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.

Header image based on "Worship Cafe" by Sentinelle de mattino International , CC By-SA 2.0

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.

Header image based on "Arizona Cardinals WR Michael Floyd" by Greg Buch |, CC By-SA 2.0

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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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!

Header image based on "together" by Zuerichs Strassen, CC By 2.0

The Gift of Others: We Call It Church

I went whale-watching today. It’s our last day of vacation here in the Canary Islands, a little archipelago of islands clustered off of the coast of North Africa, and apparently this is whale-watching paradise.

I have to admit, we did see a lot of whales! And it was intriguing to notice that they — at least the “pilot whales” we were most watching — were social animals. They were usually seen in groups of two or three. Not only that, but those groups of two or three were hanging out with other groups of two or three.

Science tells us that pilot whales often gather in numbers of 30 or so, but that their groups can number as high as 100. These whales also stay together in smaller, family groups called “pods”. The pods are apparently quite stable and feature close family ties, where the whales care for each other. They also hunt and feed together.

The pilot whales even seemed to want to be social with us on the catamaran. Once we spotted them (were we spotting them, or were they spotting us?), they followed our catamaran for quite some distance. They also seemed playful when they encountered a much larger killer whale that we encountered. Apparently, they didn’t know — or didn’t care — who they were messing with!

The reason I bring this up is that God himself is a social being. Think of the Trinity, for instance. Or consider how many times in the past few days of reading Jesus has emphasized that he loves to please his Father — actually lives to please his Father. Talk about a family bond!

God has clearly designed us to be the same. We are social beings. We’re just plain healthier when we are together with others. Professor Lisa Berkman of Harvard University has investigated social connectedness and longevity, for instance. She looked at the impact of marital status, ties with friends and relatives, club membership, and levels of volunteerism on how well older people aged. Over a nine-year period of study, she found that those with the most social connectedness lived longer.

Which is why one of the greatest gifts of the gospel of Jesus Christ is community. When Jesus died and rose again for us, he won forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. He also won us a new family of brothers and sister who look after us. And we look after them. Christianity creates a family. We call it “church” or “fellowship”. Maybe we could call it “pods” as well!

“Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’

He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one” (John 11:49-52, NIV).

So, maybe it’s time to ask the question: Who from your church family are you going to connect with this week? Remember, Jesus has already given you many connections with brothers and sisters in Christ! Now, you have the opportunity to enjoy it!

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, May 20, is 1 Samuel 5:1 – 7:17, John 11:45 – 12:11 and Proverbs 12:18-27.

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving me a family I can rely on. Thank you for all the love, the support, and the teamwork that we are able to enjoy because we have our own little “pod” called the church.

Header image based on "Photo of the Week - Long-finned Pilot Whales (RI)" by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CC By 2.0

How to Be a Wise Man (or Woman) in 3 Easy Steps

What in the world are “magi”? Strong’s Concordance defines the word this way: a magus; the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc.

It’s a pretty broad job description, isn’t it?

Matthew, one of Jesus’ disciples, writes about the wise men: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him'” (Matthew 2:1-2, NIV).

Something in their education and experience told the wise men that this particular star was unusual, and the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy about the birth of a king.

Whatever it was that told them this, they dropped everything—their schedules, their jobs, their families, their friends, their familiar places of living—and went together to find Jesus.

Why? Because they knew the most important thing they could do in this moment of their lives was just that. Find Jesus, the king, and then worship him. But they also knew that their destination was far. And as the old saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Wise men, indeed!

What if you grabbed another person or two this year and did the same? You’re just three steps away!

Step 1: Commit to someone. Ask your spouse to pray and read the Bible together with you in 2015. In my humble opinion, way too few marriages feature spouses that pray and read the Bible together daily. Just saying. Alternatively, you could do the same with your children, or a buddy from church or your growth group. If you’re feeling particularly outreach-minded in 2015, you could even select someone from work, or school, or your neighborhood.

Step 2: Commit verbally. Say to the person(s) you have selected “Let’s do this! Let’s go search for Jesus, the King, together. We’ll pray with each other each day, share our SOAP journals, and go together to worship Jesus every day this year.”

Step 3: Commit the time. Put it on your calendar. Block out a daily opportunity with your fellow “wise man” when you can meet (even over the phone or via text) and share your thoughts about the King. Don’t forget to clear a space for prayer together daily, too.

Lord, help me to find you daily in the gospel. Help me to find someone with whom I can share this daily journey. And then, put your Spirit in my heart so that we may respond—mind, body, heart and soul—with worship.

Our reading for Friday, January 2, is Genesis 2:18 – 4:16, Matthew 2:1-18 and Psalm 2:1-12.

Header image based on "Orion Nebula" by Familiar, CC by 2.0

A Stark Contrast

Know your path, the Bible teaches us. Because there’s a stark contrast in the two paths we can follow in life. One is well-worn, one traveled lightly.

The destinations differ too. One leads to emptiness and destruction. No, that emptiness and destruction does not always arrive in this life. But, yes, always at some point it does.

The other path, less-frequented, runs beside the “brook” we call the Bible. That path, the author of Psalm 1 declares, leads to fulfillment, hope, and most of all, life.

That’s because that path leads us to Jesus, to the cross, and ultimately, to the empty tomb.

And finally, the company we travel with will differ. One path has people who trust what they read in the Bible. Sometimes they trust boldly, but often meekly. 

The other path has those who do not trust. Sometimes they doubt quietly and respectfully but often, sadly, they doubt with derision and contempt.

Where will you walk in 2015?

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lordand who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction” (Psalm 1:1-6, NIV).

Guide my steps and the steps of the ones I love along the path that runs beside your word. Help me to delight in your law, O Lord. Most of all, may 2015 be a year of meditating on your grace as you reveal it to me in the gospel.

Our reading for Thursday, January 1, is Genesis 1:1 – 2:17, Matthew 1:1-25 and Psalm 1:1-6.