How to Claim Your Community for Christ

It doesn’t matter what your community looks like. Perhaps you live in a gated community. Maybe it’s a farming community. You could have been born and raised there or you could be new in town. It could be that you love where you live or not.  None of that really matters.

When the children of Israel were in exile, God had a word for them on how they were to conduct themselves. Keep in mind that this was definitely not home for them and they didn’t want to be there.

Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper. (Jeremiah 29:7 HCSB)

We are to love our communities. We are to seek the welfare of the places God has placed us. Here are three ways we can claim our communities for Christ.

A – Accept that unbelievers are going to act like unbelievers.

Seriously, friends, can we stop acting appalled and clutching our pearls when those who don’t know Christ act unChristlike? It is not our job to play the Holy Spirit. We will never guilt someone into accepting God’s grace.

I live in a community filled to overflowing with people struggling with brokenness. Many of them cling to the very thing that brings them pain, not because it’s fun, but because it’s familiar. They are afraid to pursue something different because what if, in the end, this really is all that life has to offer? Let’s be honest; that’s a real possibility.

Claiming our communities for Christ may just mean engaging someone who uses language we wouldn’t use. It most likely means getting to know someone who looks, thinks or acts quite differently from us. We have to get to know them so that they can get to know Him.

B – Be present in your community.

Let me be clear. I am an introvert’s introvert. I could, quite happily, spend the vast majority of my time in my home. Crowds make me nervous and, quite honestly, strangers make me anxious. So, when we moved to a small community about a year ago, I was nervous. New people. New places. New opportunities for rejection.

I am surrounded by poverty, addiction and a multitude of things I can’t fix. It has caused a lot of frustration for me. I don’t always understand what I’m doing here. Then, a couple weeks ago, I felt the Lord calm my spirit and say, “You’re over thinking this. I just want you to be present.”

I had to ask myself, “If I were to leave this community tomorrow, will my presence have made a difference?” I’m choosing to be present. I have scheduled checking my mailbox around when I knew a certain person walked by my house so that I could meet her. I made chocolate covered strawberries and delivered them to some ladies in town. I plan my walks around the neighborhood to pass by those folks I know will be sitting on their porches or in their yards. I’ve had neighborhood children into my home and baked birthday cakes for their mamas.

They’re small things, but not really.

C – Casseroles, Cakes, and Cookies, oh my!

Scripture tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. I’m here to tell you that so does cream of chicken soup. You take love and a good casserole and you have an opening into almost anyone’s life.

Look around your community. Who haven’t you met? Who, ahem, have you purposely not met? There isn’t any judgment here, friends. I have a list of people and a list of recipes. I’m setting a goal to meet some of them and I’m bringing food with me. A chocolate chip cookie never offended anyone. If you don’t believe me, you need to make these.

 

They’re divine; don’t forget to take some to that person on your list. I’m convinced that food, fellowship, and friendship are essential to claiming our communities for Christ.

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What have you done in your community?

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You are loved. ❤

Stacy

 

When You Get Lost in the Lonely

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I’m lonely.

The words echo around the room. How is it even possible that, amid the kids and chaos, there could be loneliness? But, it is there and it can be overwhelming. A girl can lose herself in the lonely.

There are feelings and there are facts. They are both real, but they are not the same. It’s important to remember. I feel lonely. I am not alone. If we try to view our world through our feelings, everything becomes distorted. Suddenly, everything seems wrong and even God seems far away.  I love what Eugene Peterson says about feelings in his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

My feelings are important for many things.  They are essential and valuable.  They keep me aware of much that is true and real.  But they tell me next to nothing about God or my relation to God.  My security comes from who God is, not from how I feel. 

When we feel ourselves getting lost in the lonely, we must speak truth to ourselves. Our feeling of loneliness is not an indication that God is far away. Also – loneliness is not the same as ungratefulness or discontentment. Sometimes, we are afraid to confess our loneliness for fear people think we are not grateful for where we are or what we have been given.

There are some questions we can ask ourselves when we are feeling lonely.

Have I isolated myself? This question came to mind as I studied Genesis 1-2. Think of all that Adam had: a beautiful (perfect!) home, work which gave purpose and pleasure, fellowship with the Lord, and a drama-free, stress-free existence. Yet, God looked at this seemingly perfect existence and declared it “not good.”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. – Genesis 2:18

IMG_0140Even if we have beautiful homes and good jobs, it is not good for us to be alone. It is not the way we were created to live. As difficult as it can be for {ahem} some of us, that means we have to seek out fellowship. For an introverted homebody like me, it is easier to stay home. Easy, however, sometimes breeds lonely. 

Where is my focus? Paul wrote some of the most beautiful pieces of Scripture while sitting in a prison cell awaiting his death. He had to have fought feelings of loneliness. How did he do it? His love of Christ was greater than the lonely. Do not hear me say that, if you love Christ, you will never be lonely. My point is we must make a conscious decision to focus on Him and not ourselves.

I don’t have all of the answers. Here are just a few things I have found to help – from one (sometimes) lonely girl to another. 🙂

  • Keep a proper perspective. Sometimes, we convince ourselves that we are always lonely. When we do that, everything suddenly seems wrong with our lives. A praise journal goes a long way in correcting this.
  • Get out of the house! Seriously, a trip to Target will do you wonders. Take the kids to the park and soak in the sunshine. A change of scenery will do you good.
  • Spend time in the Word. This is not my attempt to be churchy or spiritual. It’s truth. When we neglect God’s Word, we are asking for Satan to plant seeds of discontentment or loneliness.
  • Reach out. There are women in your neighborhood, in your church, at your workplace, etc. who are also lost in the lonely. If we all sit around waiting for someone to reach out to us, it will not work. Someone has to be the first to step out. Quit looking around trying to determine who could be your next best friend. Instead, look around you and see who needs a friend. Then, be one.