Lenten Thoughts: Naive

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On more than one occasion, I have been accused of being naïve, so I went and looked up the meaning.

According to dictionary.com:
1. having or showing unaffected simplicity of nature or absence of artificiality; unsophisticated; ingenuous.
2. having or showing a lack of experience, judgment, or information; credulous: She’s so naive she believes everything she reads. He has a very naive attitude toward politics.
3. having or marked by a simple, unaffectedly direct style reflecting little or no formal training or technique: valuable naive 19th-century American portrait paintings.
4. not having previously been the subject of a scientific experiment, as an animal.
I think I’m okay with that. Especially the part about not being used as a part of a scientific experiment.  But that wasn’t always the case.

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Back in the mid-nineties, I decided to pursue my Doctor of Ministries degree. It seemed the logical thing to do. I applied to the denominational seminary of the church where I held my ordination. I completed the first seminar and was totally in love with being back in school again. I raced into the second course with all kinds of enthusiasm and anticipation.

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Unfortunately, I ran headlong into a professor who rigidly held to a specific position and style of teaching. In his opinion, I wasn’t deep enough or reflective enough. I didn’t see things his way. I got the impression he wanted to fail me. I worked hard in the course, and tried to present my position and perspective. He told me if I hoped to advance in the program I would have to learn to “jump through the hoops” placed before me. I’m not a very good jumper, so I dropped out of the program.

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As I have reflected on being naïve, I’ve changed my opinion. I began to see being the characteristic as not completely negative. Sealing the deal for me came when read Matthew 18. In that passage, it seemed to me, Jesus expected a certain level of naiveté from his followers. His response to the disciples when they argued about who was most important solidified this for me.

1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4, NIV)

I’d rather be simple than cynical, or arrogant. I’d rather be real than artificial (reminds me of Paul’s instruction in Romans 12:9 that their love was to be without hypocrisy). I want to be credulous. I want to be ready to believe and to trust. I especially want the kind of relationship with the creator of the universe who invites us to be so close to him that we can call him, “Daddy.”

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Lenten Thoughts: Accountability

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The first time I went to seminary, I took a preaching course with Dr. Charles Munson. I was pastoring my first church and felt like such a rookie. One day in class, he made this statement: “There are no secret disciples. Either the disciple will kill the secret, or the secret will kill the disciple.”

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Dr. Munson’s quote came to mind recently as I was reading my latest edition of Writer’s Digest. The article catching my attention referred to their spring writing contest. I thought to myself: I could do that. The longer I thought about the contest, I felt my resolve become: I’m going to do that. Later that day, after doing some research and writing, I told my husband about my plan. Now I’m locked in. He won’t let me forget. And that’s exactly why I told him: he will hold my feet to the fire of accountability.

I was taught the ABC’s of faith were: accept, believe, and confess. We can do the first two privately, but the third sends us straight into accountability.

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When I was still working as a family counselor, I worked with an agency that had several therapists at differing levels of experience and licensure. One woman in the group had “Independent” status. She chaffed at the suggestion someone needed to supervise her. She bristled at the thought of someone looking over her shoulder. I was a rookie at the time, so I was used to having my work scrutinized. Later, lack of accountability became my undoing.

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One of my favorite Bible stories finds the disciples hanging out in the Upper Room until Pentecost. Imagine the scene. These folks had to learn how to be together. There were so many different kinds of folks. Trust was the furthest thing from their minds or experiences. Zealots, tax collectors, ex-prostitutes, and fishermen had to learn to get along. Miraculously, it worked. They were able to connect and when they did a power came on them like one this world had never seen.

What happened in that room? I think they learned to tell their story, the story of what Jesus had done for them, done in them. And they learned to listen. They talked about their dreams and what they hoped to accomplish with their lives for God and for the Kingdom. They told their secrets and became accountable to one another.

And it changed the world.

What secret desires has God been wanting to unwrap and unleash in your life? Tell someone. Get accountable. Allow God to work. You may be surprised at what power you free up to blow through your life and the lives around you!

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Samuel and a Teachable Moment

I have spent so many hours watching the Olympics this past week. I have let my reading and writing slip to the periphery.

Then I read my friend, Evelyn Mann’s article about an incident that happened with her son. Read it here: Miracle Man

If you have children, work with children, or live near children take time to consider Evelyn’s suggestions for ways to bridge the wonderment and answer the questions.

Samuel is an amazing child. Catch his joy!

 

Teach Us To Pray

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Tomorrow morning I will be starting a series of messages on the Lord’s Prayer. When you pray “our Father” what are you saying, believing, doing?

The first thing I notice is the corporate nature of the prayer. We aren’t in this world alone.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he could have given them a theological dissertation based on familiar principles. But he didn’t. Instead he gave them the essential components of prayer.

And he starts with our Father—not simply Father. There are definitely times to get alone with God, but when the group came to Jesus, and the group asked to be taught how to pray, Jesus addressed their corporate need to pray.

I encountered a situation recently that drove this point home for me.

How many times when a friend or acquaintance shares a need, have you told them you would pray for them? You are sincere in your intention to pray, but life gets in the way and that opportunity for intercession is lost.

I don’t get many people coming to my door these days. So I was a bit surprised when the dogs began barking in their “oh boy, there’s someone at the door” way. With the reluctance that comes from dreading the annoyance of one more salesman, I went to the door.

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The woman at my door was quick to assure me she was not there to sell me anything. She gave me her name, told me she was from the women’s abuse shelter. She added that their group had the permission of the Sheriff and Chief of Police to be going door to door.

I apologized for not inviting her in, but my dogs are big and overly friendly. She seemed okay having the door between us. I introduced myself as the pastor of a local church that makes a point of regularly supporting the shelter.

We chatted and she was about to leave my door. This would be that moment when we say those words that roll off our tongues almost without thought: I’ll be praying for you.

But I couldn’t say them. Because I knew, with a knowing that comes from the Spirit, I needed to say, “Can I pray with you now?”

So I did. And her eyes got big. She put her hand on the screen and I put mine up to hers and we had a wonderfully blessed moment of connected prayer.

And then she was gone. But she will stay with me. Her name and face come to mind often and I pray, like Paul, as often as I remember her.

Now, I’m not telling you that story because I’m anything special. I’m telling you to encourage you to not miss those kinds of moments, those kinds of blessings—that kind of power.

The question that needs our response seems to be: how will we be open to the opportunities of corporate and connected prayer?

How can I pray with you today?

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Rebuilding with Nehemiah, Chapter 4, Day 7

Sunday: Lines of Communication

Text: 18 All the builders had a sword belted to their side. The trumpeter stayed with me to sound the alarm.
19 Then I explained to the nobles and officials and all the people, “The work is very spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 When you hear the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding. Then our God will fight for us!” (Nehemiah 4:18-20, NLT)

Nehemiah knew the importance of prayer, of remembering, and of being ready. But all those things can be done by individuals.

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Today’s word reminds us that we are in this together.

We understand Nehemiah’s concern that we, like the workers on the wall, are widely separated from each other. We live in a time when the opportunities for connection abound, but we have never been more alone.

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Just as the people needed to listen for the blast of the trumpet, we need to listen and come together.

We were created for relationship, with God and others. From one end of the Bible to the other we read that we are to be devoted to one another, and care for one another. The writer of Hebrews even admonishes the believers to not give up meeting together as some were in the habit of doing (see Hebrews 10:25).

We need to take advantage of the opportunities to worship and play, fellowship and study together, so that we will also be ready to do battle for and with one another.

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Nehemiah Devotions Chapter 3, Day 5

Friday Rebuild (all materials present in the rubble for the task)

Text: The Fish Gate was built by the sons of Hassenaah. (Nehemiah 3:1, NLT)

According to Warren Wiersbe’s study on Nehemiah, “Be Determined,” the word built is used six times in Nehemiah 3 and it means rebuilt. For this rebuilding no new material was needed. Instead the workers found the material in the rubble around them (Be Determined, p. 39).

How often do we put off doing the work while we wait for what we think we need: supplies, programs, people, funds?

Perhaps we could begin to see progress if we would use what is at our hand.

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When God wanted to use Moses, the reluctant servant came up with all kinds of excuses. God asked him what was in his hand. It was his staff, until he threw it on the ground, and then it became a serpent.

David defeated Goliath with the smooth stones he had in his pocket.

Jesus fed the multitude with the lunch of a child, five small rolls and two sardines.

What has he given you to use? What’s in your hand?

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Nehemiah Devotions Chapter 3, Day 4

Thursday How will you be remembered?

Text: Next were the people from Tekoa, though their leaders refused to work with the construction supervisors. (Nehemiah 3:5, NLT)

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As you read through chapter three you will notice that people fall into one of two categories: those who worked or those who didn’t. The leaders of the people from Tekoa refused to work.

It says they refused to work with the construction supervisors. We’re not told if there was a problem or disagreement. We’re left to wonder and decide.

I think it’s to the people’s credit, however, that whatever the leaders’ reasons were for not working might have been, the people went to work anyway.

Can you hear them? “We’ll be out here getting the work done when you folks get things worked out.”

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The way these leaders hung back from the work reminds me of the women in the Philippian church, Euodia and Syntyche, who will forever be remembered for their inability to get along.

God has called us to join him in his work. How will we be remembered? As those who joined in and got things done or as ones who refused to get along?

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