Relationships are essential.  Relationships are a non-negotiable component of corporate church life and individual spiritual life.  Relationships are not an added blessing like a favorite dessert after a satisfying meal.  Just as fruit, vegetables, and protein are foundational to a good meal, relationships are foundational to life.  We might survive without relationship, be cannot thrive without relationship.

That has been one of the hard lessons of 2020.  We have discovered that while physical isolation may have some physical benefits in some situations, physical isolation has been detrimental in most other ways.  I have no scientific data to support my theory, but my personal observation in my life sphere is that there has been significantly more loss, suffering, and trouble from isolation than from the COVID-19 virus — and I’m not alone in those observations.

God did not design us to live alone.  He designed us to live in fellowship with Him and in partnership with one another.  He made us to be interdependent on each other.

That has been a lesson we have learned in past weeks as we have worked our way through Romans 12.  God has determined that we would work out our salvation and our transformation to Christ’s likeness in the context of the church body, not in isolation (Rom. 12:1-3).  He has given individual spiritual gifts so those gifts might be used to care for others in a corporate setting (12:4-8).  God has designed us for relationship and given us instruction about how to build and cultivate godly relationships (12:9-13).  God has even told us how to handle difficult relationships (even relationships where we are persecuted) and how to serve those individuals, precluding us from running away to isolation (12:14-21).

We need relationships.  God has made us for fellowship and interaction.  We are not designed to live our lives in solitude and separation.  We were never designed to live our lives in solitude.  Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam lived from his first breath in fellowship with God, and very quickly after his creation, God gave him a partner to further that fellowship and from that intimate relationship to generate others with whom they would share life.

We have lost much in the way of relationships in 2020.  In 2021 all people — and our church, and I — need to cultivate a greater dependence on and cultivation of relationships.

And because God has designed men to lead, and because it is always time for men to act like men (1 Cor. 16:13) — being watchful but not fearful, being faithful and steadfast, and taking godly risks and leading with strength and courage — it is particularly important for men to lead in cultivating relationships in 2021.

There will be a variety of ways that as a church body we are going to stimulate relationship and fellowship in 2021.  One of those ways is through the men’s retreat on February 19-20.  The goal of that retreat is two-fold — to create a context in which fellowship and relationship between men is cultivated and enhanced.  Too often men are tempted to isolate themselves, and that isolation is to the detriment of themselves and the church body.  The retreat is one step towards reversing that trend.

Secondly, and more importantly, the goal of the retreat is to stimulate the relationship between individual men and Christ.  Too many objects, priorities, tasks, and desires entice men to avoid fellowship with Christ.  Our pursuit of job and financial care of our families and our yearning for entertainment and rest have eclipsed the joys of Christ.  By focusing our eyes on the pursuit of all manner of earthly pleasures (some of which are part of our responsibilities as men), we have become blind to the glories of Christ.

It’s time to change that.  It’s time to prioritize fellowship with one another.  It’s time to prioritize fellowship with Christ.  It’s time to put the isolation of 2020 behind us and cultivate intentional relationship in 2021.  And the men’s retreat February 19-20 is one opportunity to do that.

We have a unique opportunity at the retreat to be taught well by a faithful pastor, Rick Holland.  He will care well for your souls and he will stimulate your desire for Christ by the Word of Christ as he teaches us to “Uneclipse the Son” from our lives — to let the full radiance of Christ be our joy.  And we will  have opportunity those days to engage in fellowship with one another and set a trajectory for increased fellowship in coming months.

If you have not yet signed up for this retreat, I urge you to do so as soon as possible.  Sign up yourself.  Sign up your son(s) or your dad.  Sign up your brother.  Sign up a neighbor or a co-worker. 

You need relationships with other men and you need relationship with Christ.  This weekend will equip you for both those kinds of relationships for 2021 and beyond.

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