Renewing a Friendship

Now the LORD had said to Aaron, “Go and meet Moses in the wilderness.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him.

-Exodus 4:27 (HCSB)
Photo: Pixabay

Have you ever renewed a friendship?  Life’s circumstances took you apart.  But now, you meet again.  Here are a few tips.

1. When they knock, answer.

When your door is knocked on, answer it.  Don’t give up on people.
 
2. Take out the garbage before having dinner.
If you got hurt in the past relationship, make sure you take out the garbage before you reconnect.  Forgive them, before God.  When you see them again, you get the chance to start over.

3. You can’t win them all.

Keep your expectations in check or neutral.  If your expectations are sky high, you will likely be disappointed.  You will evaluate the encounter as a “glass half empty”, when it is really a “glass half full”.

Come down to earth and embrace the reality that, “you can’t win them all”.  Sometimes, you will re-connect with someone and be disappointed.  Sometimes you will attempt a re-connection and the other person will not answer.  Friendships, even with siblings, require mutuality.  It is a “we” thing.  There is a dance, where we have to gauge whether the other person wants to dance and is dancing. 
 
4. Ask for permission to speak freely, if you need to confront.

Some people exclaim, “I need to say, _____”, or, “I have to confront you on, _____”.  Another way to share (a share-frontation), that I just learned from hearing John Townsend, is to ask, as they do in the military, “(May I have) permission to speak freely?”  If they say, “yes”, then you tell them, gently, how what they said or did hurt you.

5. Say, “That’s not my problem.”

If you are a caring person who likes to help, serve, deliver, heal, or fix people; you may need one last piece.  That is to be able to say, “That’s not my problem”.  This is especially apt when the other person triangles in a third party into your conversation (gossip).

You may have to learn to say, “That’s not my problem”, in your head, a lot.    But, when people are in front of you, asking for your help, that is a whole different thing.

“That’s not my problem”, is short for, “That’s not my problem to fix or solve”. 

“That’s not my problem”, is mainly for when you hear “other people’s stories”. 

When your friend or sibling tells you their problem, you need to keep in mind that they are not necessarily asking for help or want help.  Let them just tell you.  Let it be their problem and let them ask you for help or advice.

There is a dance involved in a relationship where we inevitably tell the other person our troubles.  It is respectful and loving to hold back and not give advice or try to fix them.  We have to find a way to do step 4, above, and ask permission before dispensing advice.

Conclusion

You might take out the garbage so well, that you forget past slights or offenses and truly start over with this person.  You might have so much grace and godly love in you now, that you no longer need them to give you anything and you do not have a need to fix them.

If you can not be in a relationship with someone who takes and doesn’t give much, or who is not whatever you need them to be, then that is your issue to work out.  You might need to lower your expectation of certain people and look around and watch for people who are a better fit for you.

Twos

Two people are better than one, for they can help each other succeed.

-Ecclesiastes 4:9
Two is the number of witness & testimony.  (Gen. 41:32, Mark 6:7, Luke 9:32, Acts 1:10, 1 Cor. 14:27-29, and Rev. 11:3-4).  Two (and three) is the number of people who are mentored or discipled together (Matt 18:20).
When Jesus commanded his first batch of learners, and now all of us to go make disciples, he meant and means to go and make learners out of people, as he first did it with them.  That means close up.  That means questions and more questions from the learners.  That means twos, usually.

My question is, do we get it that there is power in the small?  The twos and threes and fours, and all the way up to twelve.  Maybe we wanted our group to be fifteen, twenty, fifty or a hundred.  Maybe we felt like failures if our whole church was less than a hundred.

Jesus words are still true and still powerful:  “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”  Jesus never said that when you get to twelve, he will be there; or a hundred or a thousand.  He said, “two or three”, and we should pay attention to that.

If you have one ‘discipler ‘ for each one ‘disciplee’, then that is ideal, because the learner will get the most attention.  The two have special learning times together, with the Lord in their midst.  These two are also part of the wider, bigger, Christian community.

It is paradoxical to our minds that what goes on in the twos and threes is actually more important than your time with tens, twenties, fifties, or hundreds.  If you only have the twos and threes in your life, but not the tens, twenties, fifties, or hundreds; then you will be ok and may even be very healthy, spiritually.

On the other hand, if you are part of a ten, a twenty, a fifty, or a hundred or more (only); then, you are missing something.  You are missing discipleship.  Many are part of a Christian culture (in the West) where we don’t do twos and threes, in Christ; but we are very committed to Christ in the context of hundreds, fifties, twenties, and sometimes tens.

The ancient rabbis believed that if two sat together with the law between them, that God’s presence (the Shekinah) would rest between them.  Jesus says that when we gather, in twos and threes, that he will dwell with us.

Jesus is there when we do discipleship, when we gather in twos and threes, in his name.  To do discipleship means to make disciples and to make disciples means to support and encourage someone in their learning to walk in Christ.  Jesus is the one who does it.  When we come together in twos and threes, in his name, it is for the purpose of him making us like him.

So, when we make disciples, we are intimately following Christ together.  Apostle Paul said this when he said, “you should imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).  Paul wanted to make disciples of Jesus, not himself.  Paul could say that he was like a father or a mother who’s passion was to see each one in discipleship with the living Christ.

Duo: Twos

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their hard work.
-Ecclesiastes 4:9

For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.
-Matthew 18:20

He sent them out two by two.
-Mark 6:7, Luke 10:1

Two Preachers

I watched a sermon on video of two guys doing “tag team preaching” and I really liked it.  I have been involved in a large handful of Christian traditions and I had never seen that before.  Two is the number of witness.  The second witness confirms the first.  Two people saw it, two people see it, and two people testify about it.  The testimony of each witness strengthens the other one, as they corroborate each other. (Matt. 18:16)

Revival comes in two’s and three’s

Do you want to see revival?  Do you want to see the lost saved, the sick healed, and the demon bound set free?  God’s method is to do these things through two or three people.  All through the book of Acts, we see mostly duos and trios who are walking in the Spirit, ministering together.

The building block of the church is pairs

We all need to be in pair relationships.  We are unnecessarily weakened when we are not.  When you enter fellowship, it is natural to come into pair relationships.  You may be in two or three of these, but you need to be in at least one, to be functional.

The Power of Twos

  • When we gather in twos and threes in Jesus name, Jesus is there with us. (Matt 18:20)
  • If two have unity or agreement in their prayers together, they will get answers. (Matt. 18:19)
  • There is more power in a pair of than a solo minister and Jesus sent out pairs. (Ecc. 4:9, Mark 6:7, Matt. 10:2-4, Luke 10:1)
  • Solo Christians lack the support their pair could provide (Ecc. 4:10).  When we are falling or failing, our partner supports us, and if we fall down, or partner can help us get back up.
  • In warfare, the duo watches each others back and are more effective in battle. (Ecc. 4:12)
  • When joined to another, in a pair, there is real care, exemplified by intercessory prayer. (1 Sam. 5:11)
  • In a pair relationship, there is trust and intimacy that makes a place for confrontation. (2 Sa. 11:12)

Is there a place for pairs in the church?

The choir, classroom, Bible study class or group, worship services, or home groups don’t create pairs. Pair relationships can develop out of any of these arenas listed above, but not easily, because that is not the point or focus of any of them.  All of the above are groups, have soloists, and maybe teams, like a worship team or ministry team.  Pairs could be deemed disruptive or unproductive to the groups listed above.  Pairs mostly have to be developed outside of the arenas listed above.

Pairs and pairing takes time and commitment, but if pairs are the fundamental or basic building block or the church; then isn’t it ironic that church, as we know it (in the west), does not really facilitate pairs?

Are you connected in the body?

The church is a body, the body of Christ.  Each member of that body needs connection for its function and survival.  Each member or part of the body is specifically connected to the member or part next to it.  In the body, we are not intimately connected to the whole, but to who we are next to.  The hand is the most important part of the body to the finger and the wrist is most important to the hand, and so forth.

____________
Footnotes:

The above picture is of two women reading the word at Redeemer University College, Ontario

In researching this topic, I got some of the examples and references from this article by Ron McKenzie, which goes into more detail of why twos are so important and how to form pair relationships.  

Another Dream

Then Joseph had another dream.
-Genesis 37:9

Have you had another dream?

We can have a dream, but we can also have another dream.  Joseph’s second dream built upon the first.  It was a “furthermore” dream.  His first dream described the future in a global aspect, and his second dream described that same future in a personal aspect.

Another dream might be complimentary or different.

We can have another dream, like we have another child.  The second child follows the first, he or she is the first’s sibling, but different.  We can have another dream, just like an author publishing another book.  It’s the same author, and it could deal with the same topic, or be a different topic. 

Life is made up of new days and new seasons.

God created the world in time with cycles and seasons.  Every day is an event with a sunrise and sunset.  In each day or 24 hour period, we need to sleep.  We have morning, afternoon, and night; three thirds of a day.  We sleep about one third of each day.  Days connect into months and months connect into seasons and seasons connect into years and years into decades and decades into lifetimes.  Within this framework that God created, each day is a new day, each season is a new season, each year is a new year, and each decade is a new one.  Within all these cycles there is also new life being birthed and some lives come to an end.  New days, new seasons, new life, renewal; and death.

Seasonal Dreams

A man who was an avid dreamer had boxes filled with notebook journals in which he wrote out all his dreams.  One day, he had another dream.  This new dream pointed his eyes in a whole new direction than most of his previous dreams had.  He was confused.  The old dreams had not yet been fulfilled.  Then he heard God speak, “those were for the last season”.  God might give us dreams that are for a season or destiny dreams for our whole lives.

God stands outside of time, but deals with us in time

We must live in time and outside of time, as spiritual persons having a human experience.  We are fully human with spirits that will live on in heavenly bodies.  Our human existence is completely meaningful, while at the same time, we connect to God through our spirit, who is timeless.  Our spirit, inhabited by God’s Spirit, governs our physical, human, in-time, linear life.  We don’t live above the human in time experience, but live lives of holiness through God’s Spirit in time.

God is non-linear and not logical

God often does not make sense.  God might seem offensive to you.  God might seem to do things out of order.  God might start something new when you don’t think you are ready.  God’s ideas or plans might seem impossible.  There are times when we might say, “now I understand!”  But usually we just grow in love, trust, and obedience to God.

Another Dream For You

You may need another dream to build upon a previous dream, for clarification and confirmation.  You may also need another dream to set you on a new path.  Either way, another dream is a good thing.  Let God speak to you in dreams and visions.

He Had a Dream: Notes From Joseph’s Life

Joseph had a dream… Then Joseph had another dream.  -Genesis 37:5 & 9

Joseph dreamed two big dreams that foretold the future.  He shared his dreams with his brothers.  His brothers already hated him.  Hearing his dreams caused them to hate him more.  His brothers got what the dream meant and didn’t like it.

His brothers were set on killing him.  After one brother intervened on Joseph’s  behalf, his brothers instead sold him for 20 shekels of silver.  Things got a little better when he was placed as a house servant, but then Joseph was falsely accused and went to prison.

Joseph was placed in deplorable, offensive conditions.  Yet, in all his suffering, in all the injustice, we do not have a record of Joseph being bitter, having self-pity, being disabled with depression, or taking offense.  We do know that the Lord was with him in a special way that, showing him loyalty, mercy, and kindness; which gave him favor with some of those around him (Gen. 39:2, 21).

Psalm 105:18-19 tells us: “They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true.”

After Joseph’s dream came true and he was reconciled with his brothers, he told them: “You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today.” -Gen. 50:20

Joseph was born into a very special family, special in many ways.  Joseph had 10 older half brothers who had the same dad, Jacob, but different mom’s than Joseph; who’s mom was his dad’s favorite wife, Rachel.  Jacob and Rachel have their own special story or trials and joy in getting together.  Jacob had to wait 14 years to marry Rachel, after falling deeply in love with her, because of the challenges that Rachel’s father, Laban imposed upon them.

When Rachel and Jacob finally got married, they where tried by many years of infertility that was heartbreaking for her.  Finally, Rachel was able to conceive and Joseph was born.  When Joseph was seven, his mom bore another son; but Rachel died during childbirth.  So, Joseph lost his mom when he was only seven.

With this as the back drop, you might not be surprised to learn that Jacob’s favoritism towards Rachel, compared to his several other wives, would be transferred onto Joseph (Gen. 37:3).  Joseph was dad’s favorite and his ten older brothers knew it and hated him for it(Gen 37:4).  Perhaps Jacob was pretty obvious about his favor towards Joseph.  Dad created all the pain and dysfunction by having children with four different ladies, and then treating them differently.

Joseph was put in an awkward position between his dad and brothers (Gen. 37:2) which may have been due to Jacob’s favor on him or his natural gifts and talents in management.  Nevertheless, this triangle was toxic and created an icy silence between the older brothers and dad’s favorite.

It has been estimated that 99% of us come from dysfunctional families.  You may think that your family background disqualifies you from a blessing.  It is not true.  God uses people from every background and from every sort of dysfunctional family.

I went into detail about Joseph’s background to encourage you to understand your background as well.  Knowing our parents’, grandparents’, and great-grandparents’ lives can give us clues as to why our parents and we had issues, dysfunctions, sin-patterns, or addictions.  God has always been there, ready and willing to redeem sin; but we have to interact with him.  You may be the first one or an exception to the rule of growth avoidance in your family.

In this climate of family dysfunction, Joseph shared his dream of domination over them, to them.   Even Jacob was taken aback by the audacity, but Jacob who had his own encounters with  God, bore some sort of witness perhaps that these dreams were of importance (Gen 37:11).

We can learn something from Joseph’s perhaps premature or unwise sharing of his dreams.  On the one hand, keep it to yourself.  Who is safe and unsafe to share your pearl with?  Others, even and especially your own family, may not understand.  Even Jesus had this issue with his immediate family.

Prophetic dreams or words are going to usually be in stark contrast to today’s reality.  God speaks to us in dreams or visions or words about the future and we look a lot better there.  Some or many others don’t like this.  Envy, jealousy, pride, and hate; are where many unsanctified people are at.  You might know the story of the crab that decides to leave the bucket that has no top on it.  As the crab reaches up with his powerful arm, to lift himself up to the rim and escape; another crab notices and pulls him back down.  That is the way it is too often with people. 

But, God used the family dysfunction, the favoritism, the hate, and the evil of a premeditated murder to save the world.  Sounds familiar.  Like it or not, God intervenes into our human drama.  God used Joseph in the context of his dysfunctional family.  This is good news.

We don’t have to cloister ourselves on a holy hilltop retreat to receive a word from God.  Although getting away to seek God and spend time with God is good.  Getting away to hear is a good thing for us all to do, whether it is a prayer closet, special place, or a retreat.

God, being God, can speak to us where we are, in the valley.  This is what God did with Joseph.  He had dreams while sleeping in the midst of his family who were hostile to him.

After Joseph’s dreams, the opposite happened in his life.  Things went from bad to worse when he was falsely accused by his master’s wife.  He went from slave to imprisoned slave.  Joseph was carrying a massive promise, but had to endure a cross.

We all have a cross to bear.  Jesus commands all of us to take up our crosses.  We need to lean in to the pain, the hurt, and the sorrow of our cross and let it do it’s work.

After receiving our prophecy comes a time of development.  Many times we will think the prophecy is declaring, “now this is you”, and we step out and fail.  We are tempted to think we missed it or the person who gave us the word was wrong.

If the word was true, we need development to wear it.  God will take us through years usually of development including “on the job training”.  Some day, in the future, you will realize you are now living the word that seemed impossible at the time it was given.

You will have small and large crosses bear and sacrifices to offer in the time between the times, but God is making and shaping you.  God will refine you.  You will be “baffled to fight better”, as Oswald Chambers titled his only book, on the problem of suffering; after Robert Browning’s poem, Asolando, “Epilogue” (1889):

One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.

As illustrated in the book of Job, God never answers the why questions.  We get to know the what.  The what is God loves me and He loves you.  He is worthy to be praised and worshiped no matter what the circumstances.  He is good and kind.

When Joseph might have asked, “why is this happening to me?”, he could have come up with a wrong answer.  When he asked himself, “what am I going to do with it?”, the right answer was, “I am going to let these circumstances God has allowed: train me, develop me, mature me, and prepare me.”  What we do know, is that God was with him and favored him in his circumstances and there was a time until the time of fulfillment.

What are you doing in your time between the times?  Redeem the time.  Make the most of your time, your time in your prison, if that is you.  Time is limited.  Many things are unlimited, but not time.  Many regrets at the end of life involve time, because time is limited.

Lean into God’s loving kindness (Gen. 39:21), his hesed, God’s Covenant Love for you.  Let God develop you as he did Joseph. 

 ____________________
Art Credit: Joseph The Dreamer, Carol Racklin-Siegel

The Two Disciples and The Two Palm Sunday Donkeys

When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave two disciples a task.  He said to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter, you will find a donkey tied up and a colt with it. Untie them and bring them to me.  If anybody says anything to you, say that the Lord needs it.” He sent them off right away.  Now this happened to fulfill what the prophet said,  Say to Daughter Zion, “Look, your king is coming to you, humble and riding on a donkey, and on a colt the donkey’s offspring.”  The disciples went and did just as Jesus had ordered them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their clothes on them. Then he sat on them.
-Matthew 21:1-7

On what we call Palm Sunday, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem. But, he had two disciples get two donkeys- a mother donkey and her colt. Jesus rode the young male who had never been ridden before. In his carefulness and perhaps kindness towards these two donkeys, he had the male’s mother come along for the journey to perhaps comfort the young colt. So, in a truer picture of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, you would see Jesus on the colt, surrounded by crowds. But next to that colt with Jesus on him is that colt’s mother.

Jesus sent his disciples to perform a simple task as a two-some and Jesus requested that the two donkeys be brought to him, mother and colt.  God is always looking after relationship.  We stand before God alone, but we stand and we walk together.  God knows we need companionship and most animals are not solitary and even the solitary ones seek companionship and mates.

“It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).  This is the first negative in the Bible.  God designed us for relationship with him and with one another.  God is looking for friends for people who are alone.  God really cares about loneliness and companionship in and for people.  

God also has compassion for animals.  Some people believe that Jesus had his two disciples get the two donkeys, colt and mother, because that was the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9; which mentions the two.  But I think that God actually had Zechariah describe it that way because God cared, in advance, for the donkey that Jesus would ride and his mother.  The colt had never been ridden before and probably had never been separated from his mother.  

Some of us have magical thinking about God and about Jesus and think that everything Jesus did was easy because he is God after all.  But the significance of Jesus life is that he lived it as a man, not as God; a man, filled with and anointed by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus moved in and flowed with the Spirit of God.

Jesus did miracles, but he was also human and practical.  Meals had to be prepared each day, he needed his sleep, he had to get away to pray, and he had to send two disciples to fetch two donkeys that had been foreordained by God for his use.  God provided the provision, in advance, to fulfill his plan for Jesus and for us.

God cares about companionship with humans and animals.  He knows our needs and provides for them.  God also has provision in our future for his vision or plan or prophecy of our future.  Where God leads, God provides.





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