Tag: healing (page 1 of 3)

4 Ways I Plan to Contribute to Building Community

community

Over the last several years I have had three different blogs, each with decidedly different goals. My last blog, TheWholeMan.co, was focused on helping men find healing and wholeness in Christ. You can read about how TWM ended HERE. But, after a year of writing toward that purpose, I realized that God had been moving my heart toward encouraging and helping other Christians build healthy and lasting community centered on Jesus Christ. My friends and I have coined it Gospel Centered Community (GCC).

Since August, when I stopped writing on TWM, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the focus and goal of this website. Here is what I want BrucePagano.com to be focused on:

Build and help others build lasting Gospel Centered Community (GCC).

For so many being a part of a church is simply attending a Sunday event. When I read the bible I don’t see church defined as someplace the followers of Jesus go to learn about Him. Instead I read about a community of believers that have committed to following Him, together, in their daily lives. There is so much more that needs to be said about what community centered on Jesus could and should looked like, but there will be plenty of opportunity to flesh that out in future posts. In the meantime, I want to focus on building and helping others to build lasting community.

Here are four ways at this blog will promote that:

1. Sharing our journey toward building GCC.

This past November I left the church, where I was on staff, so that I could answer God’s call to build community in our neighborhood. My wife and I discussed this for months before my last Sunday on staff. Every time we talked about it there was a recurring theme of “live where you live.” So we are going to do that. Over the next couple years we plan to really live where we live. We will shop; work and build a church community all near our home. We will engage our neighbors, prayer walk our neighborhoods and really make it a point to intentionally invest in relationships with those around us. As we do that and learn, I will share it on this blog.

2. Encouraging others in their pursuit of Jesus.

I am confident that community is one of the primary vehicles in which we experience healing and wholeness in Jesus. Because of that, the focus of a lot of what I write will be on encouraging others to really go after following Jesus. My hope is that what I write challenges us, as a community, to grow deeper into our relationship with Jesus and each other.

3. Contributing to the God’s story in healthy and beneficial ways.

God continues to write the story of humanity. It is a beautiful story that we get to be a part of. Everything that we create fits into His story; some in helpful ways and some in hurtful ways. My intention is that anything I contribute to that story is both healthy and beneficial to the Christian community, who are trying to share that story with others.

4. Inviting others into the conversation about what it means to live in GCC

I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about building community, loving God or loving and serving others. Sometime I actually do all of those rather poorly. What I do know is I want to learn to love God and my neighbors better, and the key to that is community. I also know there are others who are farther along in their journey, in some or all of those areas. Because of that, I want to invite others to join me in the conversation about what it means to live in community with others. If you have questions, ask. If you have wisdom, share. Either way, I would love for you to join me.

I am excited about this new journey and even more excited to help others build lasting community.

photo: https://hcsj.org/community

Maybe Forgiveness isn’t for You

forgiveness

A common teaching I hear, in my Christian circles, about forgiveness is that it is primarily intended to benefit the person extending it. The understanding is that when we forgive we free ourselves from anger and hurt. Or that forgiveness eliminates barriers between us and God. While I don’t disagree, I have found forgiveness to offer much more than we have come to expect.

The more I study the Bible and meditate on what Jesus said, and how He operated; the more I’m convinced we have an incomplete view of forgiving. In fact our common understanding may actually be a skewed view of the intention of forgiving.

70 times 7

When we see forgiveness in the bible, it always seems to benefit the one being forgiven more than it does the one doing the forgiving. And it is always extended beyond what we would deem acceptable. We see this when Jesus says to forgive 70×7 (Matt 18:21-22). It seems that in forgiving we are to extend God’s grace and mercy and pave the way for the person to come to God. The bible makes it seem as though forgiveness is always for the other person.

In every biblical reference I have read, it always benefits the one being forgiven. To be clear, I am not discounting the benefits we enjoy when we forgive. Forgiveness is an essential part of the internal healing process when someone was hurt. I also know that when you have been really hurt, and I mean devastated, forgiveness can be a far off thing. At some point, and even for an extended time, it may seem as if forgiveness will never come. This article is in no way intended to discount those truths. However, I would like to challenge us all to consider a more Christ-centered experience of forgiveness.

Why Does God Forgive

Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” When we see verses like this it can seem like God is saying that His forgiveness is intended for His benefit. But, when you take the concept of forgiveness across the entirety of the Bible, the desire of God’s heart is to be with His creation. Having his creation reconciled with Him is the motivation for His forgiveness. Because God lacks nothing, and we lack all that is good, His forgiveness still ultimately benefits us, the Forgiven.

The forgiveness we see God display, through Jesus, is not one that releases Him from us, but rather creates a path to Him. He beckons us to reconciliation with Him. Is it possible the type of forgiveness we are called to offer provides this same level of grace and mercy and the same path for the the one who we forgive?

Forgive Without limits

In Matthew 18:21, when Peter asked Jesus how often we should forgive, he suggested seven times, offering what he presumed to be an amount that was full of grace. Jesus countered with “seven times seventy.” This was not Jesus placing an exact number or limit on us forgiving, but instead expressing that forgiving someone goes far beyond any limitations that we can or should imagine.

Biblical Forgiveness

What would happen if we fully embraced the Apostle’s call in Eph 4:32 and Col 3:13 to forgive others like God, through Jesus has forgiven us? What would happen if the forgiveness we offered others created a path to God and invited them to walk toward Him? Maybe we should stop treating forgiveness like it is intended to free ourselves and start treating it like it is intended to free others. Maybe then more people could see that we are offering them a taste of the much sweeter path to forgiveness that Jesus offers.

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photo credit: lifepalette.com

Why Are So Many Christians Afraid of Being Broken?

Broken

 Today we welcome, Amazon Best Selling author, speaker and radio host, Matt Ham. Matt knows a thing or two about brokenness. In this article he shares what happens when we finally realize that we are broken.

The one constant that we all share is suffering. I wrestled with this for so long in my life, but a cancer diagnosis in 2014 awakened me to this reality.

For some reason suffering and brokenness have become four-letter words, especially in Western Christianity. While many of us understand that we live in an ugly, broken world, we’d rather not go there. In fact, we try our hardest to avoid brokenness and control our circumstances so that we can avoid pain.

But I’m learning something different:

The only path to true freedom is through the very brokenness that we so desperately want to avoid.

Two years ago, before my cancer diagnosis, if I were reading this post, I would have stopped reading by now. Quite frankly, it was a lot easier to avoid the conversation altogether. But I’m learning that for the brave, courageous few who are willing to continue, the reward is beyond comprehension.

Seeds Don’t Bear Fruit

Last fall, my wife and I took our three sons to an apple orchard in the mountains of North Carolina. In the cool fall air, we walked through the rolling hills and picked sweet fruit from the trees.

As I watched my sons enjoy the ripe apples, I thought about a consistent theme throughout the Bible. In countless parables and teachings, Jesus spoke of bearing fruit. He used analogies of seeds and soil and trees to convey some of His deepest truths.

In my own walk, I longed to bear fruit. I longed to see the fullness of God ripen within me to produce His very purpose for my life. But I believed that bearing fruit had to do with my own effort. I thought that striving and trying and willing myself to obedience was the path to wholeness—the path to fruitfulness.

But that day in the apple orchard, something deeper hit me: seeds don’t bear fruit.

Isn’t it interesting that a seed must surrender itself, it must be broken, in order to begin the process of fruit being born?

I feel like in using the analogies of nature, Jesus was trying to convey something much deeper than we want to understand. While religion calls us to bear fruit by our own effort, Jesus reminded us that fruit is born out of brokenness.

Curiously, He was willing to go as far as being broken himself—crucified, died and buried, so that the fruit of our salvation could be tasted. In that process, Jesus not only became our Savior, He became our example.

Recognize You’re Broken

The first step toward wholeness is the recognition that you’re broken. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s absolutely true.

The first step in healing a marriage is an understanding that the marriage needs healing. The first step toward financial peace is financial unrest. The first step toward a healthy lifestyle is an acceptance that your current way of life is unhealthy. And the list goes on.

The same is true of our faith.

The problem is, so many of us are unwilling to go there—we’re unwilling to be broken.

Jesus struggled with that as well. If you remember, there was a moment, in Gethsemane, where Jesus had to make the choice to live out His own parables. As Jesus bled sweat from His forehead, He asked God if there was another way: “Abba, Father, do I have to be broken?

In that moment, Jesus prayed a prayer that terrifies me: “Father, not my will, but thine be done.

Being broken is about surrendering your will in exchange for the will of the Father. And that’s not just as a one-time, shot-in-the-bucket choice, it’s a constant state of being. That’s why Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” The good news is, we don’t have to hang on a cross. But we do have to pick one up.

The Sweet Fruit of Freedom

Our absolute surrender is the only thing strong enough to break the seed of pride within us. That is the path to bearing fruit. That is the path to living whole. Once we surrender our will in exchange for the Father’s, we begin to take root. Then, and only then, will His fruit come forth.

When my physical body had to be pierced in order to remove my cancer, I was reminded of the pierced hands and feet of my Savior. That was the only way that we could be freed.

Refusing brokenness is like holding on to the very cancer that threatens to destroy us.

I’m living proof that brokenness is the path to freedom. As upside-down as it sounds, it’s absolutely true. There is no other way.

But that freedom is the sweetest fruit I have ever tasted. And in God’s beautiful plan, that fruit produces seeds that, when broken, will yield more fruit. And more fruit. And more fruit.

That’s the beauty of the gospel.

In death we find life.

In brokenness we find healing.

When we are emptied, He makes us whole.


Matt HamMatt Ham is a dynamic storyteller and speaker seeking to challenge culture by challenging perspective. He is also the author of the Amazon Best Seller, Redefine Richco-host of the radio talk show, Wake Up Our Faith and host of Whole Life Matters podcast. You can follow Matt at his blog, or on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook or connect with him in the FB group, The Whole Life Community.

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