Malcolm Tyree

A collection of thoughts on things that matter

Conflict – Seeking Revenge or Forgiveness: An attempt to make things right

N.T. Wright has said: “If confrontation has to happen, as it often does, it must always be with forgiveness in mind, never revenge.”

Why do you think it is so difficult to seek forgiveness in a confrontation?

Why is it so easy to seek revenge?

What rules can you apply to relational conflict that will make forgiveness more likely than revenge, when all is said and done?

Here are 6 rules I’ve suggested when it comes to conflict:

 1. Respect your the other

2. Practice the proper time & place concept of a fight

3. Use a time-out to cool down so you don’t cross the line

4. Don’t get caught up in the past or use names

5. Stick to the real issue

6. Be willing to lose

Few of us actually enjoy conflict, even fewer of us work to resolve issues and find forgiveness for the wrongs in our life. More often than not, when we engage in conflict, we are hoping to be proved right. After all vengeance is our attempt to make things right by our own power.

We see time and time again that vengeance might feel good in the moment but it often destroys not only the most immediate relationship, but many others along the way. Forgiveness on the other hand restores relationships.

Saying, “I’m sorry,” has a way of making things right that vengeance can’t even fathom.

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Conflict – It’s Inevitable: Choose Your Sides Carefully

It happens in every household: “Mom! Dad! He won’t stop!”  Something has happened with the kids, a conflict has emerged, and now one or the other is calling in support for their side.  It drives parents crazy but it happens again and again.

The scary thing is it doesn’t stop with kids!  As adults it is less likely someone is going to call for mom or dad (less likely doesn’t mean never), but it doesn’t stop someone from bringing a “friend” into a conflict to support their side.  Sometimes a person can even be drawn in to the conflict unwittingly.

Here a quick word of advice about conflict – choose your sides carefully.

Odds are, after the conflict is over, you will find yourself in relationship with both sides.  Try to avoid making that an awkward place to be.

How do you avoid being drawn into a conflict?

What secrets do you have to keeping a relationship with both sides of a conflict?

A Quick Review of the Books I Consumed in 2014

Books have a way of opening our mind to experiences beyond our day to day lives. They allow us to think from different perspectives and glean from the learnings of others. I do enjoy fiction books, I principally take in non-fiction works.

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Here is a run down of the books I’ve worked through in 2014.

41 – George W. Bush’s look at his father’s life. – This was a fun and insightful look into this family which has dominated the political landscape for a generation or more. Without a doubt, George H. W. Bush has lived an amazing life and W paints the story well. I took a particular liking to the way W describes the family’s time in Odessa and Midland, Texas. Oh, if you’re looking for great quips, W quotes Barbara Bush in all her honesty and humor.

You Heard Me – Colin Cowherd of ESPN rants about his observations on life and sports. I like the way Cowherd is able to draw understandings about systems and approaches to life through breaking down sports. His unique perspective of being on the other side of sports industry helps us to see, it’s just life. If you like his radio show, you’ll enjoy the book.

Daring Greatly – Brené Brown’s stellar work on living life full on is my book of the year. Brown works through the paralyzing nature of shame and how it keeps us from living full lives. Her insights into vulnerability and courage will make you weep and inspire you to dare greatly.

A Farewell to Mars – Brian Zahnd walks through his understanding of how Christ-followers should live an alternate lifestyle when it comes to war and violence. This book will challenge your patriotic and American system sentimentalities. Zahnd sees our worship of war and violence as being an act of idolatry.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt – Edmund Morris walks us through the extraordinary life of Teddy Roosevelt as he makes his way to becoming President of the United States. Seeing sickly Roosevelt overcome one adversity after another to become the man of courage and strength was exciting and it is easy to see why he is among America’s favorite Presidents. He was bull headed, fiercely devoted, and unwavering. Morris describes him as the embodiment of America at the turn of the 20th Century.

Zealot – Reza Aslan’s look into the life of Jesus was a insightful perspective into some of the political tensions and class systems of the First Century. I was intrigued in how Aslan sought to uncover the “true” Jesus, one he describes as more of a political revolutionary than a religious leader. For me, I found his description of James and Paul’s relationship to be some of the more challenging features. I does not appear to me that Aslan has a great appreciation for Paul’s contribution to the understanding of who Jesus was/is.

Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek’s exploration into how a leader’s behavior influences his followers is extremely insightful. Using examples from the Military and other fields, along with working through the chemical reactions that occur within our bodies, Sinek paints a picture in which servanthood really is the best form of leadership, especially when the servanthood is inspired by a greater purpose. I highly recommend this book.

Divergent – Veronica Roth’s post-apocolyptic teen drama is filled with a gritty world that wrestles through relationships and morals. The way Roth wrestles with the temptation to play each of us in our categories is quite interesting, especially since we are a mix of so many factors and features, so of which are in great conflict with one another.

Short Stories by Jesus – Amy-Jill Levine seeks to unpack some of Jesus’ parables a part from the anti-Jewish sentiment that they are often interpreted through into the church today. She seeks to show us how First Century Jews would have connected the words to other stories, events, and situations of their day.

Overrated – Eugen Cho is one of my favorite guys to follow on Twitter. I appreciated Cho’s call for us to be more than just talk regarding our Christian convictions, but to actually recognize that some of the difficult situations we find ourselves in are a part of how God is providing an opportunity for our convictions to be lived out. Cho pushes us to do more than just love the idea of changing the world, but to actually live out the process, even though the only world that changes may be our own.

Planting Missional Churches – Ed Stetzer is another guy I follow on Twitter (along with almost anyone else interested in church planting and leadership). This book is a reminder that so much of what we have done in the past is try to extract Christ-followers from their neighborhoods and points of life and bring them into the church, when in fact we should be helping Christ-followers see how they are to be incarnational in the places they already live.

Family-Based Youth Ministry – Mark DeVries seeks to offer a different way of youth ministry because there is a rising understanding that the traditional youth ministry model is not producing adult disciples of Jesus. DeVries is challenging the short-term nature of Youth Ministry and is hoping to help us place youth ministry within a greater context of discipleship, particularly as a part of the family’s discipleship.

One Man, One Time – Kelly Barcol is a friend and fellow church planter and this is his story. Barcol takes a honest look at his faith journey and how it is so strongly related to the time that one man, one time, loved him enough that Barcol was able to see Jesus.

The Purpose Linked Organization – Alaina Love seeks to help individuals and organizations work within their strengths. This take on personalities and strengths was helpful for me to cast in a fresh light the type of personality, temperament, and perspective I have when it comes to work. I working hard to keep my preferences (purposes) in alignment while not imposing them upon others.

Flesh – Hugh Halter is one of those guys who is just flat out honest. Yes, Halter is a pastor and church planter, but he is also someone you’d expect to find at the MMA fight or at the local pub more than leading people to follow Jesus. I guess that’s what we really need isn’t it? More regular people leading other to follow Jesus. This is as much an autobiography as it is a how to book.

Viral Churches – Ed Stetzer & Warren Bird remind us that following Jesus should involve a multiplication of followers of Jesus. Essentially, as individual grow as disciples they in turn will lead others to be disciples, which will lead to the need for more congregations/churches. So the key for the church expanding and going viral is not programs and events, but disciples making disciples.

Counterfeit Gods – Tim Keller is one of the leading Christian apologetics in the United States. Living in the heart of a culture capital, Keller sees clearly how money, sex, and power control our lives making them gods that we pursue. Keller writes, “When we are completely immersed in a society of people who consider a particular idolatrous attachment normal, it becomes almost impossible to discern it for what it is.”

Better Together – Jim Toberlin and crew explore the dynamics of a church merger. Using case studies they identify the marks that lead to a healthy merger, while being honest in stating there’s not just one type of merger. The indicators are that more churches will merge in the coming years so this is a helpful read for those exploring or leading others through this process.

So that’s what I have consumed in 2014. I’m working through Rob Bell’s book The Zimzum of Love. This book is about marriage and how we feed it to strengthen it.

In case you are wondering, I finished most of these. I either read these via Kindle or listened to them through Audible.

Telling the Truth Is Good, Except When It’s Bad

Chances are you will be presented an opportunity to tell someone the truth today.

Hopefully, it won’t be the tricky question from your significant other:

Does this _______ make me look _______?

Those types of questions are hard. But for many of us telling the truth is even harder.

Here are a few reasons why it is hard to tell the truth:

1. It Can Hurt Someone’s Feelings

2. It Can Make You Look Like a Jerk

3. It Can Come Across As Uncaring

4. It Can Make Someone Mad at You

These aren’t the only reasons it is hard to tell the truth, just a few. Now that I have written them out, I can see that we often avoid telling the truth because we are more interested in protecting ourselves. I might not be honest because I am afraid of how it will cause others to think about me!

Hmmm………………

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Several years ago, a college professor defined love as:

Acting for the betterment of another regardless of how it helps you

This is a definition of love that runs in conflict with our culture today. We tend to see love as being about “how I feel,” versus “what I do for another.” Another way to say it is, love is “how I feel about how someone else feels about me.” However you might phrase it, love tends to be described in selfish terms versus selfless terms.

I wonder if we were able to redefine love into a selfless act if we would become more truthful. If we could do this, my guess is truth and love would take new priorities in our lives and others would notice the change.

So the next time you are tempted to tell the truth, remember to make sure you love the person you are telling it too.

I’m going to go now. I have some work to do.

 

I Love a Good Fight!

I’ll admit it, I love a good fight!

Sometimes my wife doesn’t appreciate my passion for this. Sometimes my kids find this exasperating. I’ve been known to wear out my colleagues in a meeting because of this. What can I say, I’m a passionate guy. 

Sometimes, I get carried away. I remember chaperoning a trip to Six Flags with some teenagers. The boys wanted to ride the “Tea Cups” and see how fast we could go. It’s hard for me to back down. I made sure we went as fast as I could get us. I was on the brink of throwing up, but I wasn’t going to quit. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was feeling queazy. On the next ride, one of the boys tossed his cookies because of the fight at the Tea Cups.

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Simon Sinek recently tweeted:

Fight against something and we focus on the thing we hate. Fight for something and we focus on the thing we love.

Wow! I’m not sure it could be said any better.

I recently read a blog about all the things the church is doing wrong. Ok, I’ve read several of those blogs (too many to link to). Without a doubt, these bloggers are right about almost everything they post. Some are posting out of their disgust of the church, others are posting out of their disgust for how off track the church has become. There are even a few that are posting as prophetic voices for the church. My favorites are those who are clearly posting because they love the church. Let’s fight for the church!

I along with many others have retweeted, blogged, and posted about #Ferguson and the racial challenges in our society. The fights displayed on this issues have stirred us. What we need to ask ourselves is have we stirred one another to know what we love or what we hate? I want to fight for equality!

I took the #IceBucketChallenge and didn’t fight against the negative sides of the trend. I fought for those need awareness raised about ALS.

Over the past two years, I spent a great deal of my time fighting in a struggling school district. The school district my family was a part of had a huge gap in parental and community involvement. I believe this greatly influenced the struggling test scores and overall impression of the school district. I fought for greater participation and involvement. I entered this fight with the PTA of our school, county, and state. Why did I fight? Because I believe in education and I believe in bettering things. I fought because I love seeing things get better.

In a couple of months, I plan to attend Fight Night with my wife. This marriage enrichment session with Les & Leslie Parrott should be fun. I will fight for my marriage.

This fall, I will enter into a fight with 9 others as we fight to award grants designed to help change the world.

Throughout my life, I want to be known as someone who fights, who loves a good fight! I want my fights to be for things, not against things. I want to be remembered for loving not hating.

Where are you fighting? Is it against something? Are you helping people hate? Or have you chosen to fight for something? Have you inspired them to love?

Go on, jump out there! Start a fight! But make it a good one!

(Think Mel Gibson, Braveheart, “I’m gonna pick a fight!”)

Share your thoughts in the comments. Tell me where you are fighting. Maybe I can encourage you in your fight.

#Ferguson Makes Me Mad!

I don’t know how else to say it, “#Ferguson makes me mad!”

I realize there is more to this whole situation. I realize that I am writing this post from my position of privilege and distance.

Now, let me state this clearly, I’m not mad at the residents of Ferguson. I’m not mad about those upset about the news of another unarmed young black man shot by a white male, police officer. I’m not upset at the police who are trying to protect the property of others. I am mad at the crowds!

The crowds of journalist – sure they’re just reporting what is happening. They are also escalating the situation because there are those who long to be seen on TV who are pouring into the area. If we reduced the number of journalists on the streets, we might not see all the footage, but there will also be less men and women in the midst of the crowds. To the reporters looking to establish themselves, GO AWAY!

The crowds of rioters – yes, we should assemble and peaceably protest, but looting and rioting makes things worse! The opportunist pouring into the area make the peaceable protestors look bad. For those looking to steal, kill, or destroy, GO AWAY!

The crowds of police officers – I get that you are doing your job, but when you arm up in riot gear that you purchased from the Pentagon, you become soldiers fighting an enemy. The citizens in the streets are innocent. It is not your job to defeat the enemy. It is your job to protect and defend. So instead of lining up in the streets like an invading army, line up in front of properties needing protection from looters. When you become a crowd of officers, you become an army. Our culture has a simple response to invading armies, GO AWAY!

There is quote from ‘s book Farewell to Mars that goes something like this:
 
The crowd is almost always wrong!
 
When we get into crowds we do things we wouldn’t do on our own. The mixture of hormones and emotions begin to circulate among the participants. Our bodies begin to chemically respond stirring primal feelings. In crowds we become vulnerable to suggestions. Then all it takes is for one or two little things to tip us over. Anger boils over into rage. Fear escalates into paranoia. We overreact in the crowd! This is why things are funnier, scarier, lovelier, or whatever when we experience them with others.
 
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Ferguson is a city. #Ferguson is a crowd.
 
Will you join me in praying that #Ferguson is disbanded. Pray for the individuals of the city of Ferguson. Pray for those tasked with protecting the city and its residents. Pray for cool heads. Pray that darkness is overwhelmed by light.
 
We need to speak up for the injustices that black citizens face. Parents should not have to tell their children they have to be more diligent about their body language because of the color of their skin. The statistics of the disproportionate percentages of police actions against men and women of color should cause us to explore and act for new solutions. 
 
We need to address our own fears and racisms. As I said in a previous post
– not every gay person has an agenda
– not every black person is in a gang
– not every Hispanic is a drug dealer
– not every feminist is a bitch
– not every redneck is a racist
– not every rich person is greedy
– not every poor person is lazy
– not every Christian is…..
 
Our world needs to change. Maybe #Ferguson will make us mad enough to actually do something different.
 
Thanks for reading my opinion. Add your thoughts. Please remember that you may be speaking out of your position of privilege and that others will read your comments from their position in life. Don’t refrain from expressing yourself, just do so respectfully. 

It’s Official…I’m Now on Staff With NLBF

Sunday, Aug 17, marks the beginning of another chapter for me, my family, and New Life Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas. After being presented by the Elders to serve as an associate pastor for the congregation in July, the official vote was held and the congregation overwhelmingly affirmed the Elders recommendation.

I’m excited about this chapter. New Life is an amazing congregation with a global reach and tremendous passion to make a difference for the kingdom of God. I will be working to enhance the ministry and outreach for teens as well as helping mobilize congregation members into “missional communities.”

Ministry and Outreach for teenagers is not new to me. I’ve been involved in this type of ministry for nearly 20 years. What is new is working with students from so many different schools and school districts. New Life, like many Dallas churches, has several families who commute in for worship gatherings. Learning the rhythms and practices of the schools and districts will be a unique growing opportunity. One of the elements I am particularly looking forward to establishing is a level of cross-generational connecting. I hope to be able to establish partnerships and friendships across the age-gaps so that the young can learn from the old and the old can be inspired by the young.

As for the mobilizing members into “missional communities,” this is an area of ambiguity. I say that because the whole concept of “missional communities” is still evolving within the greater church across North America. This part of my responsibilities will grow over time. To begin with, I’ll be doing some detective work among the members. I’ll be busy listening to their passions, interests, and burdens. I will work to help find points of connections between members. Then after a period of listening, I will begin helping form communities of 20-50 people working together to reach a particular neighborhood or network of people with the life transforming message and hope of Jesus. These endeavors will be very experimental.

I am hoping to capture the stories and endeavors in ways that inspire others. In the meantime, thank you for your prayers and partnerships. This new chapter will be fun to explore as the “author and finisher” works this story for His glory.

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Change the World | Jesus is the Subject

Have you heard? Church of God Ministries wants to help you live out your dream of changing the world! Through the contributions of an anonymous donor, General Director Jim Lyon has formed the Innovation Trustees to award grants (up to $20,000) to new and engaging projects across the North America that help change the world.

The Innovation Trustees are looking to empower individuals and small groups to try the bold ideas God has given them. For many of us, all we need is to know someone else believes in us. The Innovation Trustees believe in you. This belief is grounded in the words of Jesus, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the works I have done and even greater….” (John 14:12).

Watch this video by Geremy Dixon announcing what is going on.
Why would I promote this? First and foremost, I believe in finding new ways of equipping everyday people to make a difference in our world, particularly in the name of Jesus. Second, I’m one of the Innovation Trustees.
This second video is from McDowell Mountain Church as an example of a video application submission.
To apply for the grant, go to www.jesusisthesubject.org/change-the-world. Submit your grant application today! You can even do it via video. The deadline for submissions is September 15. Don’t miss this opportunity to change the world you live in! Share this news with your family, church, and community. This grant is not restricted to pastors, ministers, or clergy. The grant is open to all.

Don’t delay, apply today!

Change the World | Jesus is the Subject.

Remember and Re-Belong

This is the message I shared with New Life Bible Fellowship. Though not all of the words are the same, the message is.

As you may have heard, my family has recently moved to the greater metroplex from the far western edge of Texas. If you don’t know where Odessa, is, take your hand and try to fashion it like Texas. In the corner where your thumb and index finger meet, that’s more or less where you’ll find Odessa. It is an area rich with opportunity and oil. As a matter of fact the Midland-Odessa area is now considered the some of the fastest growing areas of the nation.

If you’ve ever moved, you’ve had the experience of packing up all your stuff. It’s amazing to me how much junk-ahem-stuff we can gather up. We pile our stuff into storage units or rental trucks. We pack the boxes til the nearly explode and hope that we’ve labeled them properly. If we are lucky, when we unload friends are kind enough to help us strategically place the boxes in the right room. Then the work begins. The work of uncovering hidden gems and memories. Photos, toys, books, clothes, appliances, each piece belongs somewhere new, yet they remind us of where we had been. As we unpack, if we have the time we remember.

The other day, I was driving and lost in thought. The word “remember” kept creeping into my mind. I thought of how it begins with my favorite pre-fix. It made me curious as to the meaning and origins of the word. After all, if you break it apart, the prefix “re” and root word “member” don’t seem to go together.

As you recall, “re” means to do again. It’s a do-over word. Repeat, redo, retry, return, rehash, resolve, on and on the list could go. “Member” indicates a belong. Band member, church member, Member of the Army, body member, so forth and so on. As I reflected upon this I thought how remember could mean re-belong.

It’s crazy, I know. But think about it for a moment. When we remember things, we re-belong to that moment. Opening a yearbook takes you back to your days in school. Laughing with friends or family members about the past takes you back to the moment that it happened. Sometimes our memories are jarred by songs, smells, stories, and more. Each time we remember, it is almost as if we re-belong to that time, place, or group. Memories are powerful for helping us find our place.

Yet, our present circumstances can cause us to forget our place. The pace at which our society is running we can quickly lose our train of thought, our direction, even our purpose. I’m sure it’s happened to you, you’ve opened your internet browser for a quick purposeful search, 30-45 min later, you’re still looking at the browser, trying to recall what you were looking for in the first place. The original search led to a link that took you down the internet “rabbit hole” and now you’re there lost. 

Society is moving fast. Some could argue things are going too fast. The speed is creating a panic. The panic is dis-settling and it has us grasping for answers. Some of the answers cause us to act in ways that are contrary to who we want to be, but we don’t have the time to slowdown. The news headlines are filled with stories of chaos and it leaves many of us isolated and afraid. Our sense of belonging is slowly being taken away. 

This is not a new scenario. Belonging and identity have been challenged throughout the ages. I’m sure for each generation, this has felt like something new and different, even though it’s not. Just as each generation has felt on the verge of defeat, something new has been birthed.

When we read through the scriptures, we find an interesting narrative that arises. Repeatedly, the scriptures tell stories of people who were defeated who rise again. From the very beginning lessons of Adam and Eve to the final images of the followers of God in Revelation, defeat and new beginnings are a constant refrain. Interestingly, one of those defeat and new beginning feelings is captured in the poem of lament following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BC.

Let me set the stage. For more than three hundred years, the families that dwelled in the hill country region of the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Basin offered sacrifices to atone for their sins at a Temple constructed on a hill, surrounded by a great wall. This hill and the city that comprised the Temple, a king’s palace, thousands of residents, and a rich memory was known as Jerusalem. This Temple was different than the many other temples that could be found throughout the land bridge between the major superpowers of the southern and northern portions of the ancient near east. The Temple in Jerusalem was filled with memories and belonging that few temple could replicate. For it was this Temple that told the story of a people drawn out of the southern Empire of Egypt, led through a wilderness and a period of cleansing, who were then established a special people. This Temple told the story of the people who recounted the story of the divine encounter at a burning bush, the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the sea and later of the Jordan River. This Temple helped the people remember they belonged to YWHW, the LORD God of Israel.

Over the years, this city had sent forth it’s kings and armies to defend the hill country from invaders and insurrections. These campaigns were waged with a sense of belonging and purpose. The campaigns created memories of victories and defeat. 

Nearly 150 years before, a great Empire from the north, the Assyrians, had campaigned against the neighboring kingdom on Jerusalem’s northern border and been defeated. Jerusalem was spared destruction by what many called a divine act. But now in 586 BC, things were different. The new northern Empire, the Babylonians, were stronger and willing to be patient to over take Jerusalem. Eventually, the broke the walls, ransacked the city, destroyed the Temple, and scattered the residents like chaff in the wind. The memories were threatened and the sense of belonging torn out from underneath them.

This is the setting for the words of lament that echo through our sacred halls today. This is the setting for the words of lament that inspired the song of praise that has been sung around the world for nearly 100 years.

“Great is Thy Faithfulness, thy compassions they fail not, morning by morning new mercies I see.” 

The poet utters words of faith on the heels of disaster and devastation. The poet imagines a time that once was and will be again. The poet does not forget her place. The poet remembers and belongs.

Let’s read the words together: (Lamentations 3:19-24) NLT

“The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance, therefore, I will hope in him!’”

Did you catch the poet’s state of mind? The poet is stating boldly a hope that springs from a sense of re-belonging.

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If you read the series of poems that compose the short section of scripture known as Lamentations, you will see the poems leave little doubt in the author’s mind as to why the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. The poems help us see the author(s) clearly see they destruction is the result of communal sin.

We tend to think of their sin being related to the individual actions of the people. Yet, the scriptures seem to point us toward seeing the sin as being a people choosing to belong to alliances with Egypt and other neighboring kingdoms. The sin seems to be the slow drift into worshipping other gods, particularly for the purposes agricultural and fertility success. The city, the community had failed to remember the One who had brought them forth, established them, and directed them how to live. The failed to remember and now no longer behaved as though they belonged to YWHW, the Lord God of Israel.

Yet, the poet still dared to hope! The poet remembered and called others to remember. In this call to remember, there is a call to belong as well. 

It would take some 600 years before the connection to remembering and belonging would reach a new level. During this time, the descendants of the city of Jerusalem were scattered and persecuted. Some returned to rebuild the city, though it never reached the glory of it’s zenith. Nearly 600 years later, under the rule of a new Empire, a questionable teacher called his followers to remember and belong.

The questionable teacher had gathered his followers into an upper room to commemorate a story of belonging. As the Jewish teacher recounted the story of the Passover, he set forth a new sense of belonging. The Passover Meal remembered the way YWHW, the Lord God of Israel, had called the people out of Egypt to be his special people. As the Jewish teacher ate the meal and drank from the cups with his students, he made a startling new announcement. Up to this point, the students had seen themselves as belonging to the Jewish faith. They were raised to know the rules of the Torah. They had participated in the initiation rites of the Jewish community. But in this meal, the controversial teacher whom they had devoted themselves to called them to a new relationship. It wasn’t that his rules were a radical departure from the old ones. It wasn’t that he was telling them their participation in the Jewish community was insignificant. No, this new place of belonging was about living not by the letter of the rules, but by the spirit of them. This new community would not be about family lineage and religious initiations, it was about friendship and acceptance. This Jewish teacher from the city of Nazareth near Galilee, this Jesus, was inviting his students, his disciples, into a new covenant.

As he passed them bread from the table and a cup of wine, he inaugurated something special using something common. By taking everyday items of bread and wine, he invited his followers to belong to the One who had sent him. For Jesus reminded his followers that he had been sent by YWHW, the Lord God of Israel, the one Jesus called “father.”

He would guarantee the new covenant with his own death. This seemed perplexing and unusual to say the least. Yet, the remarkable part of this story of defeat was the new beginning the sprung forth afterwards. Jesus’s death was accepted by the Father. We know this because of the testimony of the Father. The Father’s acceptance was not announced in a usual way, but rather in the resurrection of Jesus who had just died days before. Father, YWHW, the Lord God of Israel, announced the new covenant inaugurated by bread and cup, guaranteed by Jesus’ death, was in place through the resurrection of Jesus.

Now, all who desire to belong to God can, regardless of race, nationality, gender, or any other barrier. The disciples of Jesus went forth telling this Good News to all who would hear. Today, you and I gather in this room, remembering this same story of God’s faithfulness. We remember and belong to this story.

And today, we have common elements of bread and cup to help us remember and rebelong to Jesus and his father.

This is a moment for us to slowdown in the midst of the chaos and noise and remember the good deeds of God. This is our moment to stop and recount the endless mercy of God. This is our time to recall the love that never ceases.

Jesus spoke to his disciples telling them to eat and drink and remember him. 

It is in our remembering Jesus that we realign ourselves with his priorities, purpose, and vision. 

It is in remembering Jesus that we find ourselves belonging to something more than our small family. We see we are a part of a great story that has stretched through time and space.

It is in remembering that we can dare to hope that the chaos, wickedness, and senseless violence will come to an end and it will be on earth as it is in heaven.

Today is your day to remember and re-belong. 

I pray that you will remember the mercy of God. Possibly today all you can remember is the simple song, “Jesus Loves Me, This I know.”

It doesn’t matter how much you can remember, only that you remember. 

God has not forgotten you! You may feel overwhelmed, out of control, forgotten, and left alone, but remember his mercies.

Be blessed as you come to take of the common elements of bread and cup. They are here for you as a memory device. Come, take, eat, and drink. Remember and belong. 

This new relationship is for you. This renewed relationship is for you and me.

Blessed are those who remember.

3 Key Relationships Critical to Your Life’s Journey

It has been said that life is a journey, I’m just curious where’s it headed?

Regardless if your life’s travels will take you around the world or just across town, the journey of emotions and growth along the way is something you need to be intentional about. With social media allowing us to connect to each other in a number of different ways, it is clear to me that many of us don’t know where our journeys are taking us. Like Forrest Gump, too many of us are just running!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Forrest! I just think we need to be more intentional about where our journey is headed. I’ve met too many people who don’t know where they are headed in life and can’t seem to break out. They lack a sense of purpose in their living.

More than a decade ago, Rick Warren released the book The Purpose Driven Life. If you’ve not read it, maybe you should pick it up. It’s still a great read. There are many other resources out there to help you determine you life’s purpose. Rick’s book is just one you can start with.

In addition to knowing where you are headed, there are 3 key relationships critical to your life journey. These relationships will help you or hurt you in your efforts to achieve your desired goals.

Key Relationship 1: The person you are sleeping with

I probably should be more specific, this key relationship is really the person you are having sex with. Sex is an amazing experience. It serves as an outlet for our emotions as well as a bonding experience for the couple. It rages within us and can be extremely productive or destructive. Sex is like fire. The intimacy of sex is just one of the reasons why we should be aware of how it affects our life journey. 

My wife plucking my eyebrow

My wife plucking my eyebrow

The person you are sleeping with has the ability to influence you. He or she impacts your sense of self worth. The person you are sleeping with is a key voice in your dreams and aspirations. 

I love what the poet writes:

“Promise me…not to awaken love until the time is right.”

(Song of Songs 2:7 and 3:5).

The person you are sleeping with will carry an incredible influence in your life. Choose wisely and keep that relationship sacred. Like fire, it can warm you or burn.

Key Relationship 2: The people you are running with

There is an African proverb that goes something like this:

“If you want to run fast, go alone. If you want to run far, go with friends.”

I’ll admit, I’m not much of a runner. When I do run, I’m tempted to run fast versus run far. I guess it’s the side of me that just wants to get it over with. How about you?

I see running relating to our friendships because our friends are key encouragers for our journey. If you hang with those who are slow to move, your journey may go slow. If you run with those moving fast, you may feel overwhelmed. Finding the right peer group is critical. 

Some of my running buddies from Odessa

Some of my running buddies from Odessa

In your peer group, you’ll need some who are ahead of you. It will also be important that you have some that are slower than you. Those ahead of you will challenge you to keep going. Those slower than you will remind you to help others.

It will also be important to have those like you in your peer group. I don’t mean these folks need to look like you. Folks like you are those at the same pace, who share the same desires.

If we hope to move ahead in life’s journey, who we run with will influence our efforts.

Key Relationship 3: The community you commit to

In the United States, we see life from a very individual perspective. We tend to think that we are “self made” and we can do whatever “so long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.” Can I just say, that’s nonsense! Our individual actions carry forth implications onto others.

You may want to argue with me on this, but think about it for just a moment. What you are doing right now may not immediately impact someone else, but it is laying the foundation for effecting someone down the line. There are many solo activities that we can engage in, but each of them will influence something in us that will influence the relationships around us.

Here’s an example: I might choose to drink water with lime at the restaurant instead of a soda. This choice is made out of financial and/or health reasons. While eating with others, someone observes my drink selection and chooses to do the same. I made the choice on my own sometime ago, but now it is influencing someone else.

Each of us has an affinity for certain groups and communities. I have a friend who likes to ride Harleys so, he is in a Harley Biker club. Some of my friends like trying different types of beers, so they have their community of taste testing. Some like to sing and play music. Some… you get the point. The community around us allows us to explore and discover new aspects of the journey.

Yet, the community we surround ourselves with has a limited influence on our lives. Community can only influence us to the degree to which we’ve committed to it. 

Think about that die hard sports fan in your life. They’re committed to the community. They attend the game or watch it on TV faithfully. They spend money to be identified with team. They may even go so far as to use the language “we won/lose.” They are a part of the community even if they’re not a part of the team.

The community we commit to shapes our lifestyle. Choose carefully.

Summation

Each of us is influenced by others in our life’s journey. The people we allow into our lives will help us experience life in rich and full ways, but they can also cause chaos and heartache for us. We should be very aware of those we allow into our lives, especially as it relates to the community we commit to, the friends we run with, and the person we are sleeping with. We don’t go through life on our own. 

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