least for today.
“This is what the Lord says: Stand by the roadways and look. Ask about the ancient paths, “Which is the way to what is good?” Then take it and find rest for yourselves. But they protested, “We won’t!””Jeremiah 6:16 CSB
(Check out how these translations ask the question: ESV, NIV, NKJV “Where the good way is?” The Message paraphrases it as the “tried-and-true road.”)
The visual is so clear, yet we seem blind.
Rest doesn’t have to be that hard. Temptations draw us away convincing us rest is a myth. But according to God’s message through Jeremiah, rest has been found by all our preceding generations. In this day of great change and progress, God’s message is still the same:
“Stop hurrying about looking for a new way. Cease driving up and down the road chasing disguised lights of hope. Search out those who have heavenly peace. Humbly ask them the road to it. Join me on that road where rest awaits anyone who trusts rather than protests.”
There seems to be an awakening. Some see it. Others are trying.
The awakening is to who we are. And the recurring descriptor is “Broken.”
Those who see it aren’t loathing about it, much like the enemy would want.
Others are allowing him to tattoo “Damaged Goods” on their minds and souls.
Yes, it’s true. We’re all broken. God knew that the minute he breathed life into our lungs.
Yet, it may take experiencing brokenness to see our reflection.
In that moment when we see the imperfections, the scars, or the quirks, we have a choice. Whose voice will we believe?
The enemy cries, “You’re worthless. Done. Pitiful. Useless. Ugly. Undesirable. Lost Forever. Unlovable.” On and on he goes.
Our Creator whispers, “I created you. You have eternal purpose. I love you unconditionally. Your scars are beautiful to me.” On and on he counters.
In their song “Scars,” I Am They sing about this truth. They declare that their eyes have been opened by their deepest pain, the brokenness that brought them back to their Creator. Instead of hating their scars, they say they are thankful for them because they now stand in confidence, they are not who they were before, and they can tell a story of God’s faithfulness and deliverance.
When you sing about your brokenness, what are the lyrics? Whose cries or whispers do you share?
The smartphone, with its endless apps, is designed to whisper to you that the thing you are doing is not the thing you ought to be doing. The phone isn’t encouraging your progress; it’s causing you stress. Want to know what hostile AI [artificial intelligence] looks like? You’re holding it.
That’s a quote from chapter six, Set Tech Limits, from Ben Sasse’s book Them. There’s a reason that this chapter is the longest in his book. He’s preaching, quite convincingly, that the quick advancement of technology is a major contributor to the cultural challenges in America. These challenges are apparent by the fact that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs creating these advancements don’t want their own kids to have iPads and smartphones. “We know how powerful those things are.”
There’s so much in this chapter that, unless you keep up with all the latest tech news, you have no idea about-the possibility of living to 200 because of advancements like our skin transmitting information to the internet or microscopic computers swimming around in our bloodstream repairing cancers before they are diagnosed, to name a couple. These sound like good things. Sasse shares also some bad things, particularly those that will impact the generations who don’t know a world without AI.
He doesn’t drop the fear and leave. Sasse provides doable suggestions for setting technology limits for yourself and your family. He shares his personal boundaries for how long he engages technology and at what time of day. For his family, they observe a “digital Sabbath” for a big chunk of Sundays. Other practical suggestions include turning off notifications, stop checking likes, read comments only at a predetermined time, and unfollow politics addicts.
This post is my final post referencing Sasse’s book. My recommendation is:
- If you are American, read it
- If you are a parent, read it
- If you are culturally concerned, read it
- If you are desiring healing encouraged by love in your family and your community, read it
A couple of posts ago I mentioned Ben Sasse’s book Them. I’ll finish it before the sun goes down, but I’m taking a break to ask a question.
The question comes after reading chapter seven entitled “Buy a Cemetary Plot” (you should get your own copy to find out what that title’s about). That chapter contains thoughtful words from a 2017 commencement address by Josh Gibbs, a teacher and author in Richmond, Virginia. Address paraphrase: life is full of seasons in which we are tempted to look forward to the next season in order to find contentment. Sasse includes this quote by Gibbs:
Contentment is a condition of the soul, and it does not come with getting what you want, but in giving thanks to God for what you have been given.
Both writers lead their reader to the third chapter of Ecclesiastes where Solomon describes how everything has its time:
Birth, death; love, hate; gain, lose; weeping, laughing; breaking down, building up; silence, speaking; war, peace; gathering, discarding; mourning, dancing; planting, gleaning; embracing, distancing; tearing, sewing.
Then Sasse wrote this:
The wise man learns how to grow where he is planted. He chooses joy. He embraces the time and season.
And that’s what forms my question: What time is it?
- What time is it in your season of life?
- What time is it in your family?
- What time is it in your community?
- What time is it in your church?
- What time is it in your country?
Solomon said every time has a purpose. To wring every ounce of purpose out of their time, the wise make these choices:
- Choose to embrace this time and season
- Choose joy
- Choose to learn and grow
- Choose to thank God for what He’s already given