Reveal the Encounter Issue 1

We are often told that the Christian’s path is not supposed to be a solitary one.  Instead, it should be one that is with, and within, the Body of Christ, the Church.  However, we are living in a technological age where we can access and connect with one another with a simple click and never physically see one another. This was becoming very popular before COVID-19 was ever a thought, but COVID has made this a reality for a majority of the world, whether we liked it or not.  So many people are beginning to live a virtual existence, or some hybrid version of it if they weren’t already.  Lives have been destroyed in this virtual age and I believe that lives can also be healed and made whole.  But, in the midst of the chaos and devastation, we did learn that we need the companionship of others, whether it was virtually or in-person.  We cannot deny that we need one another, even if we argue about how it is to be accomplished.  We have seen companies develop ways for schools and even churches to continue to operate in these virtual and necessary circumstances.  We are even seeing software and entertainment companies figure out how you can have a movie night with others anywhere in the world over the internet.  People have already been playing games online with one another and interacting through social media for decades, but even this was escalated during these last months.  I want to clarify that this is not meant to be a point of argument or debate, but simply a mere observation and fact for the purpose of this blog.  No matter the circumstances or situations, whether it’s in-person or virtually, we need the companionship of others.

I can personally testify to the importance of needing others, just as I believe most reading this can too.  Some of us prefer the quietness of our thoughts, but still require the presence and companionship of others.  Some are out of place without the constant energy and activity of others around.  Some have been forced to be alone and their hearts break for the companionship they ultimately desire.  Others seek healing in the community because of the hurt they found while being with others.  I believe that this shows us two things here at the beginning.  First, we are diverse beings and each have our own diverse experiences to draw off of that help make us who we are.  Second, we were all designed to be in companionship and community with others.  

I would love to say that only the last few years have been chaotic for me, but if I’m honest and look back, I’d have to say that the last 11 years have been.  In the midst of every valley I have walked through and experienced in my life, I believe I only made it through because of two things, the grace of God and the love and support of others.  Now some may struggle with the God part, but it’s hard to argue with the part of needing others supporting and helping you.  Even if you didn’t have anyone there, you could testify to the longing for companionship and the loneliness that you probably experienced while walking through the valleys. So often, many don’t fully understand the statement, “God created man in His image”.  In this context, we have to understand that He created us to be relational beings.  All throughout Scripture, we see relationships and the need for them.  In fact, the whole Bible is devoted to one big topic, Restoring mankind’s relationship with our loving Creator.  No matter what your view is on God, one has to admit the greatest hurts and loves in your life revolve around relationships.  I remember reading the book, Seven Concentric Circles of Concern many years ago by W. Oscar Thompson, Jr.  He argues in the very beginning of the book that the most important word in the English language is relationship.  Everything we are, have been, try to be or do, all flow through relationships.  We truly are relational beings at the core.

I so often can imagine the scene of Aaron and Hur helping hold up Moses’ arms while the Israelites and Joshua fought the Amalekites.  When Moses would start to drop his arms and staff from shear exhaustion, Israel would start to lose, but while they remained raised, Israel would be triumphant through the power of Yahweh.  I used to always picture this scene and think it applies to just leaders needing help, but I think it applies to us all.  Yes, I believe that the times a leader needs those to come alongside them may be more frequent.  Let’s face it, being a leader can just simply be exhausting.  But, we all need those companions and helpers during those times in life where our feet are just taken out from underneath us, where we are so exhausted that we can’t hold our arms up any longer.  I know that I should probably be ultra spiritual for this next statement being an ordained elder and college educated minister.  I could even break out the good ole’ Sunday school talk and speak on how God can and should be our companion during those difficult times.  Yes, He can and should be, but as a man who has been through the valleys so many times in his life, I am going to say I need others that I can physically reach out to and touch, see the pain in my face and I see the love in their’s.  While I may lean into God, I also know that I need others of flesh and blood to come alongside me.  God gave Eve to Adam for a reason.  It was not good for Him to be alone, he needed human companionship.  So, why do we so often neglect one of the first big things that God did after creating man?  Why is it that we get more focused on arguing over whether the world was created in 144 hours or 144 million years but ignore such a vital point in the creation story?  Humans are relational and are intentionally created to be that way.  We have our vertical relationship with God, but we also have our horizontal relationship with each other.  I just have to ask, what would happen if we stopped debating and focusing on the things that don’t matter in the church and started living our God created purpose of being here for one another and God?

I say all of this to simply say, I have been and am walking through one of those times in my life where I need others more than ever.  I don’t think that my faith in God is any weaker because I need others, in fact I feel that my faith is at its strongest when I am around other believers.  I can’t help but wonder if this is the ever expanding mission of God at work in our lives?  The closer I come to Him, the more His mission consumes my life and His mission involves seeking others.  We will get deeper into all of that later, but right now, I know that I need companionship and God has provided.  I know that this blog will probably be filled with grammatical errors and maybe even some things you theologically question, but what I want more than anything is for you to hear my heart and the message that God has laid on it.

As I have stated, the last 11 years of my life has been one valley and mountaintop after another.  But, isn’t that the way things work?  You have to experience valleys and wildernesses to get to every mountaintop, one before and one after.  So often, we only want the mountaintops, but it’s not only unrealistic, it’s not possible.  I have recently been able to experience one of the greatest mountaintops of my life and ministry, but it also required me to go through some terrain that hurt.  Being stuck in the wilderness for 40 years would have been dreadful for the Israelites.  Admit it, you wouldn’t want to be stuck in the wilderness.  But, it was in the wilderness that God shaped them, prepared them, grew closer to them and they grew closer to one another.  It was in the wilderness that Israel became a unified nation that could conquer the likes of Jericho.  The destruction of Jericho couldn’t have happened if only one person followed God’s command and marched around the city.  It took the whole nation following God’s commandments in unity.  In the wilderness, we need each other and we need God.  I believe the church is never more the church than in the wilderness, just as hope is never stronger when one is in the darkest and most distance places.  So why have we allowed the church to stay on the mountain when it’s in the valleys and wilderness that the church is at its strongest?  I know some may be arguing right now saying that we are to be a beacon of light, a light on the hill for others to see, to help guide them.  I would say, “What good is it being the light if they can’t make it to the light without help from us and others?”  Where would we be if God stayed on His mountain and never sent His Son down to help others get back to the mountain?  Christ’s entire ministry and mission was about being in the valley and wilderness with the hurt and lost.  If we are of Christ and that was His mission, is that not our mission as well?  We need to be reminded of William Booth’s vision, the founder of the Salvation Army.  In his vision, those plucked out of the sea of sin and despair, turned their back on those still lost in the sea.  They ignored Jesus out there trying to help save others while they worshiped the mountain.  Have we turned our back on the world to worship the mountain?

These are the things I have been struggling with in my life and ministry.  As I sit here on a mountaintop looking to go back out into the valleys and wildernesses of this world, I want to share my stories so that maybe others will leave the mountain to help others find the mountain.  God is powerful!  God is the Creator of all!  God is Yahweh, the great I am!  But, God chose to partner with us.  He is relying on us, His children, His Church to help Him bring others to the mountain.  I look forward to sharing with you and you sharing with me, what God has and is doing in your life and relationships.

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