Built to Belong

“I miss my teammates!”  These are the words every retired professional athlete  expresses after retirement.  While in their youth, professional football players enjoy the environment, money and their teammates during their NFL career.  However, life after the sport reveals “61 percent of former players said they found it difficult to adjust to daily life after their NFL career.”*

Of course the need for relationships are not just in professional athletes.  Men and women across ever continent are build to belong.  There are even health benefit for finding your “community.”  One study discovered that a “lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%!”*   

It is quite obvious (even without any statistics) we have been designed by God to live in relationships.  There is an innate need everyone experiences to belong.  So why do 1 in 5 Americans suffer from “persistent loneliness?”*

While everyone’s reason may be slightly different, what I do know is we have been designed for ?? types of relationships.

  1. Family Relationship: This is often our family of origin.  They help provide our identity, and self-worth.
  2. Spouse Relationship: For most, we have a strong desire to “do-life” together with a committed partner who loves us for “better or worse”.  Great security and connection is found in adulthood from this type of relationship.
  3. Child Relationship:   At some stage in adulthood, there is a strong compulsion to have children of our own.  The desire to pass something on, invest in a life, and live beyond ourselves is compelling.
  4. Heavenly Relationship:  As I heard one author put it- there is a “God-size whole” in each of us that can only be filled when we come into a real relationships with our creator.  While we can ignore or distract from this void, it exists in every human heart.
  5. Purpose-Filled Relationship:  We want to believe that our life, our work, and contributions to humanity matter on some level.  No one wants to get to the end of their earthly life with the regret of a meaningless existence.

Many of us experience brokenness in one or more areas of the above relationships.  For some, we have never experienced a certain type of relationship (i.e., that of a spouse, or unable to have children).  When this happens, there is loneliness that builds in our souls.

Since God created us with these needs (the need for relationship), he has also provided us with a context for relationship.  God’s answer for Loneliness is the Church.  The relationships we build in the church, while not perfect, provide a place to belong.  Perhaps I can suggest some of the ways the Church meets the relational needs that are mentioned above:

  1. Family Relationship:  While the church can never take the place of your family of origin, when there was an unhealthy or even an absent family in the younger, the church help provide that sense of value, and personal worth. For many, in adulthood, we have more interaction with our church family because we see them more.
  2. Spouse Relationship:  First there is no better place to find a spouse than in the church.  However, the church is not designed to be a match-making service.  Not everyone will find a spouse in their church.  However, if you invest in a spiritual community, “doing life together,”  these Christ-centered relationships will see you through the best and worst of times.  It is a place where you can commit to the well being of others, and also be the recipient as well.
  3. Child Relationship:  Some of the most blessed relationships are spiritual mothers and spiritual fathers who invest in the lives of the next generation.  While not related by blood, this relationship is both a blessing to the spiritual children, and to the spiritual parents.
  4. Heavenly Relationship:  If the Church gets no other relationships right, I pray we get this one right.  2 Corinthians 5:11-21 speaks of the Ministry of Reconciliation.  Simply put… this is why Jesus came!
  5. Purpose-Filled Relationship:  The creation can never find meaning or purpose a part from its Creator.  When you became a Divinely-Inspired ideas in the heart of Almighty God, a purpose was attached to your life.  You are not here on accident, and your existence is not random.  Ephesians 2:10 reads, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

My prayer for each of you is that you will discover a life-giving church that will become a place to call HOME with people you call FAMILY!  Relationships do take time, and they always require effort.  However, the rewards are great and the benefits are worth it.  We are Built to Belong!


The Power of YES!

Recently our church heard from some of our heroes.  Art and Joyce Stoneking are among those who have responded to God’s call to be a Missionary to the children of Mexico.  When they saw the need and felt the burden, they responded with the response of, “Here am I, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).

Their story is one I believe every follower of Jesus should hear (CLICK HERE TO WATCH).  In a day and age where everyone tries to find ways to say NO, because we are too busy, too stressed, and  over committed, etc… BUT I am on a quest to teach you how to say “YES.”  WHY, because saying yes has the power to change your life!

FIRST, Nothing happens without a “YES!”  Every man and woman of God that is noted in the Bible is applauded by the Lord because they said YES.

SECOND, Saying YES is associated with FAITH.  When we have faith in the Lord, we say YES to the Lord.  It doesn’t mean that we say yes to people all the time, but when God tugs on your heart, and presents you with a need or challenge, faith should arise, causing us to say yes.

THIRD, the ability to say YES is dependent upon us saying NO.  Saying NO to things less important, empowers us to say YES to Kingdom Building Activities.  In fact, if it is not a Kingdom building or Kingdom influencing opportunity, I almost always say no.  When you are secure in your calling as part of God’s Kingdom, than you are secure enough to say NO, because you know you want to say YES.

FOURTH, saying YES, means that you have been wise enough to establish margin in your life.  Many times the “Divine Appointments” scheduled by God are not in our calendar.  However, margin allows your intentions to meet your schedule.

FINALLY, the by-product of saying YES, is commitment.  I honestly believe the reason we are afraid of this 3-letter word is that we are afraid of commitment.  Nothing great is EVER accomplished apart of commitment…. and commitment is always accompanied by consistency.  Showing up when we feel like it,  or when we are not too busy doesn’t get the job done.  From leading a small group, to working with children, or serving at a food pantry, all require consistent commitment.  If people can’t depend on you, you can’t make an impact.

So, the next time you are presented with an opportunity to serve God or serve people ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does this build God’s kingdom or fulfill His purpose in my life?
  2. If God is leading me to this opportunity, what non-essential item in my life is taking up my availability that I need to say NO to?
  3. Have I built the margin in my life so I can say YES?
  4. Is this a Divine Appointment I need to make room for?
  5. What needs to happen so I can be consistent?

This next season of your life, instead of finding reasons to say NO, begin to use this standard so you can say YES to the right things in your life.  There is POWER IN YES!

5 Actions to SIMPLIFY your Fall

For most, we have bought the glue stick, #2 pencils, new shoes, over-priced binders and perhaps even a new backpack.  The kids are back in school (or soon will be) and Fall schedule has already picked up pace.  Parent and grandparent alike have felt the pressure of keeping up with our kids demands, responsibilities at work, relational needs, housework, yard work, exercise, OH YAH… let not for get the minor detail of SLEEP!

The question that silent nips at our heels is, “How do we manage our schedule, instead of our scheduling managing us?  Below are 5 actions all of us can take to simplify this Fall and live on purpose.

  1. WEEKLY SCHEDULING:  This is normally a 15 minute conversation with you (your spouse if married or other parent), any other adults helping (i.e., grandparent), and you can even include you children, depending on age.  You’ll have to decide the best time to do this, but for us, this is best accomplished on Saturday night.
  2. EXERCISE:  Since most of my wife’s and my time are spent as a chauffeur, my time at the gym has suffered greatly.  However, use your kids schedule to your advantage.  While you child is practicing soccer, take that time to walk or run the field/track.  You may no longer be able to be the elite athlete you once were, but it doesn’t mean you have to neglect your body and health all together.
  3. PRIORITIZE:  The better you know you personal and family values, the easier this one will be.  My wife and I have similar priorities of health, spirituality, responsibility, etc…  For us, our children’s spiritual development is of highest value.  After all, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36).  As the grown up, it is your responsibility to set these priorities for you and your child’s schedule.  If you don’t, they won’t.  Make Sunday morning a priority.  If this is impossible, many churches have a wid-week FAMILY NIGHT that offers spiritual development for you and your children. 
  4. REGULAR DATES:  Now this action is focused on married couples (although a single person could schedule some fun-time with friends).  While I have taught for years, that couples should have weekly dates, perhaps this isn’t feasible for you.  However, at a minimum, you need at least 1-monthly date, just the two of you, with NO KIDS!  The best thing you can do for your children is love your spouse.
  5. TIME-OUTS:  Give yourself and your family a 30-minute timeout every day.  This excludes all house-hold chores, homework, phones, facebook, tv, and another other device or flashy-thing.  They can play, talk, do a craft, shoot the basketball, etc…  This gives the mind a chance to zone out and unplug from the over-stimulated society we have created.  This 1-action alone has the power to revolutionize your family.  You might get resistance in the beginning, but over time, everyone will love it!

It might be too much to include all these in your Fall Schedule, but I would encourage to choose 2-3 of them and work them into your schedule.

Remember, life is what you make it, so make it great!