Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Because of Grace, You Always Have a Place - a new post by @ShelleyHendrix

23 Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word]; 24 and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, 25 not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching. - Hebrews 10:19-25

In an earlier post, I wrote about the previous verses in this passage and on the universal need to have a place to belong. I love how my pastor here in my new hometown identified this feeling of belonging using the word "snick," which he described as the sound two parts make when the connect because they fit. Think of the sound your seatbelt makes when the two parts are connected or the sound your headset jack makes when inserted into its complementary part. We all want to know we have a place to belong. Because of God's grace, we can boldly approach His throne (i.e. His presence) because His grace (unconditional love, unrelenting favor and completed transaction to make any obstacle between us void), we always have a place with Him.

I shared a story from my own grace journey at Church 4 Chicks' last AWAKEN Conference in 2014. (By the way, it's coming back this fall!! Mark your calendars now for the AWAKEN retreat October 7-9 on St. Simons Island, GA! Subscribe to our weekly email updates to get the most up to date info as it becomes available: text Church4Chicks to 22828 to subscribe.) A friend on our team asked if I'd share that story again, and I'm happy to do that here. 

Karen Cone (one of our team members here on the blog) gave me the little chair pictured above. It was back in 2008 when I was transitioning from one area of ministry into forming Church 4 Chicks. Because we were part of a small group of women in ministry and had tested out these principles we teach at C4C on creating and cultivating environments of grace - communities of believers where we can truly be known and know others - where we can tell the worst thing about us and be loved more in the telling of it, rather than less - we had become quite close. We formed trusted, sacred friendships and we were growing spiritually and emotionally more than we had every been able to in the past (where rigid rules and performance-driven religion was our basic understanding of how to relate to God and with others).

Karen gave me this chair as a symbol to remind me that I always have a place at the King's table*. Karen knew that much of my own wounding came from the feeling that if I wasn't connected to the "right" people, or if I didn't have the "right" person's or "right" group's approval, I didn't get to come to the party. It was as though I believed I had to be invited by the influential to get to be close to God. 

Now, had I been asked about this belief back in my performance-driven, "Here am I, send me" days of religion-oriented understanding of Christianity, I could never have been able to communicate this. I was so lacking in self-awareness that I didn't know I was living out of this belief. I was just doing my best to please God with my short life and never felt like I was doing enough on my own to merit a close relationship with Him all by myself.

I had a lot of "truth" or head knowledge of Scripture and a very short supply of heart-felt belief. 

I learned so much through the training I received and then had the opportunity to test the truths in the context of safe relationships. Because of this, I was ready and able to receive this gift from Karen and embrace its message:

Because of Grace, I, Shelley, always have a Place. 

Do you see how this experience validates the teaching in Hebrews? As believers, we chose not to isolate or keep people at a safe arm's length distance relationally; but to engage regularly with one another for the purpose of learning together and practicing what we were learning. As we cultivated this environment of grace and truth, we were stirring up the love and the gifts already deposited in us by the Father. 

No one needs to be coerced into obedience or faithfulness. Cultivating the environment of grace and inviting people to be fully themselves affords each person to mature into the destiny God had in mind as He created them (us) in the womb -- actually, from the beginning of time and eternity! 

We truly have been designed with relationship in mind! 

For Reflection: How are you doing in the area of "gathering together" for the purpose of instruction and relationship?

Take a look at the passage above again. Do you see the words Faith, Hope and Love? How do these tie together in the context of meeting together and cultivating community?

*Read 2 Samuel 9

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