Archive for July, 2012
There’s an old joke about plagiarism that goes something like this: The first time a person uses a quote, he or she will say, “According to sources.” The second time a person uses that quote, he or she will say, “It has been said.” The third time a person uses the quote, he or she will say, “You know, the other day I was thinking…” It usually gets a laugh because the best humor has a prickly element of truth woven within.
When I was in the dissertation phase of my doctoral program I was required to take a course on research protocol. A large portion of it was devoted to the crime of plagiarism. In short, plagiarism is the practice of using copyrighted material as though it was your own. And yes, it is a crime. I have observed that we as a culture have become pretty lax regarding this cardinal rule of respect. I witness it most frequently on Twitter, where people are attributed with quotes who weren’t even alive when the original person said or wrote the statement. It’s sloppy.
On July 13, I posted a review on a book titled Imagine: How Creativity Works by author Jonah Lehrer. Today, one of my readers shared with me that the author had recently come under fire for publishing quotations in the book that he, in short, fabricated. According to an article in the N.Y. Times, Lehrer resigned his position as a staff writer for the New Yorker and his publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, has offered to refund the price of all print editions that had been published.
I, like many other readers, have been disappointed in this development. It causes me to wonder whether this discredits all of the material within the book. It makes me also think about the grave responsibility we all share in communication. I think there is a basic level of trust that takes place when we read, watch or listen to those who share information. The Bible warns that those who teach, for example, should exercise care because they come under a “stricter judgment” (James 3:1). Those who communicate bear a tremendous burden to be truthful and honest. But those who consume communication also have a responsibility to take care of what they take in. The Bible equally warns that those who listen should test what they hear against God’s broad body of truth. Maybe that’s the lesson to take from this sad development.
Having reviewed and recommended Lehrer’s book, I felt I had a responsibility to share this development. What you do with what he wrote is certainly up to you. Just remember to exercise discernment in what you say, hear, and read. That includes this blog.
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.
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.
Yesterday I stumbled upon three different online articles that shared the story of a Mississippi church that refused to allow an African American couple to marry in their facility. Of the articles, the USA TODAY article contained the most detailed information and can be found HERE. There are two concerns, the most obvious of which is the report that the church denied this couple the opportunity to marry in their own church, apparently for no other reason than for racial bias. I for one do believe that racism is alive and well in our nation. But one would think that organizations had a handle on such small mindedness. Racist individuals? Sure, they’re still around. Racism in churches? Heaven weeps.
The other concern was the response of Pastor Stan Weatherford, who allegedly came forward expressing his “personal” disappointment with the decision, but was unwilling to take a stand because he feared losing his job. My question would be, “what kind of job do you think you have?” Evidently this Pastor has employment with First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, Mississippi. But not a ministry.
As a Pastor who has served local churches for nearly three decades, I understand the dynamics of church leadership. I am familiar with the pressures that come from the people in the pew and how certain church members can leverage influence and money to garner their way in “their” church. I know what it is like to sit before leadership boards and councils and to have hard conversations about important decisions. But I also realize that one day I will ultimately stand before the final judge and give an account for the ministry that I have been entrusted. There comes a time in every minister’s life when he or she has to determine who to please. Those who choose to please people all of the time at any cost have jobs with benefits and paychecks. Those who ultimately choose to please God may find themselves from time to time rejected by their employers. But at least they have their reputation in tact before God.
The July 2012 issue of Kiplinger’s magazine has named Des Moines as the best city in America for families. Check it out RIGHT HERE! Those of us who proudly live in the 515 say, “I knew that!”
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.
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.
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?
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?
Those of you who are closely associated with me and the ministry at First Baptist Church here in Des Moines know that we’re deep in the weeds of staffing. I stumbled upon this interesting article from The Atlantic about hiring friends and thought you might find it helpful. You can check out Jordan Weissmann’s article by CLICKING HERE.
Throughout the years I’ve participated in hiring people I knew as well as hiring total strangers. Each one has pros and cons. To say the least I was a bit surprised at his research claims, but nonetheless his logic makes sense. What do you think? What have your experiences been?