Archive for June, 2012


You Need a True Friend:: 4

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The marks of a true friend include trust, love, and sacrifice. A fourth characteristic I would add to that list is loyalty.
“As soon as the boy was gone, David came out from where he had been hiding near the stone pile. Then David bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground. Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David. At last Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the LORD’s name. The LORD is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.’ Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town (1 Samuel 20:40-41, NLT).

When it became evident to David that he would need to flee for his life, Jonathan was there. Jonathan remained loyal to David when times were tough and everyone and everything was against him. A true friend like Jonathan “has your back” at all times. They have your back when they are with you as well as when you’re not around.

The final characteristic of a true friend is presence. “One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ Jonathan reassured him. ‘My father will never find you! You are going to be the king of Israel, and I will be next to you, as my father, Saul, is well aware.’ So the two of them renewed their solemn pact before the LORD. Then Jonathan returned home, while David stayed at Horesh” (1 Samuel 23:15-18, NLT).

Life is not about who shows up at your funeral. It’s about who shows up in your time of loss, failure, and frustration. It’s about who is there when everyone else has walked out of the room. I’ve noticed it’s popular to say to a struggling person, “I’m HERE for you.” I think when people say that they intend to convey their availability. Yet when I think about it, the burden is still on the struggling person to reach out and initiate the contact. Jonathan was more than HERE for David, he went THERE for David. He took the initiative and left his own post, crossed enemy lines to reach out to David. That’s next level presence.
Jesus did that exact same thing, leaving the splendor of heaven and stepping into our world and our lives. Jesus came to us as Immanuel, “God with us.” His promise was and is to never leave us or abandon us. So don’t forget, if you don’t have a Jonathan who is THERE for you, Jesus already is.

My hope is that this week’s series of posts has been beneficial. We need relationships that build and bless our journey. God cares about your journey as well as your destination. The dynamic tension of life is that if we don’t meet God on the journey, we won’t meet him in the destination. Your life is God’s gift to you so that you can know him both now and forever.

Categories : Community, Relationships
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You Need a True Friend:: 3

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This week I’ve been posting about one of the key relationships we all need in life: a true friend. Everyone needs someone in their life who loves them as much as they love their selves. Much ado has been made over the Old Testament relationship between Jonathan and David, even citing it as a point of argument for biblical support for same sex relationships. I think that reads way too much into the relationship and is purely speculative.

Jonathan does exhibit five characteristics of a true friend that will help you discover the person who will play that role in your life.

Characteristic number one is trust. “David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?” “That’s not true!” Jonathan protested. “You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!” Then David took an oath before Jonathan and said, “Your father knows perfectly well about our friendship, so he has said to himself, ‘I won’t tell Jonathan—why should I hurt him?’ But I swear to you that I am only a step away from death! I swear it by the LORD and by your own soul!” “Tell me what I can do to help you,” Jonathan exclaimed.(1 Samuel 20:1-4, NLT)

To understand the relationship between David and Jonathan, you have to dig a little deeper into the dysfunctional family system at work. Jonathan’s father, Saul, at the time was King of Israel. Like Jonathan, Saul loved David. But as time passed and David amassed success after success, Saul’s love turned to jealousy, then hatred. Saul felt as though the only thing he could do to squelch the rise of David’s popularity was to be rid of him. He saw David as a threat and was unrelenting in his determination to kill him. Jonathan did not believe his own father would kill his friend. Maybe he was naive, and maybe he was unwilling to face the cold, hard facts. But the point here is that Jonathan set aside his own thoughts and listened to David’s concern. In short, he gave David the benefit of the doubt and trusted him. Trust is the foundation of any authentic relationship. Until you have trust, everything else is built on shifting sand.

The second characteristic is love, which grows out of trust. The story line continues, “So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, saying, ‘May the LORD destroy all your enemies!’ And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.” (1 Samuel 20:16-17, NLT)

You’re probably familiar with the New Testament word for love, agape. The Old Testament equivalent to agape is hesed. Hesed refers to love that is based on mutual commitment. It describes the covenant love of God. When two parties mutually trust one another, love and commitment rises from that trust.

Sacrifice is the third characteristic of a true friend. Further down the page, the story reads, “Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. ‘You stupid son of a whore!’ he swore at him. ‘Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!’ ‘But why should he be put to death?’ Jonathan asked his father. ‘What has he done?’ Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David.” (1 Samuel 20:30-33, NLT)

Gore Vidal once said, “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.” Contrast his words with the words of John the Baptist, who in reference to Jesus said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” What’s the price tag of sacrifice? For Jonathan it meant succession to the throne of Israel. A Jonathan sacrifices himself for you, even knowing, as the original Jonathan knew, that the more your song rises, the more his or her own song fades into the background.

Tomorrow I’ll list the final two characteristics of a true friend. My prayer is that you have already identified that person in your life. And if you don’t feel as though you have a Jonathan, my prayer is that God will bring one into your life.

Categories : Community, Relationships
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The Barna Report just released new findings on charitable contributions in the U.S. as related to our ongoing economic struggles. It comes as no real surprise that most people are still negatively impacted by the economy, resulting in diminished contributions to not for profit organizations. You can read the details of the study findings by clicking HERE.

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You Need a True Friend:: 2

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If we want to look at a biblical character that embodies the characteristics and traits of a true friend we need to look no further than David’s side kick, Jonathan. A Jonathan is a true friend who loves you as much as himself or herself. As Cicero said, “A true friend is a second self.”

A Jonathan believes in you when no one else does.
A Jonathan is loyal when you make it hard to be loyal.
A Jonathan is the first to call in good times and bad.
A Jonathan gives and gives and expects nothing in return.
A Jonathan walks with you during all seasons of life.
A Jonathan does not carry an agenda for you.
A Jonathan stands with you when you are at your worst and loves you regardless.
A Jonathan keeps you in check when you want what you can’t have.
A Jonathan grants grace when you take him or her for granted.
A Jonathan defends life’s meaning when life has lost its meaning.

What are the characteristics of a true friend? What should you look for in seeking a Jonathan? Tomorrow I’ll get into five of those very traits that makes a true friend true.

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You Need a True Friend

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Life is best described as a journey. Sometimes the journey is smooth, and sometimes its rough. Sometimes we find ourselves in passages that are lengthy while others are relatively brief. Sometimes we’re able to cruise along without interruption, yet there are times when we are abruptly forced to take a detour. God came to help us understand that life is not simply about safe arrival at a destination. Life is also about the trip we make toward the destination.

Mark Nepo said, “To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a cameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.”

The real meaning of life is not a journey question or a destination question. It’s a relationship question. Your journey and destination are both important, but just as important is who you have with you. We can’t get through the journey to the destination without others at our side. More than principles and practices, we need people. We need relationships…guides and guards that help just on the journey and be with us when we reach our destination.

There are two relationship myths that we need to be aware of. The first myth says, “I don’t need anyone else…I am self sufficient.” That’s simply not true. It was God who observed Adam in the Garden of Eden and said, “It’s not good that the man be alone.” When Jesus called the 12 disciples, he called them “so that he might send them out, and that they might be with him.”

The second myth is the romantic notion that one person can meet all the needs of another person. Marilyn McCord Adams, the Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University said, “It is a lie that any one person can be everything to another. Even in the blessed trinity, the Father needs both the Son and the Spirit; the Holy Spirit both the Son and the Father; the Son both Father and Holy Spirit.” God exists in relationship, and if we learn anything from the book of Genesis, we learn that God has created us to exist in relationships which reflect him image. In the first 11 chapters we see the plan unfold: marriage, family, community, and nations. When the Ten Commandments were given, we observe those commandments focus on how we are to appropriately relate to God and one another. The Ten Commandments are more than behavior guidelines. They are rules of relationships.

We need many people to help us. This weekend I began a new series about 8 relationships you need in order to successfully navigate the journey based on Len Sweet’s book “11.” You need others. You need people who will not just mind their own business, but mind each other’s business, and especially mind your business. That’s called intimacy. Tomorrow I’ll post more about the first relationship we need in life.

Categories : Community, Relationships
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Several years ago I heard a speaker claim that the most common lego block was the one with eight of those connecting points, like the one pictured above. This weekend I’m going to begin a new sermon series on eight relationships each of us need to successfully navigate life. Here’s the line-up:

June 24 Everyone Needs a True Friend (1 Samuel 20, 23)
July 1 Everyone Needs a Truth Teller (2 Samuel 7)
July 8 Everyone Needs an Encourager (Acts 4:36-37)
July 15 Everyone Needs a Mentor (2 Timothy 1:1-14; 2:1-2)
July 22 Everyone Needs an Outcast (Luke 5:27-32)
July 29 Everyone Needs an Intercessor (Exodus 17:8-16)
August 5 Everyone Needs a Little One (Acts 12:6-17)
August 12 Everyone Needs a Place (Acts 1:8)

Each week I’ll make several posts related to the previous weekend’s sermon. I hope you’ll check in from time to time, and even more so, I pray that you’ll be encouraged! As always, thanks for subscribing, clicking on links from social media, and for spreading the word about my blog site.

Categories : Relationships
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Wait for the Promise:: 2

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“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, NIV).

Sometimes I get the feeling that our heads spin a little bit whenever the Holy Spirit is introduced into a conversation. The New International Version proposes a clothing metaphor to aid our understanding of how the Holy Spirit relates to and interacts with believers. While we may struggle a bit with the Holy Spirit, we can at least wrap our minds around clothing and what clothing is all about.

Clothing is what covers you. It provides a sense of protection from the rays of direct sunlight and warmth in the chill of winter’s snow. Clothes cover our bodies and help us from being exposed to rough surfaces that may be uncomfortable to the skin, as well as protect us during dangerous activities such as football or cycling. There is an element of comfort that is also associated with what we wear, like that old hoodie or that faded pair of jeans.

What we wear is also what others see. We are able to make impressions upon others, depending on what we choose to wear. We dress for certain occasions and perhaps even have our own style that matches our personalities. In a sense, our clothes are identification markers, helping us locate one another in a crowd. Some will even go so far as to assert that “clothes make the man or woman,” suggesting that our behaviors and attitudes are closely associated with what we choose to wear.

Thinking of the clothing metaphor leads me to the conclusion that one of God’s goals for our lives is for others to see us in our redeemed version, kind of a YOU 2.0, if you will. With certainty, the Spirit continues to work on us everyday. But the outcome of that ongoing transformation is to work in us so the Spirit can work through us to make God impressions on those around us.

So maybe the question is not so much what will you wear as it is who will you wear. Each day we make the choice to put on ourselves or to be clothed with the Holy Spirit.

Categories : Holy Spirit
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I came across some interesting information today regarding millennials and their predispositions toward both volunteering and donating to not for profit organizations. As you already know, millennials are the demographic of young adults that range from 20-35 years old. The report was produced by Millennial Impact and can be viewed by clicking here. What are your thoughts? Does the report resonate with your experience?

Categories : Stewardship, Volunteers
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Is White a Color?

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That was the question coming from 8 year olds at Vacation Bible School last week. I was never good at science in school, and am not good with color now. My eye can’t detect the hint of blue in a paint that makes it more green than khaki. Navy and black are synonymous in my closet. It’s not until I’m in direct sunlight that I can tell that I’ve put on the wrong color of slacks or socks.

Is white a color? Or is white merely the absence of color?

The logic I applied to arrive at my answer was simple. Yes, white is a color, because it is discernible as such. The absence of color is not white, I reasoned. The absence of color would be clear or invisible. That was my unscientific and probably faulted logic, anyway.

After sharing this story in worship on Sunday I was approached by two of our many artists. Both of them enthusiastically shared with me some helpful information about color theory and how color works. One artist explained that all color is black in the paint tube. It’s not a color until it is exposed to the light. Another gifted professional in central Iowa later added more insight about light refraction and how color interacts with light. I think both were glad that I didn’t call them to the platform to provide a spur of the moment art lesson!

The reason I drilled into this was to attempt to illustrate the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament original language of Hebrew and the New Testament language of Greek, the word for Spirit can also be translated as “breath” or “wind.” You can’t see breath or wind, but you can discern it by its movement. The Spirit is not tangible in the sense that the incarnate Christ was tangible, but the Spirit is real, just as breath and wind is real. And like color, the movement of the Spirit is always in concert with the Light of the world.

Categories : Holy Spirit
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Wait for the Promise:: 1

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Over the past several weeks I’ve been posting reflections from a sermon series I did titled, “The Seven NEXT Words of Christ.” Each sermon dealt with the first post resurrection statements made by the risen Lord. This week I’ll cover the final post resurrection saying, found in Luke 24:49.

“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, NIV).

Jesus seventh statement concerns the important role the Holy Spirit would play in the ongoing mission of the Christian movement. My Baptist tradition in general has been a little nervous around talk concerning the Holy Spirit. That kind of theology was central to the church down the street! But the Holy Spirit is central to the ongoing story of God’s redemptive plan. The Holy Spirit wasn’t invented at Pentecost. If you read the creation account of Genesis you’ll see the active work of the Spirit in the formation of the world. The Spirit is lurking in the shadows of the Old Testament narrative, appearing here and there supporting and undergirding the story of Israel.

A more prominent role is undertaken at the incarnation of Christ and continues as such in the Gospels. But its the book of Acts and the formation of the new community of the redeemed where the Holy Spirit takes a more visible posture. The giving of the Spirit at Pentecost comes simultaneously with the sending of the church into the world. The Acts of the Apostles are really the Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles. As a result a movement was born and the world was transformed through the message of the Kingdom of God.

This week I want to express a few thoughts about the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s work then and now. I hope you’ll check in this week each day.