God’s Dwelling Place in Our Communities

Holy imagination, Civil Righteousness and co-creating with God

Jonathan Tremaine Thomas

Jonathan Tremaine Thomas was raised in the southern foothills of western North Carolina along with his brother, worship artist Jaye Thomas. As a fifth-generation “preacher’s kid”, and the grandnephew of the late Civil Rights activist and music legend Dr. Nina Simone; Jonathan represents a unique blending of artistic history and divine calling.


Hello, Cru City. Jonathan Tremaine here. Greetings from my front porch in Ferguson, Missouri. Maybe you’ve heard that name; it gained global acclaim nine years ago when a young Black man named Michael Brown was killed here in these streets, spawning protest and resistance around the country and tipping America into a new age of conversation concerning the worth of Black people, people of color, and police brutality in our nation, among many others. I want to use this moment that we have together to talk about re-imagining our flourishing and participating with God in the global plan of redemption. 

You see, in Colossians 1:20, it says, “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on Earth or things in Heaven, having made peace through the blood of the cross.” 

I wanna think about this concept of Jesus reconciling all things, emphasizing all things, not some things. This is hard for us in our day. How do we reconcile the most painful parts of our history? How is Jesus going to take tragedies and moments like the crisis here in Ferguson, the loss of Black lives and the injustices in our world, the pain points of human history and make it into something beautiful?

Well, it takes the activation of our holy imagination. We have to re-imagine our flourishing, first of all, through the eyes of Jesus, and those are the eyes of faith, having our minds renewed, having the mind of Christ. And so through the eyes of faith, we set our faces on Jesus to have our holy imaginations awakened through silence, through prayer, through practices of holy meditation, meditating on the word of God, through worship, and fasting that weakens our physical bodies and awakens our spiritual bodies to a higher reality. To hear God and to obey Him, Jesus fasted, and he modeled that as a way of providing us access to the heart of the Father. He said, “I only did what my father told me to do, and I only said what my father said.” And so, God the Father says, “My sheep know my voice.” Are you able to hear his voice? 

That’s critical for faith. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the word, so we have to have a deep cultivated practice of not only reading the word, but being able to hear the word of the Lord through what we’re reading.

So in Hebrews 11, it says, “By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance.” See, God had apportioned an inheritance to Abraham, but Abraham couldn’t get there in the natural. He couldn’t see how to get there. So he had cultivated a life in God to be able to hear his voice, hear what the instructions were step-by-step to begin to move his life in the direction of the promise. And so that’s one of the ways that we have to take that model and begin to apportion and redistribute the priorities in our life to make it a priority to be able to hear God’s voice and to move at the sound of his voice. It says he went out not knowing where he was going. Unfortunately, God doesn’t give us just a complete end-to-end pathway. He stands at the beginning, He sees the end, but unfortunately, we don’t. And so we have to know that He is for us and He’s leading us down quiet pathways near streams of living water. 

“By faith, Abraham dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country.” He knew that he wasn’t permanently where he was; he was a sojourner on his way. “Dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, a city whose builder and maker is God. And by faith Sarah, his wife, herself also received strength to conceive seed.” She received divine strength from Heaven to conceive something holy, the seed of faith, and then bear a child even though in the natural she was past the child-bearing age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Sarah’s initial reaction was doubt, unbelief, but that unbelief actually led to faith. In fact, in Genesis 18, it says, “The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really have a child now that I’m so old?”’” And the Lord’s reply was, “Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” That’s the question: is anything too hard for God? I believe that the Lord wants to confront our crises of faith and give us hope by demonstrating His faithfulness and His power to us in this age.

The second thing that I want us to think about is the reality that God has given us an inheritance. He deeply desires to dwell with us and to habitate among us. He’s with you, and He desires to enlarge the tent of His dwelling through you as part of the eternal plan of redemption. 

You see, in Acts 7:49, it says that they had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, but the quote says that Solomon even desired to build upon the heart of David, his father, and built the Lord a house. But in Acts 7, it says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. But what house will you build for me? Or what is the place of my rest?” Now, this was kind of a sarcastic question, like, “Who are you to think that you can actually build a place for me? I can’t be contained in a temple made with human hands.” But it was the heart of King David. It was the heart of Solomon, on Earth as it is in Heaven: “God, I wanna build you a place.” And even more, it’s God’s holy desire that we dwell with Him in unbroken fellowship.

That’s why in Genesis 1, Adam and Eve lived and walked in the cool of the day, in the garden with the Lord. They lived in such close proximity that they could hear and discern his movements. You and I were made for intimacy with God, and He desires to dwell among us. He desires to dwell with us in our cities, in our families, in our communities, in our professions, in our businesses. Are you imagining what it looks like to build a dwelling place for God with your skills, with your talents, with your love? Is your love creating space in our world for the dwelling of God? 

In Ezekiel 48:35, it says, “The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of that city shall from that time on be called, ‘The Lord is there.’” “Yahweh-shammah.” God is an urban developer, a planner, a city builder, an entrepreneur, a creative, an architect—there is no mind like the mind of God, and He desires to lend the genius of Heaven to us in our day, in our age to rebuild our cities, rebuild our communities, rebuild and reform the social and civil structures while we’re here, until He comes—the new Heaven and the new Earth comes, and the kingdom of God is on the Earth as it is in Heaven.

This leads us to our next point. We must embrace the labor pains and push. To birth new things, it takes pain. Pain is the corridor to new life, travail that gives birth to new places, so pay attention to your tears. Isaiah 60 speaks of an anomaly; it says, “Is it possible to give birth before a person comes into labor? No, who’s heard of such a thing?” But it says, “Can a land be born—can a nation be brought forth all at once? For as soon as Zion travails, she gives delivery. She brings forth her children.” Will the Lord bring to the point of labor and not give birth? God is good, and I believe that He wants to take even the most painful parts of our history, of our story, our failures, our tears, and cause us to sow those tears into the ground and into the spirit in order to bring forth a harvest of joy. So I believe that God wants to birth new things, and let the travail—let the groanings of your heart lead you into a place of grace to bring forth new life and transformation in our day and in our time.

God bless you, and may the Lord keep you and cause you to have peace, hope, love, joy, and strength for today, hope for tomorrow, faith for the generations to come. Bless you.

Want to Dig A Little Deeper? Check out Ep. 27: How God Invites Us to Join Him in Transforming Our Broken World with Jonathan Tremaine Thomas.

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