Building Community – The Purpose and Power of Connections

How do we genuinely comprehend the magnitude of God’s intention for networks of friendship, bonds of community, and genuine alliances of faith? Whenever I write about community, I am walking on foreign soil! I am like an explorer mapping freshly discovered territory with the intention of others following and traversing similar terrain into healthy community relationships.

Jesus The Example

For my answers I must turn to Jesus Christ. No other human exemplified both the purpose and power of connections as Jesus. Jesus remains the benchmark of excellence! He chose his followers from the most unlike candidates who were

at times highfalutin and oft cantankerous,
more than a little rag-tag mixed with a pinch of upper crust,
self-centered and self-promoting.

Creating unity in community!

How did he solidify in these men unparalleled power-filled connection that would be reproduced through generations in spite of the unending assaults of government, church and society?

“He appointed twelve that they might be with him
and that he might send them out to preach”
Mark 3:14

I realize any group, large or small, must be built on two strong legs in order to not only walk out faith, but have the capacity to run the race Christ has established. The first is love and the second is honour. Without both of these pillars, our journey together will be crippled and distorted.

The entire purpose and power of connections is based on these two ingredients: love and honour. Yet in multiple meetings with recognized leaders, few mention either!

Love

When asked what the greatest of commandments was, Jesus minced no words!

“… ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it:
Love your neighbour as yourself’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:36-40

A community of love and honour!

Paul would later dissect truth further in his letter to the Corinthians. He clarifies that without love, regardless of supernatural gifts and abilities, “I am nothing…I gain nothing”!

Any endeavour at building community without love is void and impotent.

I’m not talking about the here today and gone tomorrow shadow of  love, the touchy-feely, ooey-gooey imposter of love, or the make me “look good”, “feel good”, self-seeking mutation of love.

In true community love flows from the heart of the Father permeating every activity, conversation, discipleship, and connection. It bears repeating, without it we are nothing; we gain nothing!

Honour

When love is genuine, honour will also be sincere.

Pay to all what is owed to them:
taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed,
respect to whom respect is owed,
honor to whom honor is owed.”
Romans 13:7

Paul is writing concerning how to treat those in authority. Christ always went beyond the letter of the law manifesting the heart of truth. 

Community extends honour to all!

If the purpose of honour is to give merit, distinction or worth on the basis only of rank or status, it is a faint shadow of God’s intention, contradicting Christ’s example.

We see Jesus not just honouring people with title or position, but the lowly, despised, rejected, outcast members of His society. Honour is based not on social hierarchy, but the divine attribute and worth of being God’s image bearers.

When the heart of community is honour, it infiltrates every aspect of that community elevating each member. It is impossible to truly honour God without recognizing

  His likeness in every individual
and excellence in their personal uniqueness,
seeing purpose in His divine impartation
and gifts to His children,
while acknowledging His brilliance in every life.

By honouring the one, we honour the whole. In the honour of individuals, we honour the community.

Power of Community

The synergy of love and honour united this unlikely group of The Twelve into an undeniable re-presentation of Christ on earth.

If we believe that community is for the purpose of evangelism, we begin to treat people like a number on a list. If the attempt is keeping people from walking out the revolving back door of the church, community becomes a camouflaged prison of co-dependence. It is dangerous and deceptive to tag community’s primary purpose as discipleship. We cannot succumb to creating robotic reproductions full of knowledge and void of purpose.

Community - a fellowship of worth and purpose!

On the other hand, if every community is a fellowship of love and honour, each individual develops a sense of worth and purpose in their divine existence and calling.

People naturally encouraged and drawn into intimate relationship with Jesus
directly flows out of community.
The soil of community facilitates restoration and healing.
The wandering ones find a sense belonging.
Vibrant community environments release and develop gifts and abilities.

The united power of love and honour creates the fertile soil out which The Twelve became a hundred and the hundred became thousands, multiplying into a diverse and dominant worldwide movement unified for the glory of God.

Now that is genuine community!

“For everything comes from him and exists by his power
and is intended for his glory.
All glory to him forever!
Amen.”
Romans 11:36

Building community for the glory of Christ!

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Further Reading:

Friendship – Embracing Unity While Valuing Diversity

Give Praise to the Lord, Proclaim His Name

Praise is an act of worship, whether in prayer, song, dance or declaration. In praise, I thank God for all He has done, but more importantly, I worship Him for who He is. Praise is an action! It is meant to flow naturally from a heart of gratitude and awe.

Many words are often used as synonyms in parallel with “praise. ” They  words help point to its meaning:  “bless, ” “exalt, ” “extol, ” “glorify, ” “magnify, ” “thank, ” and “confess.” To praise God is to call attention to his glory.

From Genesis to Exodus the theme of praise runs through the pages of the bible. I am reminded constantly that life is not meant to be lived in self-focus, but rather with head and heart tilted upward, and eyes fixed on Someone far greater!

Beginning young!

Did you know our core purpose is to give God praise?

“The people whom I formed for Myself
Will declare My praise..”
Isaiah 43:21

Psalms of Praise

It is no surprise to discover the Hebrew title for The Psalms is “Praises”.

Giving God glory and adoration is more than an obligation, it is a delight!

I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
 Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”
Psalm 63:2-5

God is holy and fully good! He doesn’t need our worship! He is worthy of it!

Reasons for Praising God

It is impossible to quantify the many reasons God is most worthy of such adoration! Let me name just a few!

God is faithful to every one of His promises:
He is the One and only true God.
God is crowned with glory, honour, and splendor.
He is inerrantly good!
His word is faithful and true.
His love endures forever: His grace is beyond comprehension,
and His mercies are new each morning.
The Lord reigns in majesty and power.

People of Nation Worshiping God
He is a covenant keeping God –
our Deliverer, our Saviour,
our Rock and our Defender.
God is a Righteous Judge, a Mighty Warrior,
and Gentle Shepherd.
He is the Creator of all and Redeemer of people.

And that is just the “tip of the iceberg”!

Unchanging God

The same God that delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt and made a way through the Red Sea is with us today! He is for us, not against us! He is still Healer, Restorer, Comforter, and our Anchor of Hope.

Every anthem of praise still applies!

Give thanks to the Lord,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
 proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known  in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Do you notice how each one of these words are actions? Praise is not quiet nor passive acknowledgement of God’s goodness and greatness.

 

“Great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!”

God is still great! He is still present! He is worthy of highest acclaim!

The Best Time

Often the best time to give God praise is before the breakthrough, before the healing, before the dawn breaks forth or the storm ends. As we choose to pronounce His attributes  peace, confidence and strength begins to fill us. God dwells in the midst of our praise!

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!”
Habakkuk 3:17-18

Habakkuk has the right idea!

In the light of a palace Solomon wrote the proverbs. In the darkness of the wilderness, fleeing from his enemies, David wrote the psalms.

I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
    in the assembly I will sing your praises.”
Hebrews 2:12

Yes! Worship God in your local church, but don’t limit your worship to these beautiful corporate times.

How to Praise

Some lifted up shouts of praise and singing

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music

…and the sound of singing.”
Psalm 98:4-5

Shouts of Praise!

Miriam picked up a tambourine and led women in a dance of praise rejoicing on the freedom side of the Red Sea. (On a side note, remember Miriam was well into her eighties at this time!) Miriam’s dance of worship may have been the first mentioned in bible, but it wasn’t the last. Decades later, David danced in the streets

“Wearing a linen ephod,
David was dancing before the LORD with all his might,”
2 Samuel 6:14

A man healed gave a different kind of praise:

“He jumped to his feet and began to walk.
Then he went with them into the temple courts,
walking and jumping, and praising God.”
Acts 3:8

The way your walk, the way you talk and where you chose to go, can demonstrate praise.

Children and adults alike waved palm branches is jubilant exaltation as Jesus entered Jerusalem

“They took palm branches and went out to meet him,
shouting, “Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
John 12:13

Children praise God!

More important than the method we chose is a heart fully devoted to honour and glorify God.  Praise is one of the few things we rehearse on earth and do perfectly in heaven. Around God’s throne over seven thousand different nations, tribes and tongues will join together in one glorious anthem. Let’s be ready!

May praise be active daily as we proclaim to our world, God is worthy! Whether on your own or combining your voice with others, declare it, “God is worthy of all praise!”

 

Creating a Culture of Honour – Honour God! Honour All!

Culture of Honour

Recognizing the need for honour in a culture of entitlement is not easy. Living a life of honour demonstrates true empowered living.

Today’s society largely focuses on dishonour. Think of how leaders are spoken about in the media, whether their leadership is political, spiritual, or in the marketplace. Dishonour shows up in our driving habits and how we treat those who are in the service industry.  In many ways, we have become too casual in approach to show honour to others.

Honour Authority

Honour is choosing to value others through respect and gratitude. It is a gift we chose to give!

Culture of Entitlement

“I deserve this!”

Entitlement is the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. Neither gratitude nor appreciation surround entitlement. Life is about “me”!

I read that 93 percent of people feel undervalued and unnoticed! The uncomfortable truth is that the more self-focused we become, the less fulfilled we actually are.

93 percent of people feel undervalued and unnoticed! Click To Tweet

As we set our aim to honour entitlement vanishes!

All People

Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”
I Peter 2:17

“All” includes people who don’t deserve our honour. We have practiced the feeble philosophy of loving those who love us, respecting those who treat others with respect and honouring those who are worthy of honour.

When we follow this rule, we are allowing the conduct and behaviour of others to dictate how we live. We create judgmental lists of evaluation with headings marked “Worthy!” and “Unworthy!” In so doing, we limit our ability to love Christlike.

Jesus set the bar high as He honoured all!

Honour all

Honour must be intentional and genuinely from the heart! It brilliantly disarms people with what they are not accustomed to seeing.

Simple words like “I’m sorry!”, “Thank you!”,  and “I appreciate you!” are phrases we need to consistently practice creating this renewed culture. They are especially effective when spoken to the undeserving!

A Reward

The first command with promise is connected to honour! In showing value and appreciation to previous generations, we are promised to live a long enough life to influence and impact others.

“Honor your father and your mother,
that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”
Exodus 20:12

Honour Elderly

As we honour, we are granted increased influence and favour.

“If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God,
you will be given the same reward as a prophet.
And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness,
you will be given a reward like theirs.”
Matthew 10:41

Some bible versions use the word “honour” instead of “receive”. To receive someone is, in fact, a demonstration of honour.

Everyone wins in a culture of honour! In preferring others for their position, spiritual gifts, character, or even for no particular reason at all, we are promised reward! 

We get to participate in what we are willing to honour! Click To Tweet

Leaders

Good leaders know how to follow well!

In blessing those in leadership, you yourself have patterned a culture of honour for those who will some day follow you. In following well a person is actually validating their own ability to lead well!

During a military battle, the Israelites were winning as long as Moses held his staff above his head. But his arms grew weary. Every time his arms fell, the enemy began to triumph. Although Aaron was a leader in his own right, he willingly came underneath to hold up his leader.

What a beautiful example of honouring leadership!

“we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you,
and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
… 
to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.
…be at peace among yourselves.”
I Thessalonians 5 :12-13

Honour Leadership

We have no way of knowing how many “hits” our leadership take for us each day. They are in the front lines making decisions that effect many more people than we realize. When Satan’s arrows fly, our leaders get hit first!

Although we have all probably experienced poor or self-seeking leadership, in choosing to value and appreciate leadership we are empowering them to have their greatest impact.

Grace to Honour

We each have opportunity daily to demonstrate this quality in our homes, communities, and workplaces.

I find that when I honour in my heart, my words and actions will follow. The battle for me is to maintain a pure heart and mind.

The hardest person to lead is ourselves; so give yourself patience as you practice the grace of honour. Don’t give up! You may face rejection or fail! With time and effort we can each make a difference in our spheres of influence. Lead the way!

Let’s make honour contagious!

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The Way Up is Down! Go Low! The Rewards of Humility!

Humility

Willingness to bend, submit, and yield go against the grain of human instinct. Yet, the only way up is down! The rewards to humility are many!

I am the mother of five robust sons; all exceed my height and frame by a country mile. It is only in the last ten years or so that they have given up challenging me in a “tangle”. Out of fear of hurting me I’m sure!

In younger years when they would test my strength, I would first give them a look that questioned their sanity! You know the look a Momma gives her insolent young? The look that says, “You really don’t want to go there!”

If the look didn’t make them back down, my tenacity often would. The never-give-an-inch grit that went low and dug hard was predictably effective.

Go Low

Go Low!

Decide in advance to go low!

Jesus noticed his group of followers patterned themselves all too easily by the cultural norm of jostling for positions of status and favour. Many times through parables or simply talking straight, he illustrated the truth that humility precedes honour.

“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke14:10-11

Kingdom principles work in complete opposite to earthly ones. The only way up is to chose to go low! It is far better to have someone else assign you a place of honour than to presume one upon yourself and end up humiliated.

Humility

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves”
Philippians 2:3

Expectation

One of my favorite biblical illustrations of someone going low is the woman with the issue of blood.

“She had suffered a great deal under the care
of many doctors and had spent all she had,
yet instead of getting better she grew worse.”
Mark 5:26

She approached from a low position with high expectation.

“Just then a woman who had been
subject to bleeding for twelve years
came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.”
Matthew 9:20

Expectation

This poor woman risked big! She wasn’t supposed to be in public without crying out, “Unclean! Unclean!” Yet here she was on her hands and knees in the middle of a moving crowd with one intention, touch the hem of his garment. She knew with all her being that is she did, she would be healed!

There is no mention of how many times she trampled or kicked in the process.

Jesus instantly knew something supernatural had happened. The disciples laughed it off. Dozens had touched Jesus that day as the crowd bumped along. Only one was healed!

That one was a woman who purposely went low with high expectation! Healing was hers!

Lift Them Up

Going low is the best position to lift others up. For me, the most exciting part of ministry to see others being propelled forward into excellence. I love being the one who comes underneath and gives others a boost!

Boost

It often doesn’t take much effort. At other times, however, it may require walking beside someone for years to see them advance into their full calling.

None the less it is thrilling!

Only when we position ourselves intentionally beside someone are we close enough to give them momentum to excel.

Humility

The rewards of humility are multiple! Giving our lives for the benefit of Christ and others fills one with a sense of richness.

Humility Honour

The greatest illustration of humility is Christ Himself!

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
 by taking the very nature of a servant,
 being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
 he humbled himself
 by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
 and gave him the name that is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
 in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”
Philippians 2:5-10

He took the form of humanity created from the dust of the earth! God became dirt! The Sinless and Holy wrapped in flesh! We will not fully comprehend the depth of humility Christ walked until we see Him enthroned in the place of majesty, dominion, and power –

crowned in glory,
exalted in power,
radiant in beauty,
awesome in majesty,
excellent in perfection.

Crowned in glory, exalted in power, radiant in beauty, awesome in majesty, excellent in perfection. Click To Tweet

What little He is asking from us to joyfully assume a low position to honour Him and others!

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Further Reading –

Faith or Fear? Which Will We Choose?

Setting the Goal of Love – Hit the Target!