“Did you know we have ancestors from France?”
Before I could say anything in response, my family member was on Google earth exploring the countryside of France pondering what this means for her and our family.
She was searching, but for what?
Searching for who we are
Maybe you or a relative has gone through this process. In a world filled with uncertainty, we long for rootedness. We long for history. We long to belong. This is partly why DNA and ancestry services are exploding. Our anxious world is seeking to know who we are.
But like a mirage, when facts and figures land in our hands, it still doesn’t fulfill that deep thirst. This is because we don’t just want to know our history and get the nuts and bolts of the where/when/what. We want to hear stories about our people and find out something specific about why we are who we are today.
We want to learn, grow and not feel so alone. But to do that, we need to go further back than a few centuries. We need to go back a few millennia to the stories of our faith family in Scripture.
As Christians, we come to the Scriptures with the belief that God is telling a story that is true and relevant to life today although it is anchored in history. This informs why we come to Scripture looking for answers. We come seeking guidance, but what we may miss is that it is here that we also find belonging.
The role of storied memory
Imagine an oral culture, which is the primary context when Scripture was recorded, and the primary mode of communication is story. In a collective society, it is these stories of God’s people that shaped not only their understanding but also their identity. Under the stars around the fire Grandma or Grandpa, the keeper of the stories, would tell of Joseph and his envious brothers, Moses parting the Red Sea, or David being anointed by Samuel.
In these stories, generation upon generation not only learned about their ancestors, but they learned about who they were. They would understand “this is how we do things as God’s people,” and simultaneously embody hatred of practices that went against “who they were.” The stories of God working through their ancestors helped them make sense of what God was doing among them as His people in the present.
Remembering is NOT an option
This is why the most common command in all of scripture is NOT: “fear not” or “love your neighbor.” While both are crucial, the most common command is to “remember,” because in these stories recorded and passed down for generations, we find belonging and behavior that is in accordance with being God’s people.
Since all of Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for our growth and maturity (2 Timothy 3:16-17), that means when we forget our family — or when the stories of God’s people throughout Scripture escape our imagination — we forget a portion of ourselves. We forget who we are supposed to be today.
Therefore what we need on our journey toward wholeness is less akin to a baby shower or a birthday where both celebrations have their eyes set forward. Rather we need something more akin to Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday, that looks back and remembers our ancestors of the faith to see how their stories continue to speak into who we are, and connect with us today.
Rewards of remembering
In our Forgotten Family series, we’ll explore overlooked stories in Scripture. But this isn’t just for Bible knowledge. Studying some of the forgotten stories of our faith family will provide at least three assurances:
- We’re not the first. When we hear stories of our faith family who have gone before us, we rest assured that we aren’t the “first” of God’s people to face challenges in our faith (1 Corinthians 10:11). The Christian life is a path worn by many who have walked before us.
- We’re not alone. As we remember stories of forgotten family, it’s a reminder that we are not “alone” in our battles. There is a beautiful mystery of those who have lived, died and are with Christ, who also make up this great cloud of witnesses cheering us on in our faith (Hebrews 12:1). We aren’t the first to walk this way, and we aren’t alone.
- We’re not without guidance. By listening to stories of our faith family with God’s commentary in Scripture, we gain clarity in understanding “who we are” and thus greater understanding of how we as “God’s people live out who we are in various circumstances.”
The more we learn about those who went before us, the more we understand how our family history is a window into who we are today. When we forget our roots, we are less equipped to bring our whole selves to the opportunities and challenges of our lives.
We long to have a more secure identity in our good God, and for that we need to remember who we are as God’s people on a deeper level. Our hope is that you don’t just join us as we remember what God has done before, but that in remembering, we better understand together who we are and join in how He is continuing to work through us today!
In the 4th century the city of Caesarea was reeling from war and famine that rendered its citizens and infrastructure vulnerable. The city’s fragility was compounded with a widespread plague that forced many to flee, leaving the poor and sick to fend for themselves. While many evacuated in panic there was one group of people who remained in the city to care for the dying. It was the Christian remnant of Caesarea who risked exposure to illness and death to stay back and care for their indigent neighbors.
The ancient historian Eusebius recorded the events that took place during this time and penned these words:
“All day long some of [the Christians] tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.”
In the face of great sickness, uncertainty, and even death, followers of Jesus risked their own well being to love and care for the most vulnerable in their midst. While many saw these events as an opportunity for self-preservation, apprentices of Jesus saw it as an opportunity for sacrificial love. This has been a hallmark of the church of Jesus Christ from the beginning. And she finds herself presented with another opportunity to be who she has always been.
This is quite an unusual time in our world as we watch the COVID 19 virus spread around the globe. It is unusual to see major sporting events canceled, churches empty on Sundays, and toilet paper in such high demand. If you know where I can score some please hit me up…I have 4 kids.
But these unusual times call for unusual kindness (Acts 28:1-2).
Yes, we need to take precautions to avoid the spread of this virus. Yes, we need to adjust our rhythms and habits to embrace a new normal for the time being.
While many are viewing this time as a reason to panic, the church of Jesus Christ should see it as a reason to persist in neighborly love.
Here are a few suggestions for us to consider as we seek to offer a counter-narrative to the Coronavirus by showing unusual kindness:
1. Check in on the vulnerable
The elderly and the chronically ill are the most susceptible to the virus. Odds are there is someone on your block or in your apartment complex who is living with a heightened and justifiable concern because of their increased risk of contracting the virus. Find ways to contact them to offer prayer, encouragement, and any assistance that is appropriate within the parameters recommended by the CDC and other public health officials. It could be as simple as offering to get groceries for them. If your neighborhood or apartment complex has a social media group or webpage then use it to contact neighbors and encourage others to do the same.
2. Put pen to paper
We may be limited in our face to face contact. What a great opportunity to dust off your ink pen and stationery to write some cards to friends, family members, and neighbors. When you consider our technological age and our impending quarantined lifestyle, receiving a handwritten card in the mail might do wonders for people stuck in isolation.
3. Redeem social media
Can we all agree that social media has been kind of terrible as of late? But it doesn’t have to be. With people more isolated due to the virus, let’s redeem this tool to connect, encourage, pray for, and serve others. Ask people how you can pray for them and just see who responds. Invite people to your church’s online worship service if they are offering one. Share encouraging words of Scripture that will buoy people’s spirits and remind them of God’s presence amidst the chaos.
4. Volunteer (if possible)
This may not be a viable or even permissible option, but if it is within your means to do so you may reach out to offer your time and resources to area food pantries, non-profit groups, hospitals, and nursing homes. We all know that medical professionals will be swamped during this time. We also know that there are many food insecure families who will be in greater need with schools closed for an indefinite period of time. Many families rely on the meals their children receive at school. Consider contacting the principal of your neighborhood school to see if there is any way to help.
5. Share the unusual good news of Jesus
It is during times like these when we are awakened to our need for Jesus. When we discover just how fragile, vulnerable, dependent, and fearful we actually are.
May the church of Jesus Christ be present and ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15) and to show how the unusual message of the cross of Christ is actually our wisdom and power (1 Cor 1:20-25).
This is indeed an unusual time in our history, but it is also a unique opportunity for the church to step up and reach out to our neighbors. As it is said, desperate times call for desperate measures. I think unusual times call for unusual kindness.
By Tom & Liz Nelson
We are all storytellers. In his outstanding book, The Soul of Shame, Dr. Curt Thompson puts it this way: “We yearn to tell and hear stories of goodness and beauty, and this is the echo of God’s intention. We long for our stories to be about joy, not just reflections of what we believe but of who we are, who we long to be.”
What is your story telling?
Is it a story of goodness, beauty, and joy? It can be! We can experience a world where God’s eternal purposes are trusted. What then distorts our stories, corrupts our lives, interfering in our relationship with God and others? What cripples vocational flourishing and creativity and makes holistic healing (physical, emotional, social, spiritual integration) appear out of our reach? Shame is the culprit igniting disintegration of our creation design preventing us from growing in Christlikeness and becoming who God desires us to be.
Dr. Curt Thompson opens our eyes to what shame is and how it works.
Becoming vulnerable feels uncomfortable and at times too risky. Dr. Thompson asserts that shame shows up as that deep feeling that I am simply not enough, that I don’t measure up. Shame is “… the felt sense that I do not have what it takes to tolerate this moment or circumstance.”
Perhaps in your life shame is whispering or even shouting, “You are not enough.”
While shame is one of our greatest obstacles to joy, there is good news about shame. In Christ we can embrace our new identity as beloved sons and daughters of God who intimately know God and are intimately known by God. We are secure in His Triune love.
The gospel addresses shame and paves the way forward to redemption, healing, joyful creativity, and renewed vitality in endless ways. Identifying the presence and power of shame will enable us to experience the liberation to live as we were originally created to live. An integral life of joy we never dared imagine awaits every apprentice of Jesus.
Through the heartfelt lens of Dr. Curt Thompson’s personal story and professional expertise, we can gain greater understanding of shame by becoming more aware of the goodness and beauty in our relationships and vocational callings. Our transformation occurs in the context of a community of transparency, prayer, and connection. Shame unravels in the beautiful tapestry of close friendships.
Christ Community will host Dr. Curt Thompson for two special events in April, 2020. You are invited to join us as we learn more about this crucial subject.
Visit Dr. Thompson’s website and download a chapter from The Soul of Shame: CurtThompsonMD.com
Vulnerability and Vocational Creativity
When: Thursday, April 23 from 6:30-8:15pm
Where: Christ Community – Leawood Campus
Cost: FREE (but registration is required)
REGISTER for Thursday evening
The Beauty of Transformation
(3 hour CEU training for healthcare professionals)
When: Friday, April 24 from 9:00am-12:00pm
Where: Christ Community – Leawood Campus
REGISTER for Friday morning
(Yup. We couldn’t resist!)
Have you heard? Os Guinness is coming to Kansas, live and in-person, and we are excited to hear him speak about our current cultural moment.
Put Sept. 28, 4-6pm on your calendar to be at the Leawood Campus.
In the meantime, get ready by listening to this great talk from Os about meaning, purpose, and identity. It will give you a preview of Os’ wisdom, sense of humor and jolly good accent!
VIDEO > | EVENT DETAILS >
It is not difficult to look at our families and see the influence of technology on our identities at all ages: toddlers asking Alexa to play Baby Shark, the viral influence of the bottle flip challenge, teenagers with Instagram selfies, the virtual note-passing world of Snapchat, and parents sharing their child’s first and everything on Facebook.
Technology offers us beautiful ways to be connected, to make life simpler, and to grow in knowledge. However, families need to be engaging in conversations about how identity is often silently being shaped by technology.
Andy Crouch, in his book Tech Wise, articulated these words,
“Technology in its proper place helps us bond with the real people we have been given to love. It’s out of its proper place when we end up bonding with people at a distance.”
True identity grows in an environment built on trust, respect, and love where your behavior, words, and emotions can be shared with others face-to-face. Technology’s broad assortment of communities can deceive us into feeling known and lead us away from authentic relationships toward loneliness, isolation, and a loss of self.
Take time this month to pay attention to your family’s interaction with technology and how you are engaging with the growing smorgasbord of options in your home, on the road, or in your hand. Watch each other to discover how technology is being a positive or negative identity influence.
Is it helping with eating healthy, monitoring exercise, keeping you punctual, and encouraging learning? Or is it creating a disconnect in family relationships or promoting a lack of eye contact and respect and an increase in laziness?
Cultivate a culture in your home of regular unplugging from technology to turn away from the noise of society and the words of strangers to focus on the source of our true and everlasting identity.
God, you are…
Remember God’s character by creating a list of words from the Bible that describe Him.
God, I am…
We are image bearers of God. How do you see God’s image growing in each other’s lives?
God, we will…
Pray for God’s guidance to see where your identity in Him has been shaken. Ask Him to reveal a course to correct it.
We compiled a sermon series on the Vices & Virtues, the seven deadly sins and their corresponding virtues. We are no stranger to the vices. We have been fighting anger, lust, gluttony, sloth, vainglory, and greed for years. But what about envy? Do we also carry this small, subtle vice? The answer is yes. And that is a big problem because envy is the death of love.
In envy, you lose your ability to love others because others almost always have something better than we do. We lose our ability to care for ourselves because we are constantly comparing. We lose our ability to love God, because how dare He give that thing or that talent or that opportunity to someone else, and not us. Self-love kills. Envy kills love.
Genesis 37 tells us that envy is as old as sin itself. We see envy in the story of Joseph and that crazy, colorful coat.
“Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.” (Genesis 37:3-4)
Envy begins with comparison
We’re always comparing. Joseph’s brothers saw that their father loved him more. It’s been said: Envy is feeling bitter when others have it better. Honestly, who has not felt bitterness at some point!
Envy is rooted in identity
Envy begins with comparison, but it is also rooted in identity. Envy is always personal because it’s never really about the thing we’re envious of. Rather, it is more a reflection of our own fragile sense of self.
Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. (Genesis 37:5-8)
In a patriarchal society, the brothers all want to be in charge, and that right should fall to the oldest, not Joseph, so they hated him even more.
Our comparisons, our envy, reveal much about our true selves. Our envy reveals our desires, idols, and sense of self-worth. Envy is often rooted in our own damaged sense of self and insecurity and often reveals itself in very passive-aggressive ways. We secretly celebrate when things go wrong for others, we quietly spread rumors, respond sarcastically, or just assume the worst about them.
Envy alienates us. It pushes us further away. Tragically, envy does not stop there.
Envy takes us where we don’t want to go
If left untreated, the trajectory of envy will take everything!
They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” (Genesis 37:18-20)
Joseph’s brothers rip off his colorful robe, throw him in the pit, but decide not to murder him. Instead they sell him into slavery. They are all ruined. Envy is the death of love.
Envy can only be killed with kindness
Like all the vices, envy can be killed. But envy can only be killed with kindness. It is more than simple behavior modification or trying to get better. It is not about doing more good deeds. It is about character formation and growing in virtue, both of which take time and effort.
Joseph was a slave, a falsely accused prisoner, a nobody. Ironically, he ends up in a prominent position and protects the people against famine. His brothers go to Egypt to get food, and they bow before Joseph. Joseph provides for and feeds them. And by doing so, he rescues the people of God.
The brothers continue to live in fear after the death of their father. They are not expecting the kindness Joseph will soon offer them. After 40 years, Joseph has learned and embraced kindness, forgiveness, love. Not in an instant, but through decades. His response is kindness to his brothers.
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15-21)
To kill envy, we must:
1. Embrace God’s kindness toward us as enough
We cannot be kind on our own. We must first embrace that God’s kindness towards us is enough. We are not God. God decides who gets what. This can only mean that our envy problem is not really with another person. It is with Him! Will we trust Him enough to let Him decide what is fair?
2. Extend God’s kindness toward others
If we want to kill envy, we must extend God’s kindness towards others. We must comfort them even when we don’t feel like it.
“So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:21)
Envy is the death of love
Our ultimate hope lies in the fact that God has not just been nice to us. Kindness Himself was killed on the cross for us! Jesus took all of our envy and all of our shame and offers us His love in return. God has not given us less, but everything we need because of the cross: forgiveness, hope, life, joy, power to kill envy, a new identity. We are the daughters and sons of the King. We have everything! With whom are we trying to compare ourselves?
Envy does not have to be the death of us. Being made in His image and as a redeemed people, through the power of the Holy Spirit, let us practice His kindness together.