I’m no expert, but I’d say the average Christian anticipates (and would be content with) their life events landing somewhere in the middle of the spectrum—nothing too extreme in either direction. Logical people that we are (ahem), we realize we’ll face trials, but we believe God will keep us from the really bad stuff. After all, He is a God of love, and having accepted Him, we do deserve His protection and a few blessings … right?

So how do we reconcile the fact that some of us, the children of this loving God, will face divorce or lose a child or wander around in desperate search of the joy and peace promised in the Bible? What are we supposed to do when God allows our plans to shatter and fall in on us, leaving us cut up, exposed, and completely unprepared?

If you never have, take 10 minutes to read the Book of Ruth. In the first two verses, we’re introduced to a woman named Naomi, along with her husband and their two sons. By verse 3 Naomi is a widow. By verse 5 she is childless, save her two daughters-in-law. Shocked? I bet she was too. We can probably add depressed, angry, terrified, and hopeless to that list as well. And definitely bitter.

When our plans shatter and fall to the ground, we beg God to reveal Himself, and if we’re bold, we demand that He explain Himself. In the midst of all the talking we’re doing, we sometimes miss His reminder that it was our plans that shattered—not His.

God didn’t write Naomi off when she lost it all and became bitter. Instead, He restored what she had lost in a great and unexpected way.

Maybe your plans haven’t been shattered. But I bet you know someone whose plans have been. How can you impact their life? How can you be a mouthpiece for God?

Maybe you’re in the middle of terrible struggle or loss. Will you allow yourself to trust in God’s plans? Will you believe that He is sovereign?

Learning to trust in the perfection of God’s plans,

Hannah

P.S. If you need a reminder of your worth in God’s eyes, listen to this.

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Today’s post is the first of several upcoming Guest Posts by leading small group thinkers and/or church practitioners.  Philip Nation writes for The Gypsy Road about the dna of community and asks a penetrating question that will demand something of you.

Community

What does that word even mean?

Sometimes a word is used so often that it begins to lose any sense of impact with us. It happens all of the time. Think about the myriad of business terms that come in and out of favor where you work. Vision. Mission. Team. Brainstorming. Entrepreneur. Paradigm. Win-win. And one of my favorites: Cutting-edge.

At one time, they all had significant meaning, if only for a season. Now, they fall in and out of favor depending on who is your boss-of-the-moment. Sometimes passé and sometimes brilliant, we wield such words like a Samurai warrior with his sword or a kid with a toy light saber.

Maybe that is why so many people began using the word “community” rather than “fellowship.” The latter was once a word with rich meaning of lives shared, burdens relieved, and joys distributed. As a boy growing up in a Southeastern city and regularly attending a revivalistic church, it usually meant a big dinner with lots of fried chicken and casseroles. And that was fine with me. Especially if Mrs. Betty brought her homemade chocolate pie too.

Over time, fellowship did not mean what we thought it should mean. So, we picked a new word to communicate an old meaning. Community. To some, it means the geographic place where they live. “I live in the Hendersonville community just north of Nashville.” But to those in a small group at church, it is increasingly meaning something else. It has become a signpost of life shared.

Now, this is where a writer would most often share his or her authoritative definition of the subject matter. But, for today, I will restrain myself. Instead, it is time for you to become the subject matter expert. Sure, I could tear through a list of “must haves” and “must avoid” for better community. But first, your church must define community before it can act in community.

So today’s blog entry is a challenge: Define what community means. Search through passages from Genesis to Revelation. After all, God is seeking community with us and setting us up for community with one another. Adam and Eve had it in Genesis 2. Moses is stretched in Numbers 12 to keep it. Ruth and Naomi find an unexpected level of it. Mephibosheth never thought he could have it, but he does. Job seeks it only to be silenced by its arrival. Isaiah celebrates in it while Jeremiah finds refuge to lament in its presence. Hosea and Gomer provide one of the oddest illustrations for it. Jesus offered it to twelve men who followed, questioned, doubted, believed, and most gave their lives for it. Paul constantly talked about it. The church both excelled and stumbled in it. And Christ will perfect it one day.

So what is it? Theologians, saints, and sages have given a multitude of definitions. But you are the community expert in your church. So initiate the conversation in your small group this week. Throw it out there and then throw open your Bibles. Let the conversation fill the room about life, sharing life, and doing life together. Let God’s kingdom-expanding grace leap off of the pages of scripture and bring it to light and life to your own community. This week, rather than hope for community—lead your friends to define, describe, and dedicate themselves to it.

Philip Nation image

Philip Nation is the Director for Ministry Development at LifeWay Reasearch as well as a reknowned author. Philip has been a been a youth minister, single adult minister, education minister, pastor, and church planter.  He is married to Angie and the father of two incredible boys.

Keep up with Philip on twitter or on facebook.