★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★

115-daily-dependence-community-that-mattersIn the last post ★ “Back to the Basics” – God’s Mysterious Plan Revealed ★, we talked about the importance of going to church because God’s plan is to use the body of believers to display His character and to meet the needs of those who are hurting and under resources.  We also talked about how in Hebrews 10:24-25 we are instructed to motivate one another and not neglect meeting together, as some people do.  I had some good discussions with people since that post asking, “What about meeting in small groups or one on one with other believers?”  So I thought I would explore that in today’s Thought.  The timing was impeccable, as I was asked to share at a Men’s Breakfast yesterday about my experience with meeting in small group settings.  So part of this post will be the testimony of how God has worked in and through me as I have focused on building community that matters.  I am not sharing this so that you would think highly of me but rather to show how awesome God in how He is using this broken man to reach as many people as I possibly can.

First and foremost though, I believe that a time of corporate worship (i.e. Church) is essential for us to grow in the Lord as Hebrews 10:24-25 instructs.  (If you want to learn more check out ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #3 – Adoration That Matters ★).  But just like you don’t eat once a week, we do need additional opportunities to gather with other believers to be nourished in our faith to grow and be “sharpened” as Proverbs 27:17 instructs…

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On Wednesday nights my wife and I are part of a Lifegroup from church which is a meeting with 10 other people that we “do life together” and study God’s Word.  The purpose is to build biblical community so that when the storms of life hit (and they will,) there is a group of people who are “waiting in the wings” to come alongside and help you.

Another opportunity to build community is to have a small group bible study or what my church has called a “Fight Club”.

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The purpose of a Fight Club is for 2 to 3 people of the same gender to meet and talk about the Bible, share about issues they’re having in their life and pray for one another.  It is based on this prayer that my Pastor challenged the church to pray to daily that we would have:

"A HUNGER for God's Word.  A BROKENNESS over sin.  And a BURDEN for people."  Marty Collier
“A HUNGER for God’s Word.  A BROKENNESS over sin.  And a BURDEN for people.”  Marty Collier

Unbeknownst to me, this would radically change me, and awaken a fire in me for biblical community.  And I would encourage you to pray it daily too!

Fight Clubs can be or Women or Men who want to deepen their relationship with God and with other believers.  For me it obviously revolved building a biblical community with other men, something that I always wanted but had escaped me until June 6, 2016 was when I was first introduced to the idea of a Fight Club.  We formed the first Fight Club I was a part of from the guys in our Lifegroup since we knew each other already.  It was great gathering with these men because it was the beginning of something that I always wanted in my life…to be part of a brotherhood!  We met through the summer until our schedules changed.  Then our group multiplied from 1 to 3 groups as we disbanded and formed new ones.  Since then I’ve been meeting with 1 to 2 other guys on Thursday mornings for breakfast as schedules have permitted.  As we have built biblical community together, I realized the need to reach out to as many men as possible but just did not know how to accomplish within an already busy schedule of balancing my work and home life.

THE UNLIKELY SOLUTION

In the post, ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★, we delved into the importance of developing a quiet time with God each day.  For the past 6 years I have made a practice of starting my quiet time at 4:30 am before my wife and kids get up.  You may be thinking, “4:30 in the morning that is crazy!”  But I have found in my life, unless I prioritize reading and studying the Bible in my day it won’t get done.  As I have prayed for God to give me “a burden for people” several of my good friends in my neighborhood came to mind so I offered to do a Fight Club with my neighbor at 5 am since he was only two doors down and shockingly he agreed.  We have been meeting since August 2016.  When we started, he was in a good place in regards to already attending church services and a part of a lifegroup but like me, he didn’t have a close connection with another guy either.  We had a good friendship but through the Fight Club it has reached a deeper level as we have shared our lives and struggles together.  Last November he received the terrible news that the cancer he thought he had beaten was back.  The Fight Club created the opportunity for me to support him as he is now battling Stage 4 liver cancer.  I am thankful that God has given me the privilege to walk alongside of him during this dark time.  That would not have happened if I had not invited him in the first place to study the Bible with me.

But the testimony doesn’t end there.  My oldest daughter has a friend who needed help with some issues he was going through. We met at Starbucks back in September 2016 and I shared my testimony with him of how God delivered me out of the same darkness he was in.  God used my past mistakes to open the door to connect with this 15-year-old.  Since then we have been meeting after school on Fridays for a Bible study which has included my daughter and another neighbor’s son as well.  I know by the rules of the Fight Club, she should not be a part of so we will just call this a Bible Study…hahaha!  On November 6, 2016, my daughter’s friend attended Sunday morning service for the first time.  When the Pastor opened up the altar for prayer, he went down and accepted Jesus as his Savior!  He now attends the student services every Wednesday night, Sunday morning services and volunteers in the children’s ministry.  He is in fire for God and has been inviting his friends from his former lifestyle to church and our Friday afternoon Bible study including his former drug dealer!  That would not have happened if I had not invited him in the first place to study the Bible with me.

But the testimony doesn’t end there.  This past December, I started meeting with a friend from church at 5 am on Friday mornings to study the Bible.  As I mentioned earlier, we all need “sharpening” in our walk with God (Proverbs 27:17).  Sometimes you are doing the sharpening (as a mentor) and sometimes you are sharpened (as a mentee or with someone who is a peer.)  In this case it is the latter and it has been amazing to see how he has strengthened me and our friendship has grown.  And then just two weeks ago, two more guys started coming over my house before the sun rises as well…Another friend from church that will certainly be sharpening me and another neighbor of mine who is just engaging with the Bible for the first time! 

My hope and prayer is that every single morning I will have another man across the dining room table from me studying God’s Word!  You never know what God can, and will do through you when you participate in a Fight Club!   That is of course; if you are open to being used by Him.  If you are reading this today and feeling insecure about sharing your life with other people, I want to encourage you with one of my favorite quotes that is so true!

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“God doesn’t call the QUALIFIED,  He qualifies the CALLED!”

There is nothing special about me, but God is clearly doing something through me as a result of being open to be used by Him.  How else can you explain 4 guys being willing to meet at 5 am to study the Bible?  You never know the ripple effect that can happen in the life of that person you reach out to.  God can exponentially multiply your impact for generations if you will trust Him today, and take a step of faith to start a Fight Club on your own!  And just to calm your nerves it doesn’t have to be at 5 am, that’s just when I have decided to have mine.  Hahaha!

115-daily-dependence-colossians-2-6-7I will close with this final Word of encouragement from Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT):

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him.  Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

As you let your roots grow down into Jesus and you come closer to Him through the reading of His, God to change your heart and you will have “A HUNGER for God’s Word.  A BROKENNESS over sin.  And A BURDEN for people.”  The Bible is the Path to Life!   

 

If you want to delve deeper on this topic, check out the posts:

★ Thought for the Day – Are You Qualified? ★

★ Act Like Men – “Strength To Love” ★

 

Also here is an incredible message that talks about how critical it is to build biblical community!

“Are you to afraid to Go There?” – Preston Morrison and Tim Ross

 

 

 

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★ “Back to the Basics” – God’s Mysterious Plan Revealed ★

Well 23 days have passed since we rung in 2017.  We have a new President of the United States and there has been a little over 3 weeks to work on our New Year’s Resolutions that we promised that we would do…so how are you doing with those resolutions?  Have you kicked the mistakes and habits of 2016 yet?  In the post114-daily-dependence-kicking-the-habits-of-2016-away ★ Thought for the Day – Unstoppable Determination for God’s Holiness ★, I shared that I don’t believe in resolutions because they are pretty much worthless and that I was challenged to think of them more as “Commitments” instead because you either change or you don’t.  We all have choices before us on whether we want to continue in the same old habits or not.  Today if you are reading this and you don’t know the plan of God for your life, I want you to encourage you to open your mind and heart to what He wants to do in your life as you read this post.

God said through the prophet Jeremiah: 114-daily-dependence-jeremiah-29-11

Jeremiah 29:11 is a famous Bible verse that you see all the time adorned on T-shirts and displayed on plaques and coffee mugs…(I even have one myself.)  It is a verse that I have been encouraged by and have shared with others to help comfort them in their time of need.  But have you even wondered what God’s plan is for you specifically?  The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:6 (NLT)…

“And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children.  Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.”

If the term Gentile is an unfamiliar to you, it simply means a person who is not Jewish.  When the Jews rejected Jesus, the door was opened for everyone who is not a direct descendant of Abraham, the father of the Jews.  John 1:10-12 (NLT) says:

“He [Jesus] came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” 

You can also read more about it in Jesus’ “Parable of the Evil Farmers.”  Until this point there was a huge chasm between the Gentiles and Jews.  Jesus paved the way to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to Himself.  Psalms 133:1 says:

“How Good and Pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.”
“How Good and Pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

Regardless if you are a Jew or a Gentile, if you believe in Jesus, you are God’s people and He desires there to be unity in His Church.  Paul went on to say in Ephesians 3:10-11:

“God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display His wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was His eternal plan, which He carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

People who are skeptical of church, or perhaps were hurt in the past by hypocrisy, or “holier than thou” attitudes question “why do I need to go to church?”  They justify it by saying “I can have a relationship with God on my own.”  Now while that is true that we can have a one on one with our Heavenly Father, the verse we just read is clear that the plan of God was “to use the church to display His wisdom.”  It is through gathering with other believers that our faith is strengthened and will grow exponentially faster than if we try to go it alone.  Charles Stanley said,

“No Christian has ever been called to ‘go it alone’ in his or her walk of faith.” 

And Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT) furthers that point with this:

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

As the “church,” God wants us to leverage our relationship with those that are in our sphere of influence.  To encourage and build others up in the faith, which cannot be done in isolation.

Last weekend I was at my church’s retreat for the Junior High and High School students.  The keynote speaker was David Marvin from the “Porch” at Watermark Church who spoke on 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.  He made this statement that has resounded ever since in my spirit,

“Every person you have ever looked at will live somewhere for eternity…either with God or without God.”

If you are a Christian, that is a haunting reality that should motivate us to want to reach those who are lost and far away from God.  For those of you reading this today who do not call yourself a Christian or maybe a better way to say it, a “Christ Follower,” I want you to know that God loves you so much.

114-daily-dependence-ephesians-3-you-area-loved-by-jesusAnd when you place your faith in Jesus, you will experience freedom like you never dreamed possible.  The Apostle Paul continues in Ephesians 3:12 with this truth:

“Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.  So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here.  I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored.

When you believe in Jesus, you have access to God like never before because until you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior the SIN in your life will keep you away from Him.  You may say “I am a good person,” but that just is not enough.  We are all sinners and have fallen short of what God desires for our life (see Romans 3:23.)  And with that access comes the unfolding of His plan in your life!

I love what Sandi Krakowski once said:

“God has an amazing plan for your life but it won’t automatically happen without your cooperation.  Partner with Him and create a great life!”
“God has an amazing plan for your life but it won’t automatically happen without your cooperation.  Partner with Him and create a great life!”

God is just waiting for you to take a step in His direction.  The invitation is open to you but you need to make the choice to follow Jesus.  If you want to start your relationship with Him today just go to this post, ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★ and can read more about what this means and as well as a simple prayer that you can say to God that can start you down the path.  Just like a loving father, God is willing, ready and able to help us out whatever mess we have made of our lives.  (If you want to read more on the Father Heart of God just check out the “Parable of the Prodigal (or lost) Son” from Luke 15:11-32.)

Maybe you have made the commitment to Christ and have started on the journey to develop your relationship; I wanted to remind you of the truth of what Tim Keller said that:

“God invites us to come as we are, not to stay as we are.”

The amazing thing about God is that He will take us back regardless of the filth that we find ourselves in but the expectation is that once we have made the choice, we must continue to grow in our faith so that we can enjoy that new life!  Colossians 1:23 (NLT) says:

“But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it.  Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.  The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.”

The Good News is this…God sent Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice and payment for our sins.  Through Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection, a bridge has been created to restore the relationship with God WHEN we believe in Jesus.  (See also 1 Peter 3:18 and Romans 6:6-7)  And so like Paul, we need to be standing firmly in our faith and actively pressing on to learn and grow.  If we are not advancing in our walk with God, we are regressing or drifting away…One of my favorite John Wooden quotes which I will close this Thought for Today is….

114-daily-dependence-john-wooden-choices“There is a choice that you have to make, in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.” 

So the choice is yours today…Do you start a relationship with Jesus and be a part of God’s Mysterious Plan that will forever change your legacy and family tree?  Or if you are a believer already will you start today to pursue your relationship more fervently?  I want to challenge you to throw out the useless “resolutions” and “choose to commit” to a new trajectory so that you’re not repeating the same old habits from 2016 and regretting 12 months from now that your life is different from it was today!  Because “in the end, the choice you make, makes you!”

If you are interested in learning more on the Grace of God, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Is There Such a Thing As a Free Lunch? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Accidental Existence? ★

 

Or if you want to deepen your relationship check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★

★ Thought for the Day – Unfathomable Payoff of Faith ★

 

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