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Archive for Relationships

Aug
07

You Need a Small Voice:: 2

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Having a “small voice” in your circle of relationships can help you in at least five ways. For example, Rhoda’s keep you snug. Children live in the land of make believe where everything is possible. It’s that snugness makes dreaming possible and remind us to stay alive. We adults separate work and play. But for children, their work is play. Mark Twain said, “Children see work and play as words used for the same thing under different circumstances. Children keep us snug, and that helps because you have to be snug to hear the voice of God.

Children not only keep us snug, they also keep us authentic. That’s why we play games with “boo” and “grrrr.” Have you noticed that almost every children’s story has a villain? That’s how kids learn to master their fears. Story book villains helps them learn that monsters are real. Not the under the bed kind of monsters, but the monsters that we adults are all too familiar with in everyday life. We need to face the monsters of life and turn them into instruments of creativity and growth. Children scare the pretense away and shoo out the trite. You can’t be a hero without a villain.

Third, children keep you small and humble. Kids know that meaning and significance are found in the small things. The communion elements, both bread and cup, are small.

Next, children keep you light. Their story books are filled with light hearted and light headed airborne characters. Gravity is an adult disease that leads to the grave. Its natural to children to be idealistic. You have to learn to be a realist.

Finally, children keep you alive. In a child’s world, every thing is alive. Animals, plants, trees, inanimate objects all become alive and talk.
The value they add is that they help us see everything for the first time.

Jesus said that if we want to enter God’s Kingdom, we have to come as a child. If we want to understand what it means to trust God and place our faith in Him, we have to do so as a child. And if we want to know what it means to follow God passionately, we need to look to children as our examples. That’s why its important for us to relate appropriately and frequently with kids. They set the pace.

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Aug
06

You Need a Small Voice

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When it came time for Jesus to showcase his ideal model for faith, he didn’t point to the scholar or the business person. He didn’t gesture toward the athlete or the entertainer. He chose a child. That’s why you need a Rhoda in your life. Rhoda?! Who was that? Rhoda was the first voice heard from a Christian woman in the church in the book of Acts. That woman was a child. Rhoda was the doorkeeper in the house of Mary in Jerusalem, and here’s her story.

The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered. So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him. Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leadersc had planned to do to me!” When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” “You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison (Acts 12:6-17, NLT).

Sometimes it takes a child to point out the obvious. When Jesus wanted to show what discipleship was like, he plopped a child in front of his listeners. Why? Is it because children are innocent? Pure? Truthful? Hardly! (Feel free to insert your own story here about any toddler/parent exchange at the candy rack at the grocery check out.) Then why choose a child? Because it was a child and children were of no value in Jesus’ day. They possessed a rank below women and slaves, slightly ahead of beasts. “Little ones,” especially females, were viewed as worthless and insignificant. They were despised, degraded, and neglected. But in the gospel according to Jesus, “Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong.” The gospel according to Jesus shows that little is large. Children first was Jesus’ model because in the Kingdom of God the last are first.

Tomorrow I’ll begin a listing of five ways that children teach us about connecting with God.

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Aug
02

You Need an Intercessor:: 4

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One concluding thought for this week’s series of posts. Never forget that Jesus is praying for you. That’s been his task since the ascension following the resurrection. His intercession is the basis for our intercession. Today I leave you with these two verses that remind you of that very important fact:

“For Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, praying for us” (Romans 8:34, NLT).

“Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever t intercede with God on their behalf” (Hebrews 7:25, NLT).

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Aug
01

You Need an Intercessor:: 3

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What should you look for in an intercessor? What characteristics should he or she possess?

1. An intercessor should be someone who loves you.
Your intercessor will love you and desire more for you than is in their power to give. From more than duty or obligation, intercessors will offer prayer as a gift of love.

2. An intercessor should be someone who actually prays.
Pray-ers pray. They “stand in the gap,” building spiritual bridges between where you are and the throne of God. They are not counselors, advisors, guides, encouragers, or mentors. They are certainly not gossips! They are people who pray.

3. An intercessor will pray for spiritual needs in addition to the physical needs.
I love the writings of the Apostle Paul. I must confess that I’m always a bit ashamed when I read the prayers he offered on behalf of his readers. Paul’s readership faced horrible life circumstances, and I’m sure those concerns were top of mind to him. But the prayers that have been recorded and preserved for 2,000 years are the ones that address spiritual needs. Intercessors are sympathetic to the tangible battles in the valley. But they see the physical struggles from a spiritual dimension, and that will be the thing that gives shape and focus to their prayers.

There are probably other things you will want to consider as you seek an intercessor. But these three things will easily help you identify the person that will sit on the the hill top high above your valley.

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Jul
31

You Need an Intercessor:: 2

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While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. Moses commanded Joshua, “Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle. After the victory, the LORD instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-nissi (which means “the LORD is my banner”). (Exodus 17:8-15, NLT)

How will an intercessor benefit your life?

1. When you are facing battles in life, an intercessor will remind you that God is in control.
As Moses sat on top of the hill, he held the staff of God in his hands. That staff was a symbol of God’s presence and intervention. Even though Joshua and the army had fight the battle in the valley, they could glance up and see that God was present and in control. An intercessor will remind you that no matter what you face, God is on his throne.

2. An intercessor will remind you that God is aware. He is not an absentee landlord. Moses not only held the staff of God, he was positioned on the hill top, giving him a clear vantage point to observe all of the battle. My brother in law is a defensive coordinator at a small university in the south. During the game, he prefers the box to the sideline because sitting in the box allows him to see the entire field of play. God sees your entire life and is fully aware of what you are facing.

3. An intercessor will inspire you to press on in faith. Moses hands grew weak during the battle. So Aaron and Hur stood beside him and steadied his hands and kept them lifted. They refused to let Moses quit, which in turn encouraged the warriors to press on and not give up. Good intercessors know that battles are seldom won with one blow. Sometimes it takes a lot of time and energy to work through whatever it is we are facing the valley. Intercessors encourage us to never give up and to never quit.

4. An intercessor will remind you that the battle belongs to the Lord. At the conclusion of the battle, God got the credit for the victory. And he still gets the credit for the victories we experience today.

Having an intercessor is an important relationship to have in life. They provide these four benefits, and more! Tomorrow I’ll post three characteristics of an intercessor that will help you identify one if you don’t have one.

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Jul
30

You Need an Intercessor

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Who prays for you? Let me rephrase the question. Who do you have in your life that specifically and intentionally makes it their business to pray for you? Do you have a person like that in your life? The church word for such a person is intercessor. An intercessor is one who pleads your case to another. In the spiritual realm, an intercessor is the person who goes to God in prayer on your behalf, building spiritual bridges between your life and the throne of God.

This week’s lesson comes from the Old Testament book of Exodus. The back ground of the story is an epic battle between the transient Israelites and the army of Amalek. Israel was minding their own business en route to the land of promise following their liberation from slavery in Egypt. Amalek saw this unarmed band of Hebrews and determined to pick a fight. What follows in the story is a point of interest. Moses sent Joshua and the army into the valley for battle and then positioned himself on the hilltop to pray. The story links the two activities in such a way that the reader understands that the battle in the valley and the prayer on the hilltop are inseparable actions.

When facing epic battles in the valleys of life you need someone up on the hilltop, so to speak, talking to God on your behalf. I’ve been blessed throughout my life to have had some wonderful people who have been dedicated to praying for me. There are family, friends, and church members in almost every church I’ve served who have devoted themselves to praying for me. Who is taking a seat on top of the hill while you face the battles below? That’s what I want to post about this week. Check back in tomorrow and I’ll dive into the text of Exodus 17:8-16, and share some ways that intercessors can be beneficial.

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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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