Thought for Thursday: Intimacy and Grace

I have been teaching on community at The Awakening the last three weeks and as I shared before we are recognizing 4 spaces of community: Public, Social, Personal and Intimate.  Thinking about practical applications of these four spaces, I had a thought: as we move down the spectrum from Public toward Intimate community, we need grace.

Let me explain.  In public community (where you do not share much information about yourself, such as a large Sunday morning congregation) you don't really get "involved" in people's lives to much.  If you do, you may be offensive or at least inappropriate. We don't want to hear about ones depths of self deprecation in a large group setting like this. Your purpose in these setting is not to build friendships so if someone does offend, you simply make a mental note to not sit down next to "20 questions, bad breath, and stalker glasses guy" next week,  and move on quickly.   Not a lot of "grace" is needed in that situation. (By grace, I mean the ability to love when it is not deserved.)  This persons welfare does not impact your health or growth as an individual and you will not to dwell on that interaction for the rest of the week. (That kind of sounds cold, doesn't it?  Am I wrong though?) 

But let's flip the spectrum and say Mr. 20 questions is your husband!  Then what?  GRACE BABY!  All kinds of Grace.  Grace enough to play 40 questions.  Grace enough to serve that person and get little in return.  Grace enough to begin enjoying the question game.  Grace enough to buy all kinds of gum and cool hipster glasses for him.  Grace enough to actually love in a greater way than possibly thought. Not because He embarrasses you, but because you want the best for him.  You want  him to experience growth and healthy relationship with you and others. 

Okay, now let's be honest, really honest.  We are all "20 questions, bad breath stalker glasses guy" to some extent.  Yes maybe we ask fewer questions, chew some Orbit, and can afford Lasik, but we are all human, which means we all have baggage and sin.  When it come to our intimate relationships (those people who know the most about us and we share our lives with) we need grace!  We need all kinds of it.  We need Grace Runneth over!  This is why that first year of marriage is so hard.  All of a sudden the best foot forward lands and the worst foot swings through with a kick. The more you know someone, the more you see their humanity - their flaws, baggage and sin, and the more grace you need to give them.  That is love at work, when it's least deserved.

And the final twist to ensure you see the redemptive perspective - that is the Christian worldview, Christ has a ton of Grace doesn't he.  So much Grace that he chooses to become intimately involved in the lives of sinners with baggage.  He gives us so much grace, that he says, "come as you are, I will love you like no one else can, and you will grow."  You see, His Grace really is sufficient enough for us to grow, and for us to share with others.

Imagine what your world would look like if you shared Grace.  What would your marriage look like, if there was more grace?  What would your job environment look like?  What would family vacation or thanksgiving dinner look like with more grace?  How would your children react with more grace?  How would your parents react with more grace?

Grace changes people. Lord I need more Grace.

For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ(Rom 5:17)

Something Powerful

I got to see something really cool happen last night as my family sat at the dinner table.  Matthew is now two years old and Shannon and I have been trying (for the past two weeks) to start eating dinner together as a family.  For so many reasons this is important.  It is at the dinner table where our values are set.  It is where I can hear about my wife's day as well as Matthew's when he gets old enough to really communicate.  But even now, he thinks he is, and I want the dinner table to be a safe place for him to talk in the future.  It's at the dinner table where Matthew gets to see Mommy and Daddy talk and communicate our love for each other and him.  In all, the dinner table is hardly just about satisfying our hunger but even more about satisfying our need for familial community.  Its about setting the table of our marriage and our lives.  It's about building a foundation with everyones participation.  The most powerful of all was when Shannon grabbed Matthew's hand and said, "it time to pray."  Matthew turned to me, extended his hand and then bowed his head and closed his eyes as if it was something common place.  I grabbed his hand, shocked at what he had learned at the dinner table, and led my family in prayer.

It was powerful.

Manuscript Monday's: Flat Community

As part of my regular teaching schedule for The Awakening, I end up going over my manuscript or notes for the next Tuesday night's message on Monday mornings.  As somewhat of a sneak peak and to provide space for feedback from the community, I am going to start posting snippets of my manuscript on Monday's so that I can hear from you.  Who knows, your comment may end up making into the manuscript!

Many of you have been living in a “flat” community.  ... there’s no air, no breath of God in your community life. 

Some of you have been coming Sunday morning but nothing else.  You have bought the lie that Sunday morning is Christianity and if I do that than I am free to go on the rest of my week and do as I wish.  It’s something you do because “you’re supposed to.”  If that is your Christian Community experience, it is severely lacking, it is flat.

Some of you have rejected Sunday, and are doing Christianity Solo.  If you are here at The Awakening, you are here because you’ve told yourself, "well, this isn't really church."  You've probably heard foolish people who say, "a Christian doesn’t have to go to church, I’m against the institution!  I’m against the Organization!"  Yeah?  Well, you’re also against the teaching (Hebrews 10:23-25) of the Word of God then apparently, let alone reading it for yourself.  Not only is this attitude SIN and in need of repentance, it is also clearly a spiritually flat community if not the absence of it. 

Some of you are participating in just one aspect of this Christian community. This might hit a little more close to home for many of us.  You see, if we are not careful, we will turn our Christian community into something that looks only like us.  We don’t get outside of our own socio- economic genre, our own ethnicity, our own language or even our own age.  If that person doesn’t shop the same place you do, buy the same clothes you do or even eat the same food, they don’t really end up being a part of your community.  This is flat community.  ... it is not the fullest community God has intended for us to have.

Then there’s this interesting group of us in here tonight that have fallen in love with community.  In fact, you are going to at least 2 community groups a week.  You have an accountability partner. You heard me speak last week on our community cravings and you were like, “Preach it Phil!”  You totally believe in community.  But here’s the problem, you have focused so much on your personal community, you have neglected the fuller community of Christ.  You have been going to Church on Sunday’s only once a month, but your good right?  You have small group on Wednesday, and the Awakening on Tuesday.  You are missing an important part of the community of Christ! 

In all four circumstances you are missing out on the fullest community of Christ and your community is flat.  Let me be clear: You have a flat community when its based on your terms, not God's.  A flat community is one that is based on your comforts, your schedule, your lifestyle and your reputation.  It’s all about YOU.  But a FULL community is focused on God.  It is a community based on HIS glory, his reputation and the lifestyle he has in mind for us.
See you on Tuesday night, 7pm at Fellowship Dallas.

Community based on Purpose or People

I've been thinking over the past few days about the different realms in which we find community.  I've written elsewhere about the four different spaces we find community (Public, social, personal and intimate) and how they are all important at different seasons of life.  But recently, I've recognized another distinction within these four spaces.

When we look at the public and social spaces of community, the gathering seems to unify mostly around the "purpose" of being there.  For example, when you have 100,000 football fans at Jerry-world, the reason so many gather is generally for the same purpose - to see the Cowboys destroy the competition.  Move down the community spectrum to the social realm and again, you find a community gathered for a similar purpose - to meet people and find new friends. (Think about your cool bar scene - a really cool one that everyone wants to be at.).  These spaces of community draw people based on their purpose for existing.

But something different happens when you cross over to the Personal and Intimate spaces of community.  Here, it is not the purpose that is the ultimate unifier of the group, but the people who cause community to stick.  An example would be a small group in the large.  A small group gathers with usually 5-20 people to study the Bible, care for each other, and some may even have a missional component. (Check out the small groups at Fellowship Dallas.)  But here's the deal, a small group can have a great mission and be serving and making a difference, but if the people are jerks, socially awkward and just flat out people you would not choose to hang out with - that Small group isn't going to work.  The same goes for the secular "local bar" where everyone knows your name.  If those people keep calling you Norm but your name is Nick, you likely won't be sticking around to long.  Move down the community spectrum to those intimate relationships in your life - the spouse or girlfriend.  If you try to base these relationship just on the purpose of being together, your romance life is going to suck!  I've heard well meaning pastor's suggest that a young man should enter marriage only if he truly believes that he can not serve God being single.  Give me a break!  Can you imagine telling your wife, "I love you for they way you make me more able to participate in the mission God has for me?" That sure sounds like a fun time of the misses.  Intimate relationships of course are about the people we are intimate with.

Understanding these two distinctions, I think, will help all of us better use these spaces more effectively and more purposefully.  Let's not try and make Public space a place where intimacy is the cultural norm - that's weird.  And likewise, let's not turn our personal and intimate spaces of community based only on mission statements void of the recognition authentic community requires.

More to come on this topic at The Awakening on October 5th.

It's time to write.

I'm ready to start writing more frequently again. Here's the deal: I have to set a few expectations. This blog is not going to be an "experts" guide to something. It will be my life, my travels, my passions and my faith. Indeed, it is my testimony of living. Second, in my aim to post several times a week, combined with my busy life, just get over the fact, that I can't spell worth a lick. I seriously may be the worst speller you've ever met. It is inevitable - just ignore it and move on. ("Hooked on Phonics" never did a thing for me.) Finally, I must make note, that this blog represents my opinions at the time they were written, not those of my employer, or ministries I'm involved with, though for all reasons of integrity, they probably aren't too far apart. Coinciding with this final point is that my testimony is an open and unwritten journal (moleskin of course) and being such, I will most assuredly change my mind from time to time as I share my pondering with anyone willing to listen. Come to expect it.

I look forward to entering the conversations of life and I look forward to you joining me.