Did you notice this year that you have been isolated from your faith community? How connected are you to faith in Jesus? Do you even remember what real community feels like?
Isolation was a real challenge this past year. For many of our young people, and even some of the adults, it has been months since they had been in a church or were part of a faith community. This past year has been hard on students and families. Between masks, quarantine, vaccines and questions about what it all means, many of us fell into isolation. Our faith walk was always meant to be done in community. For many of the students on this trip they had fallen away from faith and didn’t even notice
As I walked with students on this trip I was amazed at how many talked about how they had just gone through the motions of faith this past year. They watched worship, they maybe showed up once, but they were too focused on everything else going on. Life got in the way of their faith and its growth. It became so little a part of their life with others they didn’t realize they were missing that faith connection with others.
For many students on this trip realized they were missing real Christian community. For some it meant letting out emotions, pain and broken parts of their lives with others. For others is was sharing Christian community with others. This year really was a time for students to recognize what they were missing.
So how about you? How is your faith going? Are you just watching worship, or are you with other believers. Are you just sitting in the pew or are you actively trying to grow you faith. I believe that if we don’t maintain these relationships they die. I believe that in this time we can get so lost in the news, our world, and everything else, we know we are missing something but we aren’t even sure what we are missing until we happen to stumble upon it again. Today lets actively try to get back to it. Lets go to worship, get involved in a Bible study, find a Christian community to be involved in. This faith thing was not meant to be done in isolation but actively perusing our faith in Jesus together.
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Today I had the opportunity to sit in front of my TV and be a greeter at Church. This isn’t how this is supposed to be. We had some technical difficulties, and the feed was missing sound for the first 10 minutes. This is not how this is supposed to be. I had technical difficulties at home with my TV, and I participated in the service through a 4″ phone. This morning all I thought was, “This isn’t how it is supposed to be.”
During the service, once it got working, I had some friends from Church text me about the tech stuff and sent me thanks for it working. I had nothing to do with fixing it, I just let the team know at Church it wasn’t working. At the end of our conversation, one of them said, “I can’t wait until I can see my Church family again.” I agreed this isn’t how this is supposed to be.
Although there is a lot of good that has come from all this, not the least of which is churches and people sharing Jesus online, I cannot tell you how much I want to be together with people in worship. This is not how it is supposed to be. I look forward to the amazing moment when our community can be together again. It will be a great moment for our people and for me personally. I love people, and I can’t wait to be together again.
I had a thought today; even when we get back together, even when we get together and pull out all the stops and it feels like heaven, it won’t be. This just isn’t how it is supposed to be. You see one day, when this is all over, we will gather all together, in person, in our resurrected body for worship that will last for eternity. It will be beyond amazing, and it will be beyond everything we have ever experienced or seen. We will hug our loved ones and celebrate Jesus like we can’t even imagine. That is the day we see a little here but will see more fully when Jesus comes again.
I pray as we go through these days that we are reminded that this isn’t how it is supposed to be, not just in worship, all of it. Jesus changes everything, and I can’t wait for it to be just as He said it will be.
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?”14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
This past weekend I was on a retreat with High school students from Big Rapids, Muskegon, and Grand Rapids. I loved it. I loved talking about Christ with them and on the first night we spent talking about the term whatever. We focused on whatever we do, we do it for Jesus. If we hold the door open we do if for Jesus, If we clean up after dinner we do it for Jesus, If we scrape paint we do it for Jesus.
We scraped a lot of paint. In fact when we arrived we had thought we would be painting. We came to finish this great project. Instead we spent 8 hours scraping one building. It was hard work. The building was build in 1957 and had at least 6 coats of paint on it. The process was spread paint remover goop on building, wait 30 minutes scrape, get off a layer or two, and repeat. If you waited too long it got dry and stopped working. At one point someone said “Wow this is hard work.” And I said “Yes and we are paying to do it!” It was hard and to be honest. I am not sure we all had the satisfaction of seeing a completely striped building ready for paint. Being the scraper of paint is tough work and not very satisfying.
So I think scraping paint reminds a lot of being a disciple of Jesus. Sharing Jesus with students, friends, families, enemies and everyone in between is tough work. Sometimes when we spread the good news you don’t get to see it finished. even after you spend a lot of time on it. We would love for it to happen so quickly. We would love to be able to pray, talk and conversion happens. You don’t always get to see the beautiful building God is working them into. You see siding that looks beat up. You see the little bits of stubborn paint on a person that just isn’t wiped clean. Sometimes at the end of your time with the building, you don’t see the finished project just a building you worked on. I can be so frustrating.
I tried to tell the students this weekend. This project isn’t complete. We did what God had planned for us to complete. We followed Jesus. We served and one day the whole project will be finished. It wasn’t our job to finish it was are call to start the project.
As you think about that person, or family who needs to hear about Jesus, and are frustrated that the job isn’t done remember we all play a part and sometimes we don’t get to see the finish just are part of the process.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 ESV
American Christianity is way too focused on individuality. I constantly here from people “faith is personal, and none of your business.” Faith is a me and God thing leave me alone. That is hog wash. This Christian walk is not about being alone. It is about walking together with others. It is not just a you and God thing.God’s kingdom here on earth is not just about you.
So for all of you who are mad and screaming at your screen calm down. Stop screaming at the screen it is weird when someone is screaming at a screen. Second our faith is lived out in community. Yes your faith is between you and God but it is lived out in community.
Regular worship attendance in a Church is less than once a month. People who are coming to worship are coming and running back out the door. Many seem do to it when they have nothing else going on. This is a sad thing. This is a work of the devil to get us isolated so we can be picked off. So he can drown us in our own sin.
The early Christian Church thought of the sanctuary as a nave or ship. They talked about it as the place people came to be together in faith. Where they could lift each other up. My comment to people who say they don’t need to come together for worship is “You can swim in the ocean for a long time but without a ship you will die.” As disciples in Christ we are called lift each other up. We are called to
This week is Holy week. I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ that they would come and gather with us to hear about what Christ has done for us. That we may look at each other this weekend reminding each other of our sin, and the work Christ did for us so we could experience forgiveness from God. We live this faith out in community and that is what we need to encourage each other to do.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV