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Archive for Community

Jul
25

You Need an Outcast:: 3

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There are three things you need to know about having dinner with Levi. First, Levi’s take time. They’re a lot of work. Marginalized people take a lot of work. They can’t be fixed with money. They can’t be fixed with a manual. You have to get your hands dirty and walk with them where they are. Second, Levi’s may not offer much in return. You don’t invest in a Levi expecting to get something in return. And you don’t spend time with a Levi just so you can feel good about yourself. Finally, when you start hanging around with Levi’s, someone is going to criticize you. They didn’t “get” Jesus, and they won’t “get” you.

Jesus is in the business of relationships…of inviting people to trade tables. He’s in the business of reaching out to those who are passed by or looked over. Revelation 19 speaks of the marriage supper of the lamb, an event where one final table is spread. Around that table will be people of every tribe and tongue, gender and socio-economic status. Though John doesn’t mention it, I’m sure there will be plenty of “Levi’s” around the table as well.

Who’s your Levi? We need one in life to remind us that relationships are not just about what we get from others. Its important for us to learn to give back.

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Jul
24

You Need an Outcast:: 2

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In the text cited yesterday from Luke 5, Jesus invited Levi to leave his table for a life of discipleship. It is at that point that we are introduced to a second table. Levi was so happy that Jesus provided him an opportunity to walk away from the margins that he threw a dinner party for his fringe friends and invited Jesus to be the guest of honor. That may not seem like a big deal to us, but it was a very big deal in first century Jewish culture. Sitting down to dine with someone at “table” meant acceptance, forgiveness, and equality. You didn’t eat with your enemies, and you certainly didn’t eat with sinners. Which leads me to an important question. Who are you eating with? Or to ask it another way, how hypoallergenic are your relationships?

Jesus didn’t draw lines of exclusion. The lines he drew were against hypocrisy and judgment. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. He hung out on the fringe and walked the boundaries of culture and society. And, in typical Jesus fashion, he didn’t care what others thought about it.

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Jul
23

You Need an Outcast

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Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him. Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?” Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” (Luke 5:27-32, NLT).

This weekend I spoke about a man named Levi from the above mentioned text found in Luke’s gospel. We know him better as Matthew, the author of the first book of the New Testament. But he wasn’t always a follower of Jesus. We are introduced to Levi who was working as a tax collector. Because of occupation, he was viewed as a betrayer to the people of Israel. Socially, Levi was an outcast who had been rejected by society. Today we might refer to him as “marginalized.” When Jesus found him he was sitting alone at his little table, surrounded by the long arm of the Roman government, collecting taxes from his fellow citizens. Most people would have passed by Levi, avoiding him at all costs. But not Jesus. Jesus didn’t walk by. He stopped and invited Levi to a new relationship…to get up and leave his little table and follow him into a new life of discipleship.

This week I want to ask a simple question: Who are you walking by?

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Jul
18

You Need a Mentor:: 4

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So far this week I’ve written about six qualities that mentors possess based on 2 Timothy 1:1-14. Today I want to finish this series up with the last two characteristics. Quality number seven is that mentors are models. Mentors model behaviors, values, and attitudes to their proteges. “Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:13-14, NLT). Notice the word “pattern” in verse 13. That word literally means “blueprint.” Mentors provide a blueprint for you to make your own way. Good mentors do not seek to develop imitators. They develop innovators. Paul is known for being a church planter, traveling as an itinerant preacher for the entirety of his ministry career. He might stay put for a season, but generally his practice was to hit the road so he could start something new. What we know of Timothy’s biography is that he was a stay at home body. While he did travel extensively with Paul, his post Pauline ministry expression was serving the body of Christ as a local church pastor. The take away from this is that a good mentor doesn’t demand their pupils be just like them. Only Christ has the right to make that demand.

The eighth and final characteristic is that mentors facilitate growth. Peeking into the next chapter, Paul continued by writing, “Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others” (2 Timothy 2:1-2, NLT). Paul’s goal for Timothy was to “pass the baton,” for true growth is not measured by what you get. Its measured by what you give.

Who’s your Paul? Waylon Moore said, “Everyone needs a PACESETTER ahead of them; a PEER beside them, and a PUPIL following them.” Who’s your pacesetter? Who’s your peer? Who’s your pupil?

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Jul
17

You Need a Mentor:: 3

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Yesterday I offered the first three of eight characteristics of a good mentor, based on Paul’s relationship to Timothy. Characteristic number four is that a good mentor will inspire passion. The next two verses say, “This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:6-7, NLT). Mentors challenge you to “fan the flames!” They inspire you to find and develop the very thing that gets you excited about life. They challenge you to never quit on your goals and dreams. They help you discover God’s gifts and call upon your life and inspire you to never settle for second best.

The next characteristic is transparency. One of the reasons I appreciate Paul so much is that he was always honest about his own struggles. His example reminded Timothy that mentors are not bullet proof. They are fallible. They are not exempt from challenges and are authentic about their struggles. They are guides, not gods. “So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:8-9, NLT). In short, Paul was reporting that his faithfulness landed him in prison, and that Timothy should understand that he could face the same treatment.

The sixth and final marker that I’ll share today is that mentors are teachers. 2 Timothy 1:10-12a continues, “And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News. That is why I am suffering here in prison.” Mentors know what they know, but they also know what they don’t know. But more than conveying facts, they reveal insights that awaken you to your own discoveries. Their primary work is not to answer all of your questions. Sometimes the best work a mentor can provide is the inspiration to simply ask better questions.

Six down, two to go. I’ll finish it up tomorrow.

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Jul
16

You Need a Mentor:: 2

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This week I’m posting about the characteristics of a mentor, based on the mentoring relationship that the Apostle Paul had with his protege, Timothy. The first quality that a good mentor will possess is experience. “This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I have been sent out to tell others about the life he has promised through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:1, NLT). A mentor is one who has walked where you are walking. They have the experience and the experiences you need in life. They’ve earned their accomplishments and often bear in their bodies and souls the scars of adversity. They are not theorists or philosophers. They offer practical help that matters in the real world.

Characteristic number two is that mentors are relational. Check out the language Paul used to describe his proximity to Timothy: “I am writing to Timothy, my dear son. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace. Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again” (2 Timothy 2:2-4, NLT). Words and phrases like “my dear Son,” “ancestors,” and “tears and joy” help us to see that there was a kinship between the two. The difference between and mentor and a teacher is a relationship. Every mentor is a teacher, but not every teacher is a mentor.

The third characteristic is that mentors know the power of a story. Verse 5 continues, “I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you” (2 Timothy 1:5, NLT). Good mentors use image and illustration to convey truth. Rather than spew forth answers or cliches, they dwell in the land of “once upon a time,” and will often address questions by telling a story rather than producing pat answers.

Tomorrow I’ll share three more characteristics of a good mentor. Thanks for checking in today. And thanks for recommending this blog to your friends and family!

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Jul
15

You Need a Mentor

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Dr. Dale Hammond was one of my Bible professors at Hannibal LaGrange College. For some reason, Dr. Hammond took an interest in me. His first priority for me was to disciple me in the faith. But he wasn’t just a teacher, he was a mentor. I wouldn’t have known to use that term in 1984, but he was.

Mentoring is a relationship in which a mentor helps a protégé reach his or her God given potential. Effective mentors are like friends in that their goal is to provide safe contexts for growth. Except for love, the greatest gift one person can give to another is the gift of growth. Each one of us needs someone to look up to; a wiser, usually older, God-energized guide who can help us find our way through this new and unfamiliar landscape that is not for faint hearts or weak stomachs. Sir Issac Newton said, “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Who is helping you to turn your tinkling tin can into the sounding gong of wisdom?

The Rabbinical practice of Bible times helps us understand the principles we’ll examine in the text. A young man would be evaluated for aptitude and potential. He would initially have to have memorized both the Torah and the Mishnah. If he passed the test, the Rabbi would then put his cloak over the shoulders of the young man and he would enter a life of apprenticeship. The relationship between the Rabbi and the apprentice would be closer than any family relationship. Then, at the age of 40, the apprentice would become “of age” and become a full fledged practicing Rabbi. If you think about it, Jesus modeled a similar practice with the 12 disciples.

This week’s series is going to focus on the mentoring relationship between Paul and Timothy. Paul and Timothy first met in Acts 16:1-4. That meeting began a mentoring relationship that would continue through the end of Paul’s years. How did that relationship work? What do you look for in a mentor? Check in frequently this week for eight characteristics of a mentor.

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Jul
13

You Need an Encourager

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In John Kotter’s business fable titled, Our Iceberg is Melting, Alice the Penguin observes, “We are always in danger of losing our courage.”

You need affirmation, attention, and encouragement as much as you need food, shelter, and water. Every word of encouragement you receive is like a bright star on a dark night. You need an encourager, a Barnabas if you will, to help you through the “dark nights of the soul.” Who’s your Barnabas? You need one. What do they do? What is encouragement in the first place? To encourage literally means, “to put courage into.” An encourager is a person who comes alongside your life and pours courage into you when the skies are clouded with fear and doubt.

We find the story of Barnabas early in the formation of the first church in the Book of Acts. Acts reports that his given name was Joseph. He was a Levite, a leader of worship if you will. His life and his actions were so encouraging that the apostles gave him a nickname: “son of encouragement,” or Barnabas. His story is interwoven in the story of the early church. What he did is what we need and what we need to be willing to offer to others.

How do encouragers help us along our journey toward our destination?

1. An Encourager Helps You See the Big Picture (Acts 4:36-37)
Barnabas sold a piece of property and gave the proceeds of the sale to the apostles so they could feed the poor. Encouragers are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. They deal with the real stuff of life experience. They are quite comfortable working in the context of the bigger picture. He not only helped with an immediate need, he encouraged others with his “buy in.” Encouragers are active supporters. Barnabas didn’t open his mouth, he opened his wallet. Why? Because he saw the big picture. He understood the immediate need at hand, but also the correlation between the immediate need and the long term goal.

2. An Encourager is Willing to Step up to the Microphone (Acts 9:26-30)
Though all of the believers were nervous about Saul’s transformation, Barnabas was willing to defend him and stand beside him. He spoke words of assurance and helped calm their fears. An encourager is willing to believe the best about you, and willing to take the microphone at a press conference and publicly endorse your life.

3. An Encourager is willing to Allow You to “Tag Along” (Acts 11:22-26)
Barnabas encouraged Saul as he developed his gifts. He included him and involved him. When Barnabas saw a great opportunity, he didn’t send for Saul, he went a got him. His goal was not to control Saul but to develop him so that he could find his own voice.

4. An Encourager will Hold the Ladder so you Can Reach Your Potential (Acts 13:1-5)
Up to this point the order had been Barnabas and Paul. But by chapter 14:1, the order changed. There was no competition between the two. Barnabas genuinely wanted Paul to be the best he could be, even if it meant he would play second chair.

5. An Encourager will Never Give Up on You (Acts 15:36-41)
Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement over a young man named John Mark. Barnabas was patient with Mark even though Paul was more than willing to kick him to the curb. Barnabas allowed Mark to be human. He allowed him to fail, and then stood with him and helped him pick up the pieces so he could begin again. By the end of Paul’s life, he saw the value that Mark had, and desired Mark’s company during his final days on earth (cf. 2 Timothy 4:11).

Others may not see you as a “keeper.” But God is your keeper and will watch over your life with a host of encouragers.

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Jul
07

You Need a Truth Teller:: 3

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Last Sunday I didn’t have enough time to finish my sermon, so I omitted the third conversation between Nathan and David. It occurred on David’s death bed and regarded the succession plan for Israel’s throne. David had committed that the heir to the kingdom would be Solomon. Another son, Adonijah, had something else in mind. While David was on his death bed, Adonijah was garnering support to establish himself as the successor. When Bathsheba heard about it, she solicited the help of Nathan. Check it out:

While Bathsheba was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet arrived. The king’s officials told him, “Nathan the prophet is here to see you.” Nathan went in and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. Nathan asked, “My lord the king, have you decided that Adonijah will be the next king and that he will sit on your throne? Today he has sacrificed many cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and he has invited all the king’s sons to attend the celebration. He also invited the commanders of the army and Abiathar the priest. They are feasting and drinking with him and shouting, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ But he did not invite me or Zadok the priest or Benaiah or your servant Solomon. Has my lord the king really done this without letting any of his officials know who should be the next king?” (1 Kings 1:22-27, NLT)

A truth teller in your life will help you find clarity, and even point out error and sin in your life. But a third benefit is that a truth teller will protect your blind side. No one likes an interventionist. We’ve conditioned ourselves to “mind our own business” and to “butt out.” But a Nathan will mind your business because they love you too much not to. They will protect you at your point of vulnerability and weakness.

This week I’ve written about a fundamental relationship we all need in life: someone who loves you enough to tell you the truth, even when it is uncomfortable. A Nathan in your life can prove to be a marvelous gift. In fact, the name Nathan literally means, “gift from God.” David so appreciated Nathan’s care for his life that he named one of his sons Nathan. That Nathan would become a part of the lineage of Jesus Christ on Mary’s side.

Who’s your Nathan? You may do great things without a truth teller in your life, but you’ll never be great without one.

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Jul
06

You Need a Truth Teller:: 2

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Yesterday I posted that one of the benefit’s of having a truth teller in you life is that a truth teller can help you find clarity about who you really are and what you’re really about. The second benefit is that truth tellers like Nathan will confront wrong in your life. Nathan’s second conversation with David concerned that very thing, as the Lord sent Nathan to David in order to confront him about his sin with Bathsheba.

So the LORD sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.” David was furious. “As surely as the LORD lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The LORD, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why, then, have you despised the word of the LORD and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own. “This is what the LORD says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view. You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.”

Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” (2 Samuel 12:1-14, NLT)

Nathan’s expose error in our lives and point to sin. Nathan began with a story because stories and images are the most infectious transmitters of truth. It’s important to understand that when Nathan came to David he came as one David trusted. He did not come with a judgmental spirit of condemnation, rather, as one motivated by love who was seeking to redeem and restore. In short, he wanted David to be the best David he could be. Judgmental people want to “tell the truth.” Nathan’s want to help you “do the truth.”

Eudora Welty wrote that “Nathan’s are less about finger pointing as they are about parting curtains.”

Who’s the person in your life who is not afraid to haul you before the tribunals of truth? Some people want to “catch you” in your sin. Nathan wanted David to catch himself in his sin. He wanted to help David see the very thing he was running away from.
We need radical honesty in life. We need it in the little things, like “you have food in your teeth.” We also need it in the big things, too. It takes courage to allow a Nathan into your life. Doing so is like having a surgical procedure done with local anesthesia: you have to stay still.

Categories : Community, Relationships
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