Exiled.

I wrote this less than a month after my bride’s father passed away and we left the community, exiled just because we never quite ‘fit in’.

I’d like to publicly (open letter) thank those people who did reach out to us, offer us meals, sympathy cards, emails, and phone calls. “You really did reach out and do for Jesus (Matthew 25) when you did for us (the least of these), and in doing so, were Jesus to us.” To those of you who consider that spiritual responsibility is the pastor’s, I’d ask you to reconsider your position and ask God what you can do to be Jesus to other people. We should not nor do we expect everyone to meet our spiritual or emotional or physical needs. But to place all that burden on the Pastor is unbiblical. There we no pastors when Jesus made this Matthew 25 exhortation.

Consider which of you might be called on by God for things like visitation, counseling others, praying for one another, leading prayer meetings in your home, etc. These things are the things the early disciplies did. Why are we any different? Should we be?” Not every act of spiritual service needs to take place in the building we call church. Really. And some of you get that. Stonehedge. CareNET. Celebrate Recovery. Welcome Hall. All really great stuff. Impactful stuff. Well done! But what more can we do for people? And why must it be in the context of the body? If God speaks to your heart to do something, follow Him. Keep Him close, like the pillar of smoke / fire in the desert.

And please, always discern and ask God to help you determine when to say YES to something and when you really should say NO – so the person with a heart for THAT can say YES. And please be okay with telling people NO and receiving NO from others. We all must care for our hearts so that we can let our lives flow abundantly into others’.

And about closeness. My family have tried on several occasions to reach out and share life with you. We don’t expect everyone to openly accept that invitation. We all have “old friends” that we are comfortable with and whatnot. That’s fine. I pray that others who come to you would be welcome, truly, into the body and into your hearts. We have tried to do so in the past four years, including extending friendship through a meal – and I would suggest Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel to find out the depth of meaning for a meal invitation in Jesus’s day. That’s how important it is to us to have folks into our home.

I would also encourage you to invite the Pastor and his wife and the Youth Pastor and their family to your home for dinner or dessert. Bless them all. It’s easy to give them a love offering at the end of the year and check it off your to-do list. Bless these people with your hearts and with your lives, please. Even if it’s a cookout or something similar. If you don’t enjoy the gift of hospitality, prepare a meal and take it to them – but don’t make it a surprise!

I was once told (when I asked about the intimacy and closeness in that body of believers) that if I am seeking greater intimacy with people, I would not find it here. I would find people who are happy to live life, showing up on Sunday mornings, and serving Jesus. “and you shall know them by the love they have for one another.” Something I feel convicted of, for sure. Forgive me for failing to love you all as Jesus would. Perhaps it’s not just me, though. That doesn’t remove my burden from the equation and I’m only responsible to God for me and my house. I cannot speak what God is telling you about loving others. Anyway, that’s the verse God keeps whispering to me this week.

I don’t write all this to be a downer on how well you think you’re living for Jesus. I promise you that. I believe the best in each and every one of you. Your hearts are no longer hearts of stone, but are hearts of flesh. The Holy Spirit dwells in each and every believer and cannot dwell in hearts of stone. You are fertile ground, which stands for the good and noble heart. I challenge everyone to see the goodness of the Father in each others’ hearts – even those you’re not particularly fond of – and to seek deeper intimacy together through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who gave us victory over hell and sin through the cross, who gave us life in the resurrection, and gave us power through his ascension. Amen.

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