Tag Archives: community

#AztecStrong

My heart is breaking.

We lost three young people yesterday in senseless violence. Two of them were unsuspecting innocents that never stood a chance. The other one was filled with distorted, evil thoughts that provoked him to evil behavior.

This was violence caused because of a heart issue.

This was tragic.

Our whole community is reeling in the wake of this ridiculous scenario. Yet, we will not give up on life. We will move on.

Tragedies like these and natural disasters and other such devastating circumstances do something paradoxically wonderful to a community. It feel wrong to say it out loud, but while the killings were horrible (and I cannot imagine the grief of the families involved today and in the coming days) they did something wonderful within our community.

It is a shame it takes a tragedy to remind the people in a community to band together in unity. But time and time again across this nation, we see just such a pattern of events play out. Right now, in California, communities are banding together in support of the victims of the fires. The whole nation came together in support of the flooding victims in Texas. When 9-11 happened, the nation rallied together in unity.

I’ve been in communities hit hard by natural disasters and violent acts of terror, and in both situations, I have seen good come out of tragedy and evil.

Yesterday, the community of Aztec began to rally together in support for the families of those whose children lost their lives, and they continue to reach out and show support today, and they will continue to do so in the future.

But not long from now, we will forget what this feels like. This unity. We will forget to stay unified and go back to the routineness of our lives. It’s a sad statement, but it is true. I’ve seen it over and over again.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can keep reaching out and spending time with our neighbors. In fact, that’s what we should have been doing all along. We have been called by Jesus to love our neighbors. We have been called to carry one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ (which is to love). We have been called to shine the light of Christ though His Spirit at work in us.

We, Christians, have been called to perpetuate this sense of unity and camaraderie in our communities.

Yesterday, I sat in a room full of pastors from various churches and experienced unity and humility as we sought to work together to help the community through the grieving process by hosting a vigil. There was no power struggle. There were no attitudes of superiority. There was humility and unity, and it felt great.

I’m proud of the way our community has come together in the midst of this horrible event. I’m proud of the way our churches have shown love. Let us not go back to the way things were. Let us not allow the deaths of these young people to be wasted by selfishness and division. Let us all remember that we are one community, and we need each other.

Advertisements

Destination Determines the Journey


I’ve never been much for organized sports. (Some of you may want to stop reading after that statement, but please hear me out.) I see the value in all kinds of sports, but my interests have alway been in the outdoor sports like hunting, fishing, hiking, climbing, mountaineering and the like. This is one of the reasons I love living in Northwest New Mexico – there is a myriad of outdoor opportunities all around waiting to be experienced.

So I hike as often as I can. Sometimes I hike to summit a mountain. Sometimes I hike to see a grand view or special place. Sometimes I hike to get to the place where I can find my rock hounding goals. Each time I hike there is a goal in mind. I must overlook the discomfort in order to reach the goal. I must be willing to carry the necessary equipment to achieve success and keep from harm. I must be willing to take step after step no matter how tired I get for the sake of success in the end. It is in the journey to the destination that I grow stronger. Growth is rarely found at the destination.

It is like this in our spiritual life as well. We are given certain goals in our life as followers of Jesus. One of these goals is to be transformed into the likeness of the Son, Jesus himself. It is the goal to live a righteous life expressed in love to one another. 

Back to hiking…

What if I gave in to my discomfort? What if I wasn’t willing to take the necessary supplies? What if I constantly lowered that goals I have set? Would I grow? No!

But this is what the church has done over the centuries. 

In Christianity today there is a lack of desire for the word of God (we aren’t willing to carry the right supplies). There is a justification for our continuation to sin using grace as a license more than as a gift (we have lowered the goal) which gives us an excuse for our lack of righteousness. We choose personal pleasure (the lake, sleeping in, shopping, hobbies, etc.) over spiritual disciplines like gathering with the beloved and celebrating communion and many other such disciplines. 

When you read the New Testament you see a high bar of expectation for the lifestyles of those who claim to be followers of Christ. When you look at churches today you see people with the moniker “Christian” but their lifestyles don’t look anything like the church of the bible. 

Why is this so? 

As a minister, I see the need for the church to come together in community. We have gathered for study for so long that we have forgotten that the study was supposed to teach us how to live in community better. We choose to come together to open our bibles and look at the preacher while ignoring the spiritual needs of the person sitting next to us. 

There was a lifestyle of accountability in the New a testament as the church did life together, coming together in the larger gathering as often as they could – eager to do so. This accountability helped them stave off the temptations to fall back into a lifestyle that looked just like the world. They were encouraged to save one another from falling back into sin(Jude 22-23). They were warned that a person could lose his or her salvation by continuation in sin (Hebrews 6 and 10). Their standard of lifestyle was that of Jesus, and they were warned not to use grace as a crutch excuse to continue to sin (Romans 6).What if our churches went back to the desire for righteousness we find in the New Testament writers? We would lose some people who want Jesus while continuing their lifestyle of sin. But the church would become stronger as lives changed for the better, and conversions would actually be conversions rather than just professions of faith. If the church looked more like Jesus she would love everyone – even her antagonists. If the church looked more like Jesus every member would be an evangelist. If the church looked more like Jesus there would be more joy and celebration of the forgiveness and grace that came through his sacrifice. If the church looked more like Jesus it would be a place where sins were forgiven, but change would be cultivated so that sin could be exterminated. 

This is not a call to legalism. Legalism kills. In our rejection of legalism, however, we have reacted to the point of selling cheap grace in the name of Jesus. James, the brother of Jesus, makes it clear that your faith should be showing itself in your life by producing fruit. So let’s come back to the middle – celebrating grace while expecting a higher standard of righteousness. 

Jesus said “you cannot serve two masters.” Let’s remember this as we choose between our sin and the call of Jesus. 


Strange Math in the Bible

20120619-093133.jpg

Have you ever seen the movie “Cast Away”? In the movie, the main character, Chuck, is a FedEx worker that is traveling back to the United States to be with his girlfriend for Christmas (when he plans to propose to her). On his flight back home his plane crashes into the ocean and he is the lone survivor. He is able to inflate the life raft and survives a major squall to wash ashore on a lonely island a thousand miles off course from where he should have been.

As he learns his fate of being completely alone on this island he is overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions. One day he is working on a project necessary for his survival when he cuts his hand. A volleyball is one of the items that was being transported on the FedEx plane that washed ashore with him. He grabs the ball with his hurt hand and tosses it. When he sees it again, he notices that the blood from his hand has made a face shape on the ball.

He decides to keep the ball as his new friend, and he names it Wilson (it was a Wilson volleyball).

A couple of times during the movie Chuck gets rid of, or loses Wilson. Each time the realization of this loss throws Chuck into a panic. Why? Because it is not good for man to be alone.

Even in this movie that has no injection whatsoever to God or religion we see this basic human need for community. Where do we get such a need? Well, let’s look at our Creator.

In Genesis 1, God, whom we usually refer to in the singular, announces that he wants to “make man in our image”. God is referring to himself in the plural. People across the Christian spectrum refer to this plurality of God as the Trinity. God is three in one.

In relating to our current discussion it is important to understand that God is in perfect community with himself. He is in complete love with himself, and He doesn’t need you or me to complete or add to His community. The love God has among himself is such that He is inseparable from Himself.

This all sounds a bit schizophrenic, but I am referring to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus on multiple occasions commented that he could do nothing without the Father and that he and the Father are one. This relationship is perfect example of what every marriage should strive to become. In God, one plus one plus one equals one. In marriage, one plus one equals one.

So, God is in perfect community with himself. Then He invites you into His perfect community. When Jesus gave the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20 he says that the disciples are to baptize people into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Then they are to teach them to do what has been done and taught to them. This teaching still rings true today. We are connected with the Trinity in baptism; it is then that we come into community with God.

We also come into community as we fellowship with others who have joined into community with God. Ecclesiastes talks about the need for us not to work alone for we could be easily destroyed. We need each other in our walk with God. Satan is constantly out to get us. Sometimes he uses our own minds when we are alone to trip us up. Sometimes he uses people to attack us when we are alone. When we are living in that community of Christ we are strong and can live much fuller lives in Christ.

Does that mean we move into little communes where we escape from the world? No! What that does mean is that we engage the world together. We are called to be the church with the church.

When I was younger I thought I could maintain my community with God without having to participate in the community of believers called the church. So I quit going. It wasn’t long (days) before Satan came in and attacked, and I had no defenses or support group to help me stand strong.

We need the community of believers. Hebrews 10:25 encourages us to make the habit of meeting together (we call it “going to church”) a priority in our lives.

What’s more, we are given the opportunity each week to celebrate our community with the Trinity and with the believers in a time we call “Communion”. When we “eat his flesh and drink his blood” we sustain the life inside us that was given at baptism. We maintain our fellowship with the Trinity, and we celebrate all this in community with other believers. This is a very important, very significant celebration each week. Jesus said that if you don’t participate in this you you have no relationship with him.

We are called to do it often. If there’s ever a Sunday you are looking to celebrate communion, then you can always come to the Nichols St. church of Christ. We offer this every Sunday in celebration of the life that was given to us through the death of Christ. You are always welcome there.

To sum it up, God is in community with himself, and he doesn’t need you, but he wants you desperately. He wants you so badly that he came to the earth in the form of Jesus to make a way for you and me to join his community in spite of the many times we have gone against his will for our lives. He then calls us to stand strong and not fall away as we fellowship with the other believers. Let me tell you, life as a Christian is much easier when there are other people walking alongside you going the same place you’re going.

How does this relate to you? Have you joined in the community of the Trinity through baptism? No one can force you to join. It has to be your choice. God loves you, but he won’t force you to love him back and become one with him. Have you ever thought you can be a Christian without the church? It’s time to come home. Churches are made up of sinful humans saved only by the grace of God. Naturally they aren’t going to be perfect places. If you’re looking for a church where the people don’t make mistakes, you won’t find it. You can, however, find churches all over teaching the truth of God’s word, celebrating in His communion, and striving to live righteous lives as we celebrate the grace that covers over our many shortcomings.

May you come into that community with God and with his church. You are invited into this fellowship. If you’d like to know more about any of the things discussed here, feel free to email me at jddobbs@verizon.net or call the office at 245-1611. God bless you as you come into community with the love of God and the church that is His body.


The Greatest Show on Earth

The Community Actors of South Texas (CAST) have their next production coming up this weekend: “A Country Christmas Carol”. This show will be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Rhema Fellowship building in downtown Bay City. I’m in the show, and you can find out more about it at http://www.communityactors.org.

I am not writing this article to simply plug the show, though I would love for you to come support CAST. It’s just that as I prepare to perform this weekend, I can’t help but reflect on all the work that must be done to make this show a success. Each person has to do his or her own job to make this work. Actors and actresses have to rehearse lines and movements (in this play, songs too!) or else the play just won’t work. The director has to be preparing for the play before the first rehearsal and has to lead the performers and crew. There are many different roles that have to be undertaken to make this work: stage managers, sound technicians, light crew, prop builders, promotional managers, costumes, etc… Without each person working to prepare then performing their task as needed then this would be a disaster.

As the show grows in its ability to perform, something else grows. The relationships between those working on the play grow. People come together from all walks of like with a common purpose. The result is not only a performed play, but a shared experience that will be a lasting thread to connect each of us no matter where life takes us from this point forward. When this is done right, the performance is great, and others like what they see and want to join in.

As Christians, Jesus is supposed to be our thread. We are his church. The church isn’t a place or a building or even a couple of services on Sundays and Wednesdays. The church is the people who have committed their life to the Messiah.

Through the years the church has morphed quite a bit from the way it was in the first century shortly after Jesus ascended into heaven. Churches today are frequently where people come to be spiritually fed. Usually this is the only spiritual feeding they get each week. Churches have encouraged its members to “bring a friend” in order for the preacher or some other minister to evangelize them taking that burden of responsibility off the lay-Christian. We often speak of “going to church”. Then, when we get there, they are highly ritualized ceremonies where a few people participate and the rest are spectators.

If we could bring some Christians here from the first century they wouldn’t recognize the church.

The church of the first century was quite different. First of all, they had no church buildings, so they WERE the church. In fact, they were so excited about it that they often met daily so they could encourage one another and share in that common thread of Jesus. The church had a common experience (coming to Jesus), and it had a common purpose. The purpose of the church was to take care of each other first, then evangelize the world all with a view of heaven.

The church at one time “had everything in common” and made sure that no other Jesus-followers had anything lacking. Their first priority was to take care of each other in love. They were fulfilling Jesus’ words when he said “by this they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

They daily shared in that common experience. They also daily told others about the message of Jesus. This was made quite easier by their lifestyle. You see, they didn’t live anything like the world. The world saw their collective living. It saw their newfound love for others, and it wanted to be a part of that. The disciples lived their lives in such a way that led others to ask “what makes you different?” Then they had a great opportunity to start right there with the saving message of Jesus.

You are not called to allow the church to be your spiritual dinner table. You should be fed and feeding others each day as you commune with the body of Christ. How can we be a witness to the world if our lives show that we haven’t witnessed anything?

If we didn’t practice and work together for the play, then even if you did show up, the performance would be disastrous. Not only would you not come back, but you would talk to others about that as well. We are called to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12)

So may you re-dedicate your service to God, His church and the world. May you be an agent of change to bring the church back to where it needs to be. And may God use you to show the world what love really is.

Come see me in the show, and if there’s anything I can do for you or pray with you about, feel free to contact me at jddobbs@verizon.net or at the office at 245-1611. God bless you!


%d bloggers like this: