Thursday, July 31, 2014

That's Not Fair! - Part 1 of 3


Why did God take the kingdom away from Saul? 


The next few weeks we will look at why Saul, a seemingly good guy, loses his kingship over Israel. I will include excerpts from The Presence of Shadows. Keep in mind that this is a young adult fantasy so, Samuel is a dragon and Melek is the name that I chose for God; it is Hebrew for “King.”

 The history of Yisra’el (Israel) is told by Brehane’s uncle, Mihret. So let’s see how Saul started out his reign.

The Presence of Shadows

Copyright ©2014 by Kara Howell





When Uncle Mihret finished his dinner, he said, “I will tell you why the town was in an uproar when Saul reached it. Let’s see… ah, now I remember.



“An elder of the city stomped up to Saul. Anguished and enraged, he said, ‘Nahash the Ammonite has besieged Jabesh-gilead. When the men of Jabesh requested a treaty, they were told a treaty would be made on one condition, that every man would have his right eye put out with a hot poker. They will be ashamed among us.’

“The women burst into a new wave of cries.

“‘The men of Jabesh have been given seven days to seek help from us before the Ammonites take the city,’ an older man explained.

“Saul felt the Spirit of Melek surge up within him. His eyes blazed with anger. He took the yoke off his oxen, cut it into pieces, and sent it throughout the territories. This message accompanied it: ‘Anyone who does not join with me to aid Jabesh-gilead will be cut into pieces like this yoke.’

“A messenger was also sent to Jabesh-gilead to inform them that help would arrive the next day.

“The dread of Melek fell on the people so that they came to Saul as if they had one mind. They met at Bezek where Saul numbered the men. They were 330,000 strong. Saul saw the fire of battle in their eyes. Their allies had been threatened and they were all ready to come to their defense. Stomachs were sick and jaws were clenched when they thought of the terrible threat to put out the eyes of their neighbors.

“When the men of Jabesh-gilead listened to the message from Saul, they went out to the Ammonites and proclaimed, ‘Tomorrow we will come out to face you in battle. You may do whatever you want to us.’

“They were confident that they would be spared from the threat before them. However, the Ammonites believed they had already won the battle.

“The Yisra’elites were not a trained army. They were only farmers, herdsmen, winemakers, and weavers. They had only the tools of their respective trades to fight with. The Ammonites might wonder if the Yisra’elites thought they were ogres, with all of the pitchforks pointed at them.

“At first light the next morning, Saul split the men into three companies and gave them these instructions: ‘Do not kill any man who surrenders or is captured alive.’

“The Yisra’elites fought the Ammonites with a ferocity that surprised their enemy. Yisra’el slaughtered them until the sun was high in the sky. Saul, mounted on horseback, was a fearless commander who charged into battle without hesitation and called his men to do the same. No foe could stand before his sickle as he swung it at neck level. Any man who had been afraid that their new king would faint in battle was glad to be proven wrong. Saul had the ability to rally the men’s morale while he mowed down any threat in his way.

“By midday the Ammonites ran for their lives! In the confusion, they scattered in all directions.

“After the survivors were gathered, they were brought before Samuel.

“Some of the men under Saul’s command wondered why they had been instructed not to kill all of the Ammonites. ‘Who is this Saul who pretends to reign over us?’ some of them spat with contempt. ‘Let us kill all of the captives!’

“From behind them Saul spoke in a loud voice. ‘Not one man will die today, because Melek has given us this victory over our enemies!’ His intense gaze showed his conviction.

“The men raised eyebrows in surprise at his nerve. Had they looked closely they would have seen the mark on Saul’s forehead glow brighter than usual.

“Samuel stood just behind Saul. He spoke with pride in his deep voice. ‘Everyone must return to Gilgal so that we may affirm Saul as king, for he has shown his ability today.’ When he spoke, his hot breath washed over those who would have denied Saul the kingship. They decided it was best for them to do as he suggested.

“Saul succeeded in winning the allegiance of most of the people by his leadership in the battle at Jabesh-gilead.”



Now, if you must be king, that’s not a bad way to start out. So far, Saul is listening to the Holy Spirit and leading the nation with wisdom. Next week we will look at what Saul did to lose the kingship. His sons could have ruled Israel forever, but his disobedience changed that. Week three we will discuss why Saul’s choices had such devastating consequences. Since were human, we like to compare people, so we will also look at why God didn’t remove David from the throne when he sinned.

Click here for Part 2  or Part 3

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jesus Wept . . . Why?

 

         The shortest sentence in the Bible is, perhaps, one of the most powerful.  Not just because of the emotion these two words evoke, but because of the context of the narrative contained in the Gospel of John, Chapter 11. 

         Four days earlier Jesus had received a message from Mary and Martha that His best friend, Lazarus, was very sick.  The disciples traveling with Jesus were very concerned, but He reassured them saying, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God that the Son of God might be glorified, thereby.” (v.4)  The disciples misunderstood Jesus’ words, assuming that Lazarus was merely in a deep sleep and that their Master would awaken him from slumber.  When Jesus clarified His remarks, Thomas said to the other disciples, “Let us return so that we may die with our friend, Lazarus,” evidence of the profound affection all the disciples had for Lazarus.

          It was a two day journey by foot back to Judea, and Bethany, located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, approximately two miles from Jerusalem, where Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, lived. By the time Jesus and His disciples arrived, Lazarus was dead and buried in the grave for four days. 

          When Martha heard that Jesus had returned, she ran out to Him and admonished her good friend saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know, that even now, whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”  Jesus reaffirms that He is the resurrection and the Life and that whosoever believes in Him will never die and asks Martha if she believes Him.  She responds that she believes Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that her brother will rise again in the resurrection, in the last day.

          Martha leaves and tells her sister, Mary, about her encounter.  Mary rushes to see Jesus, followed by a crowd of people. She falls down at His feet, weeping, and says the same thing Martha said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus sees the depth of her pain and loss, as well as the weeping of those who accompanied her, Scripture tells us that “He groaned in the Spirit and was troubled” (v.33) and asked where they had laid Lazarus. 

And then--

          Jesus wept.

          The crowd of Jews who had followed Mary muttered, “See how He loved Lazarus!”
 
 
 

          Anyone who has spent any time in the Bible knows the rest of the story.  Jesus stands outside the tomb and commands Lazarus to “Come forth . . .” Of course, he does, in miraculous fashion, much to the amazement of the unbelieving crowd.

          This is a familiar Bible story that most Christians, and many non-believers, have heard about.  But I would like to suggest that there is a significant, and much deeper, scriptural meaning being communicated, above and beyond the stunning demonstration of Jesus’ Resurrection Power.

          When Jesus was informed of Lazarus’ sickness, He was not concerned at all.  In fact, He intentionally tarried for two days before starting back to Bethany. (v. 6)  Now, keep in mind that Jesus spent more personal time with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus than anyone else, except, perhaps, His twelve disciples.  He loved Lazarus and his two sisters deeply. When Martha comes out and confronts Him, she is clearly making a bold statement in subtext, “Why weren’t you here when we needed you most?  You’ve fed the five thousand, healed the sick, and raised others from the dead.  Yet, your best friend, and my brother, lies dead in the grave because you were not here to save him.” 

Mary behaves similarly.

          Jesus challenges their belief in Him as Messiah, and we know that Martha openly acknowledges Him as such, and affirms her belief in His power of resurrection.  However, there is a qualification—at the last day.

          Why is this important?

          Jesus was effectively saying, “Martha, you’ve seen all the miracles I perform.  You’ve spent a great deal of time with Me, even sitting at My feet and washing them with your hair.  You know how deeply I care for you and Mary and Lazarus.  You believe I am the Messiah and have the power to raise up your brother in the last day.  But what about right now?  What about Resurrection Life today? In this moment ?  In this hour?  Martha was essentially saying, “I believe you are who you say you are—the Son of God.  I believe in the Resurrection.  But, as for today, well, you should have been here four days ago!” 

          At this point, Jesus is overcome, but not by His grief because Lazarus is dead.  No, He groans in the Spirit and is troubled, because of Martha and Mary’s unbelief.  They know Him as Mashiach. Messiah. Christ. The Anointed and Prophesied Holy One of Israel.  They have sat under His teaching and witnessed His many miracles. Yet they can’t quite bring themselves to believe that His Resurrection Power for Lazarus is for today. 

At the last day, but not today. 

Four days ago, but not today.

          Before you are quick to chastise Martha and Mary in your heart, think about this.  Much, if not most, of the believing Church lives the same way.  Many of us who profess and acknowledge Jesus as their Savior believe in the theological concept of resurrection in the last day, but in our heart we do not believe that resurrection power is for today.  If we did, our lives would be vastly different.        

          Jesus taught and discipled twelve men who changed the world, literally overnight.  They believed and walked in Resurrection Power on a daily basis.  What would the world be like if more Christians truly believed in Resurrection Power for today and not just at the last day?

          At the end of the story, Jesus commands all those standing around the grave to “loose Lazarus and let him go.”  Jesus was involving spectators in the resurrection.  He was saying to them, “I want you to put your hands on this miracle so that you will believe in Me, and in the power of My resurrection in you--today.”  Many did believe, but some went to the Pharisees to complain.  Instead of rejoicing, they were worried about their power and influence.  It was at this time that Caiaphas comes up with, and voices, the idea that it would be expedient for one man to die for the people in order to preserve the status quo.

          The greater narrative is not just about resurrection, but about unbelief in general.  I’d like to challenge you today with this question:  “What would your life be like if you truly believed that Resurrection Power is available on a daily basis, and not just for the raising of the dead? 

          In closing, I’d like to leave you with this thought from the Apostle Paul: 

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phil.3:7-11)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Trusting God for My Marriage - Love Conquers All

God Hates Divorce - Dec 2010

I suppose my prayers this morning are directed at God and heard by God.  But my goal has been to have a balanced prayer life.  I don't want to spend all or almost all of my hour with God dwelling on the imminent death of my family.

In this case, it isn't a doctor giving the death sentence.  The courts say that our family will end in 60 days or less.  Oh, there could be minor changes in that, but the reality is only a miracle can save my family.

So, as I try to pray about others and their prayer needs and requests; as I try to pray about my children's futures; as I try to pray for my own needs and thank God for his provision; as I try to pray for strength and His comfort, almost every prayer is tangent to the coming death.  So I am distracted back repeatedly to wondering what life saving approach can be tried.  Is there a cure?  What will be the consequences for individual members of the family?  What should I be doing to provide comfort and leadership to each of them?

The impact of a death of a loved one is pretty significant in the lives of those closest to them.  But the death of a family has a much greater and longer term impact.  Why has our society allowed this scourge to continue?  Some in our culture are all worried about global warming, folks without insurance, or whether animals should have lawyers.  Most of these who care so much about these questions have been impacted far more by a divorce in their family than they will ever be impacted by even crime or war.  When will Western Culture wake up and realize that while they fret about hangnails, the heart is failing.

I suppose with the death so close and so certain, it shouldn't be surprising that today's prayer time is consumed by it.  I pray that I can leave it at the alter today, so that tomorrow's prayer time can be more balanced.

Update March 2013

The last paragraph says that the death was certain, but in fact the family was put on life support January 7, 2011.  The divorce papers were drawn and just needed to be signed.  But the Lord decided that this death was to be at least postponed.

Our family continues to struggle for life.  But hope burns eternal.  God has used the time to teach me a bunch about patience and trusting Him and humility and . . . isn't that enough.  Well no.  Because even as we have a hard time watching the Hebrews in the OT learn the same lessons over and over, I had to learn old lessons anew the hard way.

There has been a very great infilling of the Holy Spirit taking place in the lives of both my estranged wife and me.  Dozens who have prayed have seen their prayers answered in God's time.  Now we seek prayer that the new spiritual awaking will find fertile soil and grow into a huge field of fruit.

Are you hurting right now and frustrated with God because he seems to be testing you beyond what you can bear, or because you suspect he is disinterested in your situation.  I totally get it.  Get over yourself!  Sorry, I want to be comforting, and you need some comforting, too.  But for the most part there is just a need to recognize that God's perfect plan is operational, and your inability to see it is only spiritual blindness.  You may not ever really know why God allowed your current circumstance, but if you are steadfast, He will provide a rich reward.



Update July 27, 2014

It has been almost exactly six years since the beginning of what seemed like the end of a 21 year marriage that had everything: two children from a previous marriage adopted into the new marriage, two new boys added, and even a young man of 16 added when his home life wouldn't allow him to stay with either his father or his mom. It was a home devoted to God. Both of us were active in ministry and in leadership at our church.

The devil couldn't stand the fruit being produced, and he did his worst. But he couldn't prevail when God's people got on their knees.

In January of 2014, we began counseling with an amazing Christian therapist. Both of us made the commitment that it was only a matter of when, not if, we would begin our new life together.  After many apologies and just as many agreements to forgive; after getting clear on God's intentions for marriage and the roles that each spouse are to fulfill; after getting understanding that love is not an emotion, but a decision, we renewed our vows on July 27, 2014 in front of the friends and family members who had so diligently prayed for our marriage and our family.

There were many who said of our marriage 6 years ago: "If their marriage can fail, whose can succeed?" Now some of those same friends and family are saying: "If their marriage can be restored, any marriage can be saved!"

Vows

Dearest Pam,

I am so excited that we have been given a second chance to leave a legacy of righteousness and an example of God's intention for marriage. In addition to the traditional vows, I make you the following promises:

My promise to you above all others, is that I will seek God’s voice in every aspect of our life together. I believe that it is because we both listened carefully to His intentions that He has blessed us with the miracle of this reunion today.

It is my heart’s intent to love you like no man has ever been loved a woman before, to place your needs ahead of mine, and to serve you in every way. I want to be your team mate, cheering you on from the dugout in every thing you pursue. I want to be your best friend, aware of your every need and mood. And I want to be your number one fan, delighting in every aspect of who you are and what you do.

To accomplish those things I promise to listen to your words AND to hear your heart. I thank God and you for this second chance to be the husband that you deserve.



ABSOLITELY NOT!



It is very comforting to know, and also to always remember that God is in charge at all times; He is on duty – 24/7.  Nothing happens to us by chance; everything that comes our way goes through His hands.  The devil engineers problems from time to time as he did with Job, “Does Job fear you for nothing? … But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 1:9-11).  God agreed for him to bring calamity after calamity into Job’s life, but only to a limit, “… but on the man himself do not lay a finger” (Job 1:12b), and he couldn’t.  The devil does not succeed when God says to him, “Absolutely Not.”
Whatever God allows, He also gives us the strength and grace to bear.  I have had issues I did not understand, and still don’t understand, but God knows all about it and has given me grace to bear. In addition, He intercedes for me, and has charged many others to pray for me and to encourage me.
What does the future hold for me?  I have no idea, but this I know, God will not allow me to be stretched beyond measure, beyond my ability to bear!
What would you consider ‘Beyond Measure”?  There is nothing like “Beyond Measure” in God’s vocabulary, because when troubles increase, His grace abounds even more.  When He allows it to happen, He also enables us; He makes a way!  He gives grace in proportion to our troubles, and when appropriate, He will either say to the devil, “Enough” or “Absolutely Not.”
The apostle Paul explained to the Corinthian Church how much trouble he and his team mates had faced in Asia.  He made it clear that their troubles were beyond their own ability to bear, but it was so that they’d depend on God (2 Cor 1:8-10).  When the apostle Paul had the thorn in his side and desired healing, God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
Whatever you are going through, remember, God is not asleep on the job, He is not out of town, He is not blind or deaf; He is in control, and knows exactly when to say to the enemy, “Enough” or “Absolutely Not.”  Be encouraged.  Your troubles will foster your dependence upon God, demonstrate God’s strength, and encourage others to trust Him.    

Pearl Nsiah-Kumi,  RN, CRNC

Monday, July 28, 2014

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? Luke 14:28 NIV

Living in South Lake Tahoe, California seemed like a dream location for a new job. My husband and I had the Sierra Nevada Mountains in our backyard and one of the most beautiful lakes in the world only a few miles down the road. When my husband accepted a position managing a camp, I knew we’d hit pay dirt. I pictured us taking leisurely days off to hike the trails, boat the turquoise lake, and explore abandoned gold mine towns. In winter we’d ski down the powdery slopes. Reality quickly slammed us. My husband worked almost seven days a week, on call like a country doctor. He faced strong-willed staff members, a flu epidemic that almost shut the camp down, an overturned boat (with the threat of the boater going into hypothermia), and a health department inspection… all within the first four months. My rose-colored view of his job turned gray from stress and led to exhaustion for both of us. Suddenly those snow-capped mountains didn’t matter much. I missed seeing my husband as I craved an opportunity for him to have a day off

Sometimes our dreams collide with practical life. We were newlyweds when we took the camp job. Our Tahoe experience taught us that we, as a couple, need to really think things through before we pull up stakes and jump into a new career. Though we both tend to come out high on the “craving adventure and change scale,” we've learned through hard experiences to take time to research and understand the impact a move will make on our family. Planning and analyzing is essential. Seriously scrutinizing a possible move may save you dollars and heartache down the road. Are you considering a move state to state or even just a change of houses in your town? God’s word reminds us to count the cost. How will this possible relocation affect the emotional, financial, educational, and social needs of your family? God wants the best for us and we can’t always see the best without His guidance.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Could Your Faith Disqualify You For College?

When Bryan Jenkins applied to study radiation therapy at Baltimore Community College, he never thought it would matter to anyone what his religion was. He presented a 3.2 GPA, he passed the entrance exam, and then he was interviewed. During the admissions interview, the interviewer asked, “What is most important to you.” This is not a question about academics. This question asks for the source of a person’s values. Bryan Jenkins responded with an honest answer: “My God.”

Christianity is a way of life

Any Christian who believes that he is called to live according to his faith in every part of his life might well have answered the same way. To be sure, the questioner did not ask what Bryan’s religion was, and it is probably considered inappropriate to ask that precise question, given that the school would not want to be accused of religious discrimination. It is not possible to guess what the interviewer thought he (or she) would learn by asking this question, but Bryan’s answer makes complete sense to people who determine their values and their standards from within their relationship with God. If their values grow out of the teachings of their faith, then God is more important than anything else. Bryan answered in accord with his personal standards.

It is, therefore, quite shocking to hear that the school chose not to admit Bryan Jenkins to a radiation therapy program because, in their view, his chosen field of radiation therapy “is not the place for religion.” Students of secularism will recognize immediately that this statement expresses the familiar secular concept that religion belongs inside designated worship spaces and nowhere else.

The people who brought the USA to birth would be astonished to discover that there is some place in a human life where that person’s religion and the values it teaches should not be permitted to apply. Those who wrote the Declaration of Independence, fought a bloody war against oppressive government, and wrote the Constitution believed that the nation they created required people of character, and they believed that character was rooted in religious faith. The very idea that religion belongs in a box excluded from the public discourse and the decisions that shape medical treatment or any other human endeavor would be outrageous to them.

The American Center for Law and Justice has taken the case of Bryan Jenkins and has filed suit against the college. This lawsuit is a terrible intrusion into the life and future of Bryan Jenkins, who simply wants to help patients get better if they need radiation therapy. His faith in God is certainly no reason to refuse to admit him. Every person’s values come from somewhere. Bryan Jenkins says that his values grow out of his relationship with God. How does that relationship and that source of values disqualify him as a therapist for patients who need radiation? Most people would be happy to discover that their medical treatment team included someone with values based on something greater than themselves. But here is the real truth: it is rare for a patient ever to know the origin of the values of people who treat him (or her) medically. A patient with a major problem might encounter more than 200 people in the course of a hospital stay that included major surgery, and the likelihood that this person would have the slightest clue about the religion of even one of those individuals is very small.

Why would a college impose a religious test on applicants?

It is not clear why the college asks the question, “What do you value most?” but if their intent is to discover and reject religious faith, they need to stop doing so. This college is funded by public tax money. The public at large thinks that it is a sign of character for someone to root his values in religious faith. If they discover that a therapist in a treatment team is a person who lives by the principles of his faith, they will mostly applaud that fact and be grateful to have such a person in their lives.

Yet it needs to be reiterated that the source of Bryan’s values is not a legitimate reason to disqualify Bryan from studying any subject at the college whatsoever. The source of Bryan’s values is not a legitimate reason to disqualify Bryan from working as a radiation therapist. Any employer who tried to filter out Christians or Muslims or Hindus or any other religion would be called to account for the bona fide occupational qualification that made it unacceptable for a Christian to work in this occupation. The college is pre-empting a decision that they have no right or justification for pre-empting.

Christians must applaud anyone who testifies faithfully

Christians everywhere need to applaud Bryan Jenkins. He did what every Christian intends to do: he spoke honestly about his faith. Every Christian means to do that when asked about faith or values or moral foundations. Every American needs to deplore and reject the behavior at this college and any others where admissions staff attempt to filter out any religion of any sort. The truth is that qualification for admission to any public educational institution may not be based on any religious test, and the interpretation of the question asked of Bryan Jenkins makes it a religious test. The college did not say that values based on the Christian religion conflict in any way with competence as a radiation therapist. The college only suggested that patients might disagree with Bryan’s religion. They assumed things they cannot possibly know about attitudes that have no relevance to Bryan’s values.

Pray for Bryan Jenkins and for the American Center for Law and Justice. This is not the American way. In the USA, people are free to live according to the tenets of their faith, and they are free to live according to the values taught by their faith, and they are free to work in occupations for which they qualify regardless of their faith. This wrong must be righted.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love, available at Amazon . You can learn more about Katherine at Living on Tilt . If you are an author who is looking for an editor, visit Katherine Harms, Editor, and learn how to she can help you prepare your manuscript for publication.

 

Photo courtesy of Imgarcade.com

Friday, July 25, 2014

The power and the significance of Abraham's name and his name change in the BIble

A rose by any other name would still be a rose, or would it? How important do you think names are? Better still, how does the God of the Bible view names? Take the name of father Abraham, for instance. You know that song, Father Abraham had many sons?



As the story went, in the beginning Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were barren. Did you know, however, that Abraham’s original name wasn’t always Abraham? God changed his name slightly and it was after that that he saw his miracle and had a son.

Abraham’s name started off as “Abram” (as in the image above) It was missing the “heh” (or "hey") as in the fifth Hebrew alphabet that speaks of the breath of God. What does Abraham mean anyway for God to want to have the man change it? Was there any pertinent reason for this change? Believe it or not, “Abraham” means father of many (children). Of course, he didn’t have his son (Isaac) the moment his name was changed. It took some years and so, during these barren time, when others called him they always hailed him as “Abraham” –“father of many”--even before he had a single child.

I believe every story or anecdote in the Bible is there for a reason—aside from the fact that many of the stories are part of history. I take it that our God wanted us to learn from this small name change incident. To call that which isn’t as though it already is (Romans 4:17 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;).


Also, the word “Abraham” has the added “Heh” in it. His breath into Abram’s name and that breath translated supernaturally into the miracle that Abraham and his wife were waiting for—a son from his legitimate union of marriage with his love and wife, Sarah.

Next week we will look at Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Sarah’s name holds a story of its own, too.
We will see her name change and its effects on her and her life with Abraham.


Meanwhile may the breath of God (heh) in your life fill you with joy and give you the miracle you have been asking for.

the same team


By now, most of you have probably seen this video. I love this video. I hope you have enjoyed it as well. But there is a specific reason I love it.



What do I love about this besides a) She's a GYMNAST, or b) She's freaking awesome, or c) She's an inspiration to short women everywhere?

I love the crowd. They may be the best part of this video. At every moment, you can hear them. Cheering her on. Holding their collective breath when she falters. Screaming at her that she can do it and she's amazing. And she was. And so were they.

No one put her down for being a woman in a (previously) man's sport. No one yelled that they could do it better. No one called her out on her form or finesse. They crazily, noisily, exuberantly cheered her every effort. They held her up when she struggled. They were a community. They were one.

I've seen this before. When my daughter and I ran (ran as in, walked, but let's not quibble) a Mud Run, I watched a crowd of women cheer another woman, overweight and on my side of older, as she attempted to run up a muddy hill and pull herself up with a rope. She did it, too. Probably because a noisy group of complete strangers stood there cheering her from the bottom.

We'e all seen the runner who stops, potentially losing a chance at today's glory, to help another runner in need.

The amateur athletic community knows something the church needs to know. They know they won't run any faster or compete any stronger by criticizing someone else's form. They know they won't improve a personal best by wishing for someone else's fall. They know cheering helps us all to do better.

They know they need one another to push everyone toward being their best.

They know what community really means.

Church people—we don't.

The New Testament uses a couple words when it talks about church and believers together. One is koinonia—a term that means to be in fellowship, sharing, united, in community. Another is oikos—which basically calls the church to be an extended family. People who are there for one another through everything, even weird uncles and difficult cousins. 

The Bible also uses the phrase “one another” often when referring to how believers are supposed to do life together. Be devoted to and honor one another (Romans 12.10), serve one another, (Galatians 5.13), accept one another (Romans 15.7), encourage one another (Hebrews 3.13), be kind to one another (Ephesians 4.32).

How are believers supposed to act toward one another? Like that. Like a team. Like a community. Like runners who look at one another as people on the same track with the same goal who help each other to do their best.

How do we act all too often? Um, not so much.

*If a church member offends us, we're more likely to walk away and find someone else than to say, “Hey, you're family. Letter's work this out. I love you.”

*If we disagree with someone's point of view, we seem all too happy to use personal insult to “prove” we know better than to listen and learn.

One of the largest reasons given among Millennials for why they are leaving the church is this one—too many Christians would rather infight than love their world together. Too many are so focused on being right that they have forgotten how to be Christlike.

Completely lost in the ensuing madness are Jesus' words: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Perhaps, Jesus himself is completely, or at least largely, lost in the madness as well. That is an indictment we should not be able to live with.

I'm picturing the revolution that might happen if, instead of calling someone out when we are unhappy, we racked our brains for ways to serve and honor that person.

This is not easy. It's certainly a personal challenge for me. It feels a little like when I was a young adult trying to honor a father whom I loved but whose alcoholic behavior created issues I couldn't live with. I can think of a number of people I strongly disagree with that I really do not want to honor. I have serious concerns about their teaching and its ramifications. I strongly disagree. 

But what if I tried to honor them? What would it look like? 
What might happen?

What if you tried, today?

This post is a lead in to something I've wanted to for for a while. Over the next few weeks, I am planning to do a series of posts about the church—what it is, what it's supposed to be, and where it's going. Please join me. Please tell me what you think about those questions. I'd love your ideas.