Gather together with warm greeting and any necessary introductions. Or if you are joining us on the blog, get comfy, fix yourself a warm drink, and let’s begin.
Begin with a few seconds of silence… breath in… breath out… Allow the cares of the day to be set aside and center your thoughts on God.
Praise God as hospitable, open, ready to receive all right where they are.
Touchstone Reminder: Hospitality
Hospitality is one of our Touchstone practices in Gather. One of the definitions of hospitable in Merriam Webster’s is “readily receptive; open.” Offering hospitality begins when we humbly recognize God lovingly accepts all who come to the table.
- Do you remember a time you recognized God’s openness to you?
- How did you feel? Did it encourage you to keep coming back to Him?
- Do you consider yourself hospitable? Why or why not?
- What might happen in a community where hospitality is practiced?
Jesus lived hospitably. Time and time again He loved those who were unlovable to the world. The adulterous woman, a blind beggar, the woman at the well. Love motivated His openness to anyone who came to him. It still does.
I heard a teaching this week from Charles Stanley which shocked me a bit. It was something I knew, but never quite put it the way he did. Basically, he said every single person is a temple of the Living God.
I know the teaching of Believers being temples of the Living God and how we are all created for the purpose of glorifying God. And the words of Blaise Pascal: There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ. We have a God-shaped hole in us to be filled by God. But to say everyone is a temple of the living God was a bit shocking.
Dr. Stanley went on to give the analogy of an empty church building. Does it stop being a church building just because it’s empty?
To remember that all people are created as a temple for God’s Spirit to indwell is a way to open our hearts to others. And it certainly explains why Jesus was so hospitable to those He interacted with. He was trying to get them to open up and let Him into the place created for His Spirit to live.
Read Matthew 5:43-48
What is at the heart of Jesus’ questions?
Jesus doesn’t really answer the questions but says, “Be perfect.” What do you think Jesus means? How do we go about being perfect?
Community is much more than a club experience. The places where we surround ourselves with people we like or those who are like us. Agape love is learning to live and love even those who rub us wrong because we have one heart, one vision: to love God and others.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Read the quote out loud, and then silently. Spend a few minutes listening and noticing words or phrases that catch your attention.
…nothing in your life has a greater value than finding your tribe. You need to find your people, because as long as you walk alone, you will never know your strength. Your greatest strength is not when you can prove that you don’t need anyone; your greatest strength is when you no longer have to prove that you can do it alone. There is strength in numbers. There is a strength that comes when you walk together with those who are of one heart and one mind as you.
To live the life God created you to live, to ensure that everything within you is unleashed for the good of humanity, even if your ultimate longing is to find yourself, you need to find your people.
— Erwin McManus, The Last Arrow
Consider the following questions:
- What words or phrases catch your attention? Why?
- How would you describe your tribe? Who are they? Where did they come from?
- Does your tribe lead you to grow in the things of God?
- Do you believe there is strength in numbers when it comes to your spiritual journey?
Read: 1 Corinthians 12:12
God’s Word tells us, in Christ, we are one body. Every part or member of our physical bodies has a special purpose and function. Each part considered essential.
- When it comes to church membership, do you consider yourself a part of one body?
- Where do you fit in? How?
- What keeps you from being a part of the body?
The word “member” was not used for people belonging to a community or organization until the church began to gather. It is a specifically Christian word. It’s only use before was literally as a member of a physical body: leg, arm, finger, toe, eye, nose… You get the picture.
This is a concept we desperately need to restore: Each member of the church a member of the body of Christ. The heart of membership is forgotten when we call for “volunteers” to support the church. Do you have any parts of your body which are volunteers? Do they up and leave when things get uncomfortable? diseased? broken?
A volunteer shows up when they want and leaves when they want. They have no vested interest in the community. In the picture of the body, this would be a prosthetic, an artificial body part, like legs, arms, dentures. These never work as well as the original parts of a body. A prosthetic eye can’t even see, but it sure looks like it can. Prosthetics can be easily removed. But to remove an actual member of the body takes surgery or a horrific accident.
A tribe is also something you’re connected to much more deeply than just a desire to belong. Tribes are generally thought of as family, blood relations. As members of the body of Christ we belong to His tribe and there is no up and leaving. We need one another to function properly and glorify God corporately and individually.
Christian community is important to finding our place in the body and growing to be a healthy member fully connected to the Head: Jesus.
Think about your week of practicing the One Word discipline.
- Did you receive a word, or are you still waiting?
- How has practicing this discipline drawn you closer to God?
- When did you notice God this week? Where were you? Who were you with?
As I was praying about a situation, I felt God leading me to give in a certain way. I willingly said “Yes” to God’s leading and went on my way.
During the next hour I made a way for the giving. After all was said and done, I gasped. What in the world did I just do. And the bigger question, “Why?” Because even though I accomplished the giving, I did it my way, not God’s.
Oh, how quickly I can move away from God. In the span of one hour, I heard God, moved away from His call, and bowed low in repentance. Did I learn something? Yes! Even in the doing of good, I’m prone to do it my way.
Will it happen again? Absolutely! Still He is faithful to give me another chance. For from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace (John 1:16).
Scripture Foundation: One Word
Read Matthew 13:31-33
- How did Jesus describe the Kingdom?
- What is required for a seed to grow? for leaven to do its work?
Jesus used two examples of God’s Kingdom that clearly take time and the right conditions to come about.
- How are you at waiting and giving things time to transform?
Neither seeds nor leaven will do what they are supposed to if they sit on the shelf in a jar. What type of conditions are needed for God to bless us with spiritual growth?
Read Matthew 13:44-46
- What do these two parables have in common?
One of the things these two parables have in common is someone looking for treasure or something of great value. The valuables did not instantly appear on their doorsteps. Both the man and the merchant were actively looking for something.
The One Word spiritual discipline is a lot like this. When we allow God time and actively seek the spiritual treasure God wants to reveal through this word, we find one of the most valuable assets of spiritual maturity. We find Truth that transforms us.
- What thoughts surface when you hear the word “truth”? Why?
- Are you actively seeking God’s truth? How?
- Do you ever worry you are missing some truth?
- If you have a word, what truth has your word revealed to you in the last week?
One of the truths God has revealed with my word Restore is He has an appointed time for restoration to take place.
And he said to me, “For 2300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”
Daniel 8:14 ESV
This truth gives me much hope as I’ve been seeking and praying for restoration in my life and the lives of loved ones.
He is faithful to restore and He has already set a time for it to happen. All I have to do is wait.
Actively pursuing God’s truth in the right conditions along with patient waiting will always lead to a blessing of spiritual growth.
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of righteousness.
2Corinthians 9:10 ESV
Read Matthew 7:7-11
Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?
Do you naturally ask God for what you need or are you hesitant? Why?
Jesus instructs us to ask, seek, and knock. This is not about hiding things from us, but more about our hesitancy to ask. There are times we are fearful of what might happen when we do. Will He answer in a way that stirs up fear or puts us at risk? These verses give us assurance God is faithful to answer in the most loving, perfect way. They encourage us to keep on keeping on trusting God to lead, instruct, and guide our every step.
When you go to God, go big, dream big, pray big, ask big, live big. You will never live so big that you are too big for God. If you don’t know what you want, you will get what you do not want. If you don’t know who you want to become, you will become someone you never wanted to be. If you don’t know what life you want to live, you’re going to live the life someone else wants for you to live. If you don’t know what you want God to do in your life, you will wonder why he gave you so little, while the whole time he was waiting for you to see how much he wanted to entrust with you.
─ Erwin McManus, The Last Arrow
Pray a prayer of blessing.