Tribal Faith

Seth Godin, author of the book Tribes, gives us an excellent definition of what a tribe is: “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea… A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

What better word to describe the people of God than “tribe”? We possess all the characteristics of that term. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are deeply connected to one another because we are all members of the family of God. As Christ-followers we have a strong connection to our leader, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And we are firmly connected to an idea — an idea that the Bible calls the gospel.

We are definitely a tribe.

And if we follow what Godin says next, then there are two things we need to be a tribe. We need a shared interest and we need a way to communicate.

Our shared interest is to love, thank and honor the God who first loved us and gave his Son as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. And our way to communicate with God is through worship. We listen to God as we hear the preaching and teaching of the word. We speak to God in prayer.

Perhaps that’s why the two concepts — tribes and worship — are connected by the author of Psalm 122. As the Psalmist writes, “the tribes of the Lord” go up to Jerusalem, they ascend to the temple, the house of the Lord. And why do they do this? To praise the name of the Lord.

Every Sunday we have a chance to “go tribal”… to show our connection to one another, to our Lord Jesus, and to God’s brilliant idea, the idea called the gospel. We have the opportunity to show that we are part of a cause, a “shared interest” in honoring God. And best of all, we have a sacred time set apart to communicate with our God, and to have him communicate with us.

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ …That is where the tribes go up—the tribes of the Lord—to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel” (Psalm 122:1, 4, NIV).

Lord, help me to see that I have a huge privilege in being able to worship you together with all my brothers and sisters in the Christian “tribe.” I thank you that you have included me in this tribe, and I pray that you will instill in all of us a joy in going to the house of the Lord — and a deep desire to praise your name.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, November 10, is Ezekiel 19:1 – 20:44, Hebrews 10:1-18 and Psalm 122:1-9.

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Team Sport

Christianity is a team sport.

Because we are teammates, we keep each other accountable. But we do that in a humble fashion. We put our teammates back on the right path in a way that shows we recognize that we could easily fall into the same temptation. Our accountability has a gentle touch because we are nothing more than fellow sinners with our teammates.

Because we’re teammates, we watch and make sure that our teammates’ load is manageable. And when it’s not, we willingly help them carry that load. We know that’s the Christ-like thing to do. After all, on the cross Jesus bore the entire burden of our sin.

Because we are teammates, we pause before we come to any conclusions about our contribution and value to the team. We’re careful because we know how easy it is to delude ourselves into thinking our importance is much greater than it really is. It’s so easy to begin to think we are indispensable to our team.

Because we are teammates, we test our own actions. We examine ourselves for the “log” in our own eye before we try and remove the tiny “splinter” in our brother’s (or sister’s) eye.

Because we are teammates, we don’t compare ourselves to others. There’s no need to. Because we take responsibility for our own actions. We’re already filled with confidence because we carry our own load. We take care of business.

Just as Jesus first took care of business for us.

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load” (Galatians 6:1-5, NIV).

Lord help me to remember that Christianity is a team sport. I repent of the times when I have tried to be independent and felt I didn’t need help from others. I repent of the times when I have thought that I was excused from the responsibility of helping others who are my “teammates in Christ.” Forgive me. And help me be confident, knowing that you have born the burden of all my sins, and I am declared completely innocent in the sight of God.

Our Bible reading for Monday, September 21, is Isaiah 49:8 – 51:16, Galatians 6:1-18 and Proverbs 23:10-18.

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Stick Together!

As he readies himself to bid farewell, Paul sets the bar high for the Corinthians. They have been given something that is immeasurably valuable. To be granted the ability to know Jesus as their Savior from sin and to trust in him as their life-changing Redeemer is the most precious gift in the world. Jesus had called it “the pearl of great price.”

So Paul reminds the Corinthians to stay vigilant, remain true to their convictions, overcome their fears, and persevere. It would be horrible, unimaginably tragic, to lose that pearl.

The Corinthians are also to recall what Paul had told them several chapters back about love. As critically important as vigilance, courage and perseverance are, without love it all really becomes worthless.

So, Paul reminds them, cover everything you do in love. The people that God has placed around you need that reflection of Christ’s love that emanates from you, child of God.

But most of all, know that neither you nor they are meant to go it alone. The church, and the work of the kingdom, require us to have each others’ back. And Paul makes sure the Corinthians don’t forget that others have had their back. He mentions by name just a few of those who have stepped up to insure that they had been well-served with the gospel.

Paul knows with certainty the importance — and the blessing — of the brotherhood and sisterhood of faith. Hanging together is the only option. We believe deeply we have to work as one. Or should we say, we believe deeply we get to work as one?

Because it can be — at times — a long, difficult journey. Because we need each other. Because, brothers and sisters in Christ, what we are is family.

For us, togetherness is the only way!

When we do stick together, good things result. Despite the difficulties and hardships life brings, our spirit stays refreshed. And the work of the kingdom gets done.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it. I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition” (1 Corinthians 16:13-18, NIV).

Lord, help us stick together and have each others’ back in the church so that our spirit can always be refreshed by the gospel, and so that your kingdom work of sharing the gospel can continue to move forward.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, August 25, is 2 Chronicles 24:1 – 25:28, 1 Corinthians 16:5-24 and Psalm 102:18-28.

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Give Honor, For You Have Received Honor

God’s love for us is amazing. His mercy and grace are astonishing.

When so many others dismiss you and say, “I don’t need you any more,” God says, “I want you near me. And I will always want you near me. My love for you is faithful.”

When others disparage you and say, “You are too weak. You have nothing to offer us,” God says, “I will strengthen you. You are indispensable to me. My purpose for you is glorious.”

When others disdain you and say, “You are worthless. it would be better for you not to be seen or heard from,” God says, ‘You are my honored child, whom I love. Speak to me in prayer. I do see you every day. My ears, for you, are always open.”

When others despise you and say, “You don’t belong here,” God says, “You absolutely belong here, because you are my treasured possession. My bond with you is unbreakable.”

When others disregard you and say, “I have no time for your suffering,” Jesus says, “I have suffered in your place. Come to me, you who are weary and burdened. My grace and mercy toward you will always be abundant beyond measure.”

Paul speaks to the Corinthian Christians, and his encouragement is clear.

The way we treat each other in the church is not the way we’ve been treated by other selfish sinners. The way we treat each other in the church is a reflection of the way God first treated us.

The way we honor each other in the church is the way God first honored us…

…with his unconditional, unearned, and unimaginable love.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:21-26, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, August 18, is Song of Songs 1:1 – 4:16, 1 Corinthians 12:1-26 and Psalm 99:1-9.

Lord, help me to honor others with love and kindness, as you have first honored me with love and kindness. Jesus, your cross reconciled me and brought me close to our Father. Now may your cross be the inspiration for me to remain close with my brothers and sisters in the church.

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Paul has a theme that comes up in many of his epistles, and the theme is unity. Because Paul mentions it so much, it’s clear to us that the early church must have had some fairly momentous struggles hanging together and staying unified.

Paul writes to the Romans to encourage them toward unity. But if you like interesting facts, he most likely writes this letter to them from the Greek city of Corinth.

Why is that so interesting? Simply because Corinth too had its own huge problems with cliques, contesting parties and deeply divided loyalties. The divisions ran deep in this congregation, and frequently there was no love lost between Corinthian Christians on either side of the dividing lines.

Paul writes, in other words, from one divided church to another divided church. And he pleads with the Romans to do everything in their power to bring about peace. He asks them to focus on building one another up, not tearing each other apart.

He reminds them that this will mean being patient with the weaknesses of others. It will require endurance. It will mean encouraging one another.

He assures them there’s a reason behind all this. A purpose.

As Christ-followers, we want to bring honor to God’s name. And we want to do that with one mind and one voice. We want to come together and shout out loud as one that God, our Creator, is real. That Jesus, our Savior, has forgiven the sins of the entire world. And that the Holy Spirit has the power and the authority to bring us to faith, and keep us strong in faith.

We want people to know the love and forgiveness of Christ. We want them to know the mercy and grace of God. We want them to know the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.

So let’s hang together — with God’s help — and make it happen!

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification… We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up… May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. ” (Romans 14:19, 15:1-2, 15:5-6, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Saturday, August 1, is 1 Chronicles 11:1 – 12:22, Romans 14:19 – 15:13 and Psalm 89:46-52.

Lord, send us your Holy Spirit. We need his power and his help to hold our church together. We want to be a unified force in this world to carry out our glorious purpose: to share the name of Jesus Christ with as many as we can!

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