“It’s all about relationships!”
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching
Have you ever stopped to think that the ultimate reality in the universe is Relationship? God Himself exists in perfect relationship. From eternity past, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have been continuously relating to one another and cooperating with one another to accomplish the plan of the ages.
Biblical Christianity is all about Relationship
To put it even more radically, Christianity is all about Covenant. Though we are separated from God because of our sin, He nevertheless longs to make a covenant with us. He longs to connect with us once again. He yearns to reestablish relationship with us.
That’s why He sent Jesus – to initiate a Great Covenant with us. Through repentance and faith, we embrace this new covenant with the Lord. We don’t just have a relationship with Jesus. We have entered into a covenant with Him, and with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as well.
Thinking about our relationship with God as a covenant casts the Christian life in a whole new light. At the same time, it is something both more serious and sober, but also more wonderful and intimate than we understood it to be before.
Sons of Issachar are learning to grasp the unbelievable miracle of God’s mercy and grace manifest in our forgiveness from sin. We were hopeless and helpless to remedy our sinfulness, yet God reached out to embrace us, to initiate a Great Covenant with us.
Having been reconciled to the Father through a passionate embrace of the Great Covenant initiated by Jesus, Sons of Issachar devote themselves to their personal covenantal relationship with Jesus, a covenant that then makes possible covenantal relationships with their brothers and sisters in Christ, as well.
Journeying in Covenantal Relationship
We can only walk out this journey in relationships with others. It’s impossible to love God and others in a vacuum. We need one another if we are to understand the ways in which we fall short of our deep desire to love one another. We need each other to lovingly point out the “specks” in our eyes. We need community if we are to ever learn how to love better, to grow in the way we relate to one another.
Think about it for a moment… what’s your first reaction when you experience hurt or disappointment in a key relationship? What do you think, how do you feel, and what do you do when you face conflict? How do you handle tension or uncertainty in relationships?
If we’re honest, our first commitment in situations like these is to run and hide, whether we do it passively by retreating from relationship, or aggressively by letting the other person have it. Either way, it’s the same thing. We are determined to protect ourselves, not love the other person.
Our first priority is to make sure we’re O.K., not to love. That’s the essence of our sin anyway. We violate love, we violate relationship because we’re self-centered. We make it all about protecting and satisfying ourselves, not loving someone else.
The great irony in all this is that as we seek to save our lives, we actually lose them. As we seek to preserve ourselves above all else, we lose the possibility of enjoying what it means to love and be loved. Thinking we’re doing what’s in our best interests, we’re actually deepening the emptiness in our souls.
What on earth does it really mean to love someone else when we’re mad, hurt, anxious, or depressed? How are we going to learn how to handle conflict, tension in relationship, disappointment, hurt, pain, or anger in a godly, loving way? Only in the context of meaningful Covenant Communities.
The Vision for Covenant Communities
Through Covenant Communities, Sons of Issachar long to be a part of a revolution in how we “do Church” and how we “do relationship.” They long to return to the early Church’s emphasis on relationships, togetherness, connectedness, and love. They want to learn to delight in living out what our Puritan “Founding Grandfathers” called the “New Covenant Way,” loving God and one another above all else.
As the author of Hebrews exhorts us, we are not to “give up meeting together,” but rather continually “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Sons of Issachar long to do just that, continually stir one another to love God and each other better. In loving, they experience Life! Sons of Issachar are learning to value both vertical connectedness to the Lord and horizontal connectedness to on another that will draw hungry and thirsty souls into the Great Community.
So, what exactly are Covenant Communities? They are not just small groups of 8-12 people gathering for Bible study and prayer. They are bands of Sons of Issachar who covenant with God and one another to learn together how to love God with all their hearts and one another as themselves.
Covenant Communities provide a safe place to be real – to be open and honest with life as it is and with what’s going on deep in our souls. To help one another struggle well. To stir one another to find God amid the pain and difficulties of life in a fallen world. To pursue the path of faith, hope, and love in the way we relate to the Lord and each other. Covenant Communities offer a haven where we can learn how to find life. To find joy. To experience the depths of blessing in covenantal love with God and one another.
Could it be that the Lord is calling you to rally a company of Sons of Issachar to walk together in a Covenant Community?
SOI 21 recommends the following resources for study, reflection, and discussion in Covenant Communities:
Experiencing God by Dr. Henry Blackaby
Books by Dr. Larry Crabb
- Inside Out
- The Safest Place on Earth
- Soul Talk
- Shattered Dreams
- The Pressure’s Off
- The PAPA Prayer