Posts Tagged ‘fellowship’

It was a full day: Up at 5:30 and time alone with God. Head off to church for weekly prayer time at 8:30 am with a few brothers. Then straight into the theological book club (just me and another brother at this point) session. This was followed by some alone time where I could pray, read and reflect, before heading to the front door to welcome and greet people coming to church. After the church service, some time of chit chat with a few people, dropped in to check out the inaugural Japanese outreach meeting, before rushing home to welcome a young couple and their adorable baby for lunch.

After a brief rest, it was off to a friend’s place to catch up over dinner: we had a leisurely dinner where we went around and shared our lives: aspirations, challenges, and changes. In particular, the wife shared her decision to step out in faith and be more intentional in her passion for leading spiritual retreats. This led to a discussion on the place of art in church life—which largely is largely non-existent in most churches, hindered as it is by current structures and traditions. We shared our yearning for a more authentic and intimate expression of church, a desire that neither of us could fully express in words, but which we both knew and understood.

What a blessed day to spend a day and evening in conversation with brothers and sisters!  Too bad Sunday morning church services don’t allow for such conversations in any depth …

“At its heart are people wrestling with the Spirit and one another to know the truth, grace and freedom of Christ in all the particulars of who they are and what fills their lives. I think of them as ‘grace-full conversations’. Conversations marked by grace. Conversations full of grace. Conversations that bring grace.”

― Mark Strom, Reframing Paul: Conversations in Grace & Community

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Body Talk

Heart-to-heart conversations have been on my mind a lot lately. I have been trying hard to get my fellow elders to open up and dialogue with each other, but there seems to be resistance and reluctance. If we can’t even talk together, how can we work together to care for the flock in unity?

… our inability to talk together in our churches, and especially to talk with people of different ages and backgrounds, is a cancerous disease that erodes our congregational health and threatens the future of our faith. Recognizing that we belong to one another in Christ’s body, our health and our future depend on our ability to learn to talk and work together …

Following in the way of Jesus, we learn to set aside our personal agendas and to seek the common good of our sisters and brothers and that of our place.

C. Christopher Smith, How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church

That peoples can no longer carry on authentic dialogue with one another is not only the most acute symptom of the pathology of our time, it is also that which most urgently makes a demand of us.

—Martin Buber, Pointing the Way

True belonging is not passive … It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are.

Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

However, on the bright side, I’ve had the privilege of journeying and conversing with a member these past several weeks, and it has been a very positive and rewarding experience. If only others could open up, be vulnerable and experience the joy of authentic and deep connections!

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Learn to Listen

Today’s reflection:

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Another Sunday feeling discouraged and disconnected. It’s been my experience that when you’re feeling down, Christians instinctively know to avoid you; it’s as if you become invisible. I don’t blame them. I’m not your typical, normal Christian, so I don’t expect too many people to understand me anyhow. So, like I said, I don’t blame them; I probably even creep out some of them!

Yes, brother, let me have some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. (Philemon 20; NET)

After coming home, I received a timely call from one of my closest friends. We spoke for almost an hour, since we haven’t seen each other or talked with each other for quite some time. Amazing how our timelines seem to be in sync — God has recently been awakening him from his spiritual slumber as well. I have to admit I was thrilled to hear the zeal and excitement in his voice: here was a man whose love for his Lord has been rekindled! And he lovingly exhorted me to not waste my gifts and my life, but to serve the Lord wherever doors open. He challenged me to pray more and ask God to empower me and use me where and how He see fits, not what I envision. As always, it boils down to what I constantly struggle with, the great deficiency in my life: prayer and communion with God.

I told my brother that I’m not so sure anymore what my gifts are; his were very apparent the day I met him decades ago: evangelism and exhortation. He reminded me we will stand before our Lord someday to give an account of how we used our time and our gifts. He challenged me by saying that he felt my gifting hasn’t changed and to stop trying to make excuses! (Like I said, one of his gifts is exhortation!) He told me to keep reading and studying the Word and opportunities to teach the Word will open up in many ways (whether at church, disillusioned saints no longer in church or one-on-one with a believer at work, etc.). He paused and challenged me to ask God to bring broken, downcast and lonely sheep across my path; this was something I’ve always had a burden for, he quietly reminded me.

I was much encouraged by the conversation and I was also thankful how it meshed so well with the good word that SG shared with the church today concerning “worship”: do we truly ascribe ultimate value and worth to God? Do we seek to worship and serve Him for show or for His glory? Do we seek the praise of men or the favour/reward of God? A timely and challenging message!  Thank you Lord for all these ways you are speaking to me and molding me.

The Spirit also reminded me again of the pastoral and prescient insight that IB shared with me over a year ago. Upon reflecting on this further, I realized that there is still some fear and hesitation on my part. May the Lord help me to cast away this spirit of fear …

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