First, I want to say thank you to all who read my first published article in January and to those who gave me feedback. It seemed to have sparked some interest, so I wanted to write a follow up. If you haven't read it, I would encourage you to, as it goes hand in hand with what I'm about to say.
It's such a blessing to write and every time I sit in front of this computer, usually in my natural habitat of a coffee shop, I ask God to use me. I ask that my words would be beneficial, thought provoking, but above all, honouring to Him. I want to use words to get rid of the walls we have created between each other and God, to get us (myself included) out of our comfort zones and perhaps we will start to see this world the way that our Creator sees it.
An interesting fact: the word or variation of the word 'encouragement' is used 39 times in the New Testament, as the disciples would travel from town to town encouraging other Christians. Here's a thought provoking question: What if instead of trying not to tear down other Christians, we took it a step further, and spoke life into other denominations and found ways to encourage them and... wait for it... actually PRAYED for them? What if our local congregations gathered together and intentionally prayed for the churches that are down the street from each other?
This leads me into the point of this article. Christianity is practical. In my last article, I said that church can be any time we gather together as Christians. But, how do we live this out as a practical reality?
When Jesus came to this earth He wasn't living and teaching about concepts and principles that were too hard to attain. Does anyone find it interesting that every time Jesus talked about the law, He raised the standard of living? In Matthew chapter 5 he says, "I have not come to abolish them (the laws) but to fulfil them." We usually stop there, but Jesus doesn't stop, He goes on to describe the laws and every singletime,he tells us to be better than the law. Look at verses 21-22: "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement."
This sounds impossible! So how are we able to live according to this principle today? Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to help us. The Holy Spirit is the One who leads us into all truth and convicts us when we need to be convicted. He does not condemn us, because we have already been justified and sanctified through Jesus' blood.
When we come together as a church we can hold each other accountable. We must start giving people in our lives permission to approach us with love and tell us when we aren't living up to the standards God has called us to. The easiest example of this is gossip or judgement, but it can take many forms. I honestly believe that we give the devil easy access when we don't speak life. Do we believe what Jesus said actually brings life and life to the full? If so, can we start to ask people around us to hold us to a higher standard?
We need vulnerability in the church. We need to be honest with one another and allow ourselves and others to open up the deepest parts of who we are. While we do this, we actually allow God to move and work in those same areas of our life. We have to know that God is a healer, He cares about what's inside of us and He wants to work through those things in our lives that we don't want to bring to the surface.
Church allows us to be vulnerable. It gives us a safe place to talk about the deeper issues of life. The weather can be a nice topic, but God is interested in you and those around you. The Holy Spirit, the one that lives inside of you, works from the inside out. When you start to talk about the things in your life (past or present) you can be assured that He wants to bring healing and restoration. As I say this, I want to make sure I emphasise that you can be vulnerable, talking honestly about the things and relationships in your life, without judgment or gossip. Church should be a breeding ground of honesty, vulnerability and life to the full.
Like I mentioned before, I would love to see our churches encouraging, helping, working with and praying for one another. Since we are the church we can start doing it in our everyday lives. I think this new generation of Christians doesn't necessarily like all the denominational issues, all the theological discussions and arguments that we often have or associate with when we think of Christianity. We can start to change these pre-conceived ideas if, we start to speak highly of one another with encouragement and prayer.
Ephesians chapter 6, verse 18 says, '... pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people.'
Here's a small challenge for us all: Find ways to encourage and lift up other denominations and churches, don't stop with not saying anything negative, but speak life into the pastors and congregations of those around you.
I pray the God of all peace be with you and bless you.
Jason LaLone is on staff at YWAM Brisbane. He is passionate about discipleship, taking Jesus' command to make disciples of all nations as a practical reality that he can live on a daily basis. He loves lasagne, cats and used to dislike Mondays, making him most like Garfield.
Jason LaLone's previous articles might be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jason-lalone.html