Timothy

Sweet starts this chapter with these words, “We are all treading in someone else’s footsteps.”  We all work within the framework of someone else’s legacy and to those that have gone before in the great cloud of witnesses.

2 Timothy 3:10-11 says, Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.”

A Timothy is a protégé, an heir, and an apprentice.  A Timothy knows your mind better than anyone else.  They can anticipate your every move even before you make it.  A Timothy is not an Andy and a Paul is not a Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, where she will have to gopher all of Miranda’s every whims at all hours of the day or night.  But, they would have spent an awfully lot of time together.

Who is Timothy?  Of all the early Christian workers on behalf of the Gospel, Timothy was the closest to Paul.  It’s often the case, that Paul pushes Timothy to the beginning of his letters to a particular church.  For example, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians, all start this way.  Paul looks on Timothy as a son in Philippians 2:22.  He was from Lystra in Asia Minor.  He was born of a Greek father and a Jewish Christian mother.  Timothy was young when he first joined Paul and Silas, but his co-workers in Lystra and Iconium spoke so highly of him that Paul decided that he could handle this journey.  Although Timothy’s mother was Jewish, he had not been circumcised.  Paul was concerned that this would impede his authority among the Jews to whom he would be preaching, who knew his father was Greek, and so he circumcised him personally and ordained him as a preacher.  His mother Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, are noted as examples of piety and faith. 

What kind of legacy will you leave your descendants?  Alan Jamieson says it like this, “Like Abram, the question that we, too, must consider is whether we will have descendants:  not children in our own line but descendants in faith and life.  Will we love and care for others in such a way that they become descendants?  People to whom and through whom the lessons of faith we have learned are passed on?”  What’s our legacy going to be?  Will our descendants be numerous as the stars or will they all be extinguished when the mere flicker of doubt sends them running for the hills?

Before Paul had a Timothy, he first had to BE a Timothy.  Paul was a protégé of Gamaliel, the most important rabbi in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus.  Gamaliel was the grandson of Hillel, one of the greatest interpreters of the Torah in Jewish history, as evidenced by the title bestowed on him of Rabboni, “our teacher” rather than Rabbi, “my teacher.”  Even though Gamaliel recommended patience with those who claimed that Jesus was the Messiah, his star pupil Saul didn’t agree with him and stoned the “blasphemers.”  Before becoming an evangelizing Paul, Gamaliel’s star pupil was a persecuting Saul.  In Acts 22:3 Paul tells a crowd in Jerusalem, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.” 

A mentor is someone who is a wise and trusted counselor and teacher or an influential senior sponsor or supporter.  Synonyms for mentor are an advisor, master, guide, or preceptor.  We all have mentors that shape us and mold us as we ask vocational questions or continue on our career paths.  That make it easier for us to not walk this journey alone.  It depends on the relationship how hands on the teaching is, how personal.

Osmosis was how protégés like Timothy learned from Paul.  He traveled with him, watched what he did, and then was given “tests” or assignments to complete to see how well he was developing his potential.  Wherever Timothy went, he carried the aura of Paul’s authority and name with him.  For example, the Assistant Directors are leading the leadership meeting this afternoon, and I want y’all to treat them the same way y’all would treat me….only better.  The Timothy relationship cannot develop without the patience of presence.  A Timothy needs a balance of instruction and silence to process the teaching, and the trust you place in him or her to do the job.  You don’t have to say a word, or call every other day, to let him or her know you still care.  That’s the difference in a Timothy relationship, you care.  You care about how well their soul is doing.

I will have dinner with three of my Timothy’s tomorrow night in Atlanta.  I’m meeting with Angela, Jessica and Jon at the Vortex, a hamburger joint in Little Five Points.  Angela spent two years with me.  She was a rising Junior when I got to Winthrop Wesley, needless to say that first semester our relationship was rocky.  She didn’t want anything to change and she liked Wesley small, which would never work for me.  I’ll never forget taking Angela on her first camping trip or her first rafting trip.  Stories abound, and I will tell you about her first camping trip Wednesday night.  She saw me at my best, and at my worst.  And she’s the only one that has ever experienced the joy of Enoch projectile vomiting on her when he was an infant.  She’s now the campus minister at Georgia State Wesley, and I’m exceedingly proud of her.   Jon and Jessica are in their second year of Candler, where I went to seminary. Jessica worked for me as my student assistant for 3 years and Jon lived for two years at Wesley in a small room that we had on the side.  So they certainly saw “my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness.”  The good, the bad, the ugly.

I could name students that are not ministers, lest you think I’m creating little spawns of me.  Josh and Jaime that work at the CDC, Jan that’s a neuro nurse, Ashlee who some of you met in New York, that got her Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University.  I am incredibly proud of all of them and I’m hoping that they’re creating a ripple effect of being God’s hands and feet in the world.  A healthy tree is not a single tree, no matter how beautiful it may look.  A healthy sycamore tree is a tree with heirs, a sycamore community with trees in various stages of growth and development.  You must always look at trees successors before you judge its health and vitality.

Joshua in the Old Testament, did not pass the baton, he had no heirs.  Then came the judges, spawning the most horrible times recorded in the Hebrew Bible for Israel.  When the baton is passed, we tend to grab the wrong end of the stick, where our mentors are holding.  We want to be clones not heirs.  Joshua is not Moses’ clone.  Timothy is not Paul’s clone.  What we find is a “mash up.”  Mash-ups remix the same song with a different beat, sometimes in a different key. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FPsAVg2DNU 

Glee made mashups popular again.  Do you see what I’m saying?  They’re not the same song, but there are some similarities and you can tell it is the same vein.   

The process of being a Timothy is a gradual revelation of the song your life is composing, that one-of-a-kind, unrepeatable, irreplaceable song that only you can sing.  Remember Winnie the Pooh in the story about losing his song?  He gets his friends to go on the hunt for his song and then he finds that his song is within him.  “A friend is someone who, when you forget your song, comes and sings it for you.”

When James Mawdsley was imprisoned in Burma, he sang to give himself courage, “After [the prison guard] left, still unable to sleep, I began singing “How Great Thou Art.”  My voice got louder and louder until I was belting it out.  I could feel strength coming back to me; I was not going to bow yet.  A gaggle of guards came running and told me to be quiet.  They were excited and afraid.  I sang to the end of the song, congratulating myself on my defiance, then crumpled back into bleakness.”  Let Jesus sing through you.  When God sings in and through us, liberation happens.  The sound of a voice calling from the darkness can pierce through that very same darkness.

The primary organ a Timothy must possess is ears.  Jesus says when Pilate confronted him, “Everyone who belongs to the Truth hears my voice.” Sweet says if anything indicates the success or failure of a Timothy, it’s the ability to listen.  “Some things can only be heard by those with ears to hear.  The more layers of interference—iPods, iPhones, cell phones, the tv, Netflix – the more our inner voice is blocked and the more help we need to hear.

Astonomer and atheist Carl Sagan said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”  Sweet makes the supposition that more either becomes better or different.  More as better means doing what you’re already doing, except doing it bigger, faster, with added value.  In contrast more as different means doing something unique and outside the box.  As Christians, we don’t live better than others.  But we sure as heck better be living different.  They will know we are Christians by our love.  Timothys have to take some leaps into the unknown when they do the different route.  How about you, when someone says, “You sure are different and you think different.”  Do you take it is a compliment?  Is it meant as a compliment, or is it almost always negative in its implications?  What about when we say it to others?

Charlie in the Broadway Show Kinky Boots, is set to inherit his father’s shoe business, but he has other plans of moving to London with his girlfriend Nicola.  When his father suddenly dies, he must take over the shoe business.  His doubts are expressed in a song “Charlie’s Soliloquy” and I would like to play it for you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E81VXIDSxe4

Charlie:
Do I belong here?
Am I what’s wrong here?
Know what I’m doing?
Or am I a fraud?
Do I fit in?
Where do I begin?
Same old Charlie,
Frightened and flawed.
So, I pretend
and keep my head up like I
Know how this will end.

Maybe these pieces
Are falling together.
Making me feel like
I’m not alone.
Punching holes
Into this leather
This kind’a feels like
I’m back home.

I’m watching myself
And I know what to do.
Hey look at me now
It’s a shoe.

Charlie was feeling alone with the burden and the weight of his father’s legacy on top of him.  But then he realized that he’s not in it alone, he’s got a community behind him.  He’s got a cluster of sycamore trees rooting for him, quite literally.

I couldn’t help but call to mind the Rob Bell NOOMA video “Dust”  so I’m going to end there.  Because anybody can be a Timothy, if they want to be.  Anybody can follow if you have a willingness in your heart.  Just pay attention to be on the lookout for mentors.

Dust – 9:30-13:49

 

Let us pray.

Holy and Gracious God, may we be covered in your dust.  May we earnestly seek you and to do your will in our lives.  May you give us hearts to follow, but also hearts to mentor, to guide, to lead.  Like Charlie may we find reassurance for our doubts.  May you speak truth over our lives and may we hear your truth and not brush it to the side.  In Jesus’ name I pray, and I pray as you taught your disciples to pray, saying…

Overcomer

My mom sent me a song in an email.  It’s meant to be encouraging.  It’s meant to speak truth to my life.  It’s meant to remind me that God’s with me.  

But I deleted it.

This was a particularly low point in chemo (I had brain surgery in May of this past year and they completely got all the tumor, but because it had changed to a grade III which is cancerous and my type of a tumor – an oligodendroglioma – is in the cells, the doctors thought that I should have radiation for 30 days as well as chemo for 6 months.  The surgery also affected my speech and right arm since it had invaded the motor cortex.)

But you know how God keeps popping up, two weeks ago, my friend Corrie posted the video.  I hesitated opening the link because I didn’t want to acknowledge that it could be about me.  You see the song was Mandisa’s “Overcomer.”    

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z29olPjFbqg  (Mandisa’s Overcomer Lyric video)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8VoUYtx0kw (Mandisa’s Overcomer Actual video)

I felt God working on my heart so I finally listened to the song.  And I’m glad I did.

My communication skills are something I’ve taken for granted.  I heavily rely on written and verbal communication.  I didn’t realize how much it was my “go to” thing.  Until I lost my ability to communicate.  These gifts were a part of my identity.  They made me who I am.  I’ve struggled to find my new normal and I have often found it frustrating.  But God has been faithful in the midst.  Giving me the verses of scripture that I need for me to keep moving forward.   

“Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6

“Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” – Psalm 37:7

“The battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory on your behalf…Do not fear or be dismayed…the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:17

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” – James 4:8

“From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you.  They are created now, and not long ago.” – Isaiah 48:6-7

The Lord said to Moses, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:16

The Lord said, “See, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.” – Isaiah 48:10

The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Last week as I drove back from Evensong, I was sharing with a friend, that I felt like there were moments during Communion as I said the Communion liturgy where it naturally flowed.  It was the first time post-surgery, I had ever felt that way.  That’s when “Overcomer” came on the radio.  I had never heard it on the radio before.  I guess it’s not in the regular rotation on the JOY FM or 106.9 The Pulse.  I just had to stop the car and acknowledge this as a God moment as tears began to fall.

On August 20th my mom sent me another email that had a new video with Laura Story, who she knows I really like and yet again, I haven’t opened the email until this afternoon.  Call me a slacker.  Call me an avoider.  Call me a procrastinator.

Here’s the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VRUU8UBXCk – Laura Story’s “I Can Just Be Me”

We need a healer, comfort, peace…  What makes you, YOU?  You’re enough.  You’re more than enough.  Laura Story says about the song, “How freeing it is to just sit back and allow God to be the one that writes the story. Allow God to be the healer in the relationship.”  God loves you for you.  You were known in secret in your mother’s womb.  God knows when we sit and when we rise.  What makes you think that God doesn’t know what’s on our hearts – our worries, our fears, our hurts, our struggles?   So why are we surprised when God shows up and provides what we need?  God is faithful when we least expect it.  Even when we don’t want to hear it.  Even when we’re kicking and screaming.  Even when we ignore Mom’s emails.  

An Open Letter to New College Students

I know that some of you have already started the mass exodus as one by one you and your friends leave for college.  Can you believe it’s here?  I know whether you’ve already started school or not, it carries with it a wide-range of feelings and emotions.  Excitement, apprehension, curiosity, freedom, change, joy, fear, nostalgia, adventure….what will this be like?  My hope is that no matter where you find yourself on the sometimes crazy rollercoaster of university life, you will find a community, and hold tight to it. 

My campus minister used to say, “The only way to live life is in community,” and he exemplified that by how he lived his life.  I know you’ll think I’m biased but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to root yourself in your new adopted home.  Get involved on campus.  Explore.

Enjoy every minute that you can of this new step.  I’m sure you’ve heard the advice “get out of your comfort zone” so many times you want to scream, but I’ll simply say be brave.  Don’t be afraid to take chances.  Don’t be afraid to get your nose out of your cell phone and start a conversation.  During those sometimes awkward or uncomfortable times when you’re not with the people that know your story, the people from back home – take a deep breath and know that it takes time.  Take a risk.  Try churches for a second time or a third time, not only to let your parents know that “you gave it a shot.”  Real community takes time.  It’s not going to be easy. When you share your lives with people it’s messy.  Let your guard down.  Don’t be afraid to show people all of who you are with the cracks and vulnerabilities. 

Find a ministry that’s going to challenge you, nurture you, and love you.

Know that you have people out there that care about you and know you and love you.  Both those that you treasure at home and those that you will meet in the coming days.  Know that you have people to support you throughout this and don’t be afraid to reach out.

Blessings on your journey – may this be a time in your life when you are able to question and search and wrestle, but may it also be a time when you begin to discover the things that make you come alive!  In the midst of academic rigor and residence hall life – may you feel the love and presence of God. 

 Image

Sara Bareilles – Brave – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUQsqBqxoR4

Jethro – The Butt Kicker

Exodus 3:1, 4:18-20

My campus minister retired while I was in college after serving 27 years in campus ministry.  Risher Brabham was a true character.  All of the Wesley Foundations in South Carolina would do a joint mission trip the week after graduation in Hollywood, SC down in the Sea Islands of South Carolina to work on different houses of the mission site Rural Mission on Johns Island.  We would sleep on the floor of a church and take outdoor showers that teams had previously constructed, where if you were a tall person, like me, you’d be able to look the other tall people in the eyes.  You either would try to make small talk or……it was more than awkward.  The Sea Islands trips were some of the best memories I made in college.  One of my favorite parts would be the way that Risher woke us up.  He got his kicks from waking us up morning after morning at 6 am, where in a mischievous voice he would say grinning, “The sun is rising, the coffee’s hot, the pancakes are on the griddle, it’s a beautiful day to be alive.”  When we grow up, we don’t have our parents to kick us out of bed, but we still need someone to kick us around when we’re intellectually or morally or spiritually lazy.  Basically we need a Jethro – a butt kicker!  Risher took his job of butt kicker of the work camp very seriously!

Who is Jethro, anyway?  The short answer is the father-in-law of Moses.  Reuel is probably his proper name and Jethro his official title.  Jethro is a priest of Midian and is recorded as living in Midian, a territory stretching along the eastern edge of the Gulf of Aqaba in what is today, northwestern Saudi Arabia.  Some believe Midian is within the Sinai Peninsula.  Biblical maps from antiquity show Midian in both locations.  The Midianites were a nomadic Semitic tribe – they were descendants of Abraham through his second wife Keturah.  In the previous scene prior to our passage, Moses is seen fleeing from Pharaoh after killing an Egyptian.  He ran into the wilderness and met Jethro’s seven daughters, who needed Moses’ help at the watering hole because shepherds were driving them out.  Moses came to their defense and upon their returning, their father asked them why they had come back so soon.  They answered, an Egyptian had helped them and Jethro invited Moses to dinner.  Jethro gave Moses his daughter in marriage.  Then Moses tended Jethro’s sheep for 40 years. 

40 years is a long time, and ironically for Moses he would spend another 40 years in the wilderness.  But that’s a different sermon.  It is believed that Jethro, while not an Israelite, did believe in a monotheistic religion that professed the existence of many gods, yet taught that only one was all-powerful, and only he should be worshipped.  It is thought that Jethro taught Moses about the one God.  Moses had been raised to believe in the Egyptian deities.  An illegal Egyptian underground religion – Atonism – also taught one God.  This belief was held surreptitiously by many of the Egyptian nobility, and it was very likely that Moses was exposed to this in the palace so Jethro’s ideas were familiar to him.  Because of Jethro’s teaching, Moses was prepared to accept God’s charge to him when he appeared to him in the burning bush.

That’s where Exodus 3 verse 1 comes in. You have the scene where Moses sees the burning bush where God calls to Moses and says God has observed the sufferings of the people of Israel, and God wants Moses to deliver God’s people from the Egyptians by doing signs and wonders.  And that’s when Moses needs a good kick in the pants because he says in Exodus 4:10-13, “10 But Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” 13 But he said, “O my Lord, please send someone else.” 

One morning, Moses woke up and his father-in-law was grinning, not smiling, much like Risher.  Jethro kicked Moses’ butt out of the tent and into the mission God had given him.

Jethro officially returns in the story in the second passage I read, in verse 18, “18 Moses went back to his father-in-law Jethro and said to him, “Please let me go back to my kindred in Egypt and see whether they are still living.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.”  The proper translation of the Hebrew phrase is a bit different, lech b’shalom, means “go to peace.”  “Go to peace” was a push to make the best use of whatever life remains.  “Go to peace” has the peacemaking sense of ‘shalom,’ the channeling of energies that brings wholeness and wellness to the world.  It’s one of the most powerful acts you can do to another human being – bless them forward.  Len Sweet writes, “When you’re spiritually neutered, or when you’ve become complacent, when you begin to shrink from your mission, you need a Jethro to keep you loyal to your dreams.”

You need a Jethro to kick you in the rear and get you off the couch with whatever Netflix episodes you’re obsessing over or off of the time vacuum of facebook or the latest youtube sensation and says, “What’s your favorite future?” and blesses you forward.  You need a Jethro, a nagger who kicks open the doors and window of your house and finds your hidden potential, resources, and the person that you were created to be.  You need a Jethro: a commanding voice  that kicks it up a notch and asks, “How are you?” to which your soul responds by asking itself, “How should I be?”

Who is your Jethro?  And who are you Jethroing? 

I bet Johnny Manziel felt like he was being “Jethroed” at times during the game yesterday! 

Jethros bless you to go to what God is calling you to do so that you can receive peace in your life – everyone needs someone that’s wild and crazy about them – and cares enough about them to wake and shake them up to dream big and live large.  A Jethro is a blesser, not a flatterer, and Risher was not at all a flatterer.  He would rather give you honest criticism than empty praise.  He was not the most “religious” man even though he was a pastor, but he took seriously the calls of Jesus, and in the words of Micah 6:8, “To do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.”  He inspired all of us to be and live better.  He was the one that introduced me to social justice as a life, not just a concept.  Risher was the first one to do Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week even when it wasn’t cool.  Risher founded the oldest CROP Walk in South Carolina, which raises 75% for the world’s hunger needs and 25% to go to fight local hunger.  And there’s one right here in Gainesville.  He’s also the one that invited me on a trip to Nicaragua my freshman year – my first international mission trip, frankly the first mission trip that I had ever been on – and pushed me to apply for a summer mission internship for two summers at the Cooperative Ministry, which was a clothing bank, food assistance, car assistance, counseling center for the homeless in Columbia.  The first summer I worked in the clothing warehouse part-time and led a summer camp part-time and the second summer I wrote grants and coordinated the largest school supply drive in Columbia.  My commitment to social justice is in direct response to Risher’s pushing and his legacy.

A Cheyenne Native American song says, “Only the stones stay on earth forever.”  We all end up in the same box – we all must die someday – we only have a short time to fulfill the mission that God has called us to.  To leave our legacy.  To do the things that we were created to do.  “Jethro pushes you out the door with these questions haunting your every step:  Will you look back on your life and see a succession of sorrows, missteps, and missed moments?  Or will you look back on your life with a sense of satisfaction and joy?” 

Risher died from multiple battles with cancer the August that I returned as the campus minister of Winthrop Wesley.  Man, I wish I had had more time with him.  His daughter at the funeral said that she was glad I was at Winthrop Wesley because she knew I would understand her father’s legacy and life’s work.  Fr. David Valtierra, the Catholic priest assigned to do campus ministry, at his retirement party due to his losing battle with cancer, was a part of the Winthrop community and shared in ministry with Risher for over 30 years and also indeed was a butt kicker.  I have to admit I was a little afraid of him as a student, and I was a little afraid of him as a campus minister, because you had the sense that he could see inside your soul.  Fr. was formidable.  It was the day of Winthrop’s Potato Drop ironically, and during his retirement speech, he looked me right in the eye, and called me Risher’s spiritual daughter.  You don’t understand what high praise that was!  And what a moment of blessing.  He was blessing me forward.

Jethros function as reminders that no matter what the world says or thinks – that we are called to a purpose by God and God ‘breathes into us’ the second wind of hope and purpose and puts our mind back on our mission. 

My Dad coached my two brothers’ little league baseball team, and he was a DEFINITE Jethro for the team.  He wasn’t afraid to give them a good kick in the pants, he was honest and not a flatterer, and he cared about each one of them.  Northcutt Motors, the blue team, Dad’s team played in the championship against Sara Lee, the red team.  I don’t know why I remember the names and the colors.  Dad wanted to get them psyched up for the game so he came up with an idea.  He had memorized the rule book, as he is want to do, so he knew it wasn’t against the rules.  He set up a boom box. Note for the youngsters in the audience, we have one of these in the prayer room.  These are ancient relics that play tapes and the radio, I don’t even think CD’s existed back then.  He played this song…..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgSMxY6asoE  Eye of the Tiger

I have no recollection if they won the game.  You’ll have to ask my brother on fall retreat that one.  But I definitely know that it sure pumped the team up.  Big time. 

It was just the kick in the pants that they needed to play their best. 

Remember, your Jethro blesses you forward – forward, not backwards.  Your Jethro believes in YOU.  Your Jethro believes you will complete your mission, in fact he or she has no doubt about that.  Your Jethro is one of God’s angels sent to help us handle the “dark night” of the soul and the “dry well” of the spirit. 

Katy Perry experienced her own dark night of the soul after her divorce from Russell Brand.  He broke the news to her via text message, and she’s not heard from him since. She says she has been to therapy since her last album, which influenced her new music to be that much more self-empowering and that much more “her.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CevxZvSJLk8 – Katy Perry’s “Roar”

Jethro’s help us find our “roars.”  Jethros don’t seek out those people that need a good butt kicking for butt kicking’s sake.  A Jethro seeks to inspire and bless.  Just as bruised apples make the best pies – bruised and broken people, like you and me and even Katy Perry, make the best blessers and blessings.

I don’t know what Katy’s therapist said, but a Jethro will push you out the door while telling you, “Trust God.  The way will open.”  Trust God.  The way may be hard, but I’ll be there to both cheer you on and give you a reality check.  Trust God.  Because when you trust God, God will give you the words to say like he gave to Moses, God will give you the inspiration you need for the journey, like the Eye of the Tiger, and God will give you the shoulder to cry on and the ability to do the healing you need. 

Amen.

Holy and Gracious God, we come to you seeking your will and seeking your guidance.  May we let the Jethros break through to us, may we hear what the Jethros have to say, may we trust that they’re blessing us forward.  Your grace doesn’t leave us where we are down in the mire and muck, your grace lifts us out of the pit of despair and realizing that your grace is meant for us inspires us to live life to the fullest, abundant life, and pushes us forward that we may grow in you more deeply.  We thank you that you love us so much that you sent your son to die for us and you left your Holy Spirit to guide and lead us in all that we do.  We pray now as you taught your disciples to pray, saying…

Hold Me

Do you like these Florida days when the weather doesn’t know how to make up its mind? It can be dark and cloudy one minute and bright and sunny the next. Either way, we can’t do anything about the humidity. So whether you wet from rain or wet from sweat, makes no difference in the long run. We’re all a little damp.

We’re three weeks into the semester, so not quite a quarter of the way through, but papers, tests, and projects are still looming. You may feel like you’ve finally got a handle on this college thing. There’s fifth year seniors who admittedly still claim to have no idea. You’ve color-coded your calendar to draw some inspiration from that, but you still may be feeling overwhelmed with everything and it seems like there’s too much to do and not ever enough time.

There are also those times when it’s hard to get started on anything or inspired to actually study or write that paper because there are so many other things you would rather be doing. There are also those days and weeks when there’s so much other “stuff” going on whether friends or family back home or friends and roommates here. Or maybe it’s with your significant other or the one that you want to be with. Life can come at you trying to twist and turn and pull you in many different directions.

Maybe you’re searching for the right answer or a little inspiration. You don’t have to do everything all by yourself. You can ask for help. You can trust that God is right there with you in the all-nighters and in the nights where you didn’t procrastinate and went to bed at a decent hour. God’s right there with you no matter what. Let God speak to you and lift you up and give you that burst of energy or that rest that you need.

An oldie but a goodie – Jamie Grace’s “Hold Me” – Do you like these Florida days when the weather doesn’t know how to make up its mind? It can be dark and cloudy one minute and bright and sunny the next. Either way, we can’t do anything about the humidity. So whether you wet from rain or wet from sweat, makes no difference in the long run. We’re all a little damp.
We’re three weeks into the semester, so not quite a quarter of the way through, but papers, tests, and projects are still looming. You may feel like you’ve finally got a handle on this college thing. There’s fifth year seniors who admittedly still claim to have no idea. You’ve color-coded your calendar to draw some inspiration from that, but you still may be feeling overwhelmed with everything and it seems like there’s too much to do and not ever enough time.
There are also those times when it’s hard to get started on anything or inspired to actually study or write that paper because there are so many other things you would rather be doing. There are also those days and weeks when there’s so much other “stuff” going on whether friends or family back home or friends and roommates here. Or maybe it’s with your significant other or the one that you want to be with. Life can come at you trying to twist and turn and pull you in many different directions.
Maybe you’re searching for the right answer or a little inspiration. You don’t have to do everything all by yourself. You can ask for help. You can trust that God is right there with you in the all-nighters and in the nights where you didn’t procrastinate and went to bed at a decent hour. God’s right there with you no matter what. Let God speak to you and lift you up and give you that burst of energy or that rest that you need.

An oldie but a goodie – Jamie Grace’s “Hold Me” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISgr8SgCYbYhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISgr8SgCYbY

Nathan – The Editor

This semester at Gator Wesley, we are going to use as our backdrop, Leonard Sweet’s book, 11 – indispensable relationships you can’t be without – in which he talks about the 11 people [relationships] that we need to be who Christ creates us to be – we need
• an Editor
• a True Friend
• a Butt-Kicker
• an Heir
• an Encourager
• a Yoda
• a Back-Coverer
• a Reject
• a ‘Little One’
• a VIP
• a Place
• a Paraclete – “one who consoles, one who intercedes on our behalf, a comforter or an advocate”

This week we have Nathan, the editor.

1 Chronicles 17:1-15
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
God’s Covenant with David
17 Now when David settled in his house, David said to the prophet Nathan, “I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” 2 Nathan said to David, “Do all that you have in mind, for God is with you.”
3 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying: 4 Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: You shall not build me a house to live in. 5 For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought out Israel to this very day, but I have lived in a tent and a tabernacle. 6 Wherever I have moved about among all Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, Why have you not built me a house of cedar? 7 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people Israel; 8 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies before you; and I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 9 I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall wear them down no more, as they did formerly, 10 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will subdue all your enemies.
Moreover I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house. 11 When your days are fulfilled to go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, 14 but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever. 15 In accordance with all these words and all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

Have you ever heard of a “yes” man or woman? It’s a thing. Merriam Webster defines it this way, “a person who agrees with everything that is said; especially: one who endorses or supports without criticism every opinion or proposal of an associate or superior.” You will meet “yes” men all the time in the workplace. Have you ever heard of a celebrity out of control because they’ve surrounded themselves with no one that ever tells them no? I can name all sorts of actors/singers/entertainers that died tragically because they were surrounded by people on the pay roll. They received no unbiased opinions, because the machine around them depended on their celebrity for their livelihood. We can give countless examples of these behaviors…..Hello, Britney shaving her head or Justin Bieber in his latest trouble or need I even say Lindsay Lohan without images flashing through your head?

They needed someone to be “real” with them or keep them grounded. They needed an editor, like Nathan. Nathan spoke truth to power. Who’s not afraid to call you into account for your actions? Who’s not afraid to get under your skin? Who’s not afraid to gently, but firmly say that you’re acting like a jerk? That’s your Nathan.

A Nathan reveals, pulls back the curtain, to who you truly are. Recently I went on a facebook posting rampage, where I watched the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance. In the movie Bagger played by Will Smith, says, “Inside each and every one of us is one true authentic swing. Something that we were born with. Something that’s ours and ours alone. Something that can’t be taught to you or learned. Something that got to be remembered. Over time the world can rob us of that swing. It can be buried inside us in the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s. Some people forget what their swing was like.” A Nathan’s not afraid of calling you out because he can see through the layers to YOU. And the Nathan’s in your life, care about and love you, but they’re not about to let you get away with anything, just like Bagger Vance.

Nathan figured prominently in David’s life 3 times. At 3 critical junctures. In the text for today, 2 Samuel 7, David had just finished building his palace. He had been greatly blessed by God and decided that the ark of the covenant, which was still in a tent, needed a permanent home. He consulted with Nathan who agreed at first, but as you hear in the passage, Nathan changed his mind because it was not what God wanted. Nathan also said some good things to David – that David’s name would be great, his people would have peace, his son would build a “House for my name,” the throne and kingdom of David and his son would be established forever, and what would later become the Davidic Covenant – that Jesus would be in the lineage of David. You may be thinking that’s not gutsy speaking truth to power, he just told him not to build a church, and he said several good things after that. Well in 2 Samuel 12, David had recently committed adultery with Bathsheba and had arranged the death of her husband Uriah. Nathan was sent to David by the Lord with a parable – a poor man had one lamb, a rich man had great flocks of sheep – a traveler came to the rich man who prepared a meal for him – the rich man took the lamb from the poor man rather than use one of his own for the meal. David heard the story and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die!” [vs5] Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” [vs7] Awkward.

David repented of his sin, and the Lord forgave him – but the consequences of his sin then meant that the child born to Bathsheba did in fact die. The sign, however, of forgiveness was that David and Bathsheba had another son, Solomon, the inheritor of the promise.

The third time doesn’t have the same sting as the Bathsheba story, but it’s important nonetheless. It happens in 1 Kings 1 right at the end of David’s life. God had made it clear that Solomon would inherit the throne from his father – when another of David’s sons, Adonijah, tried to usurp the throne, Nathan supported David rather than Adonijah. He informed Bathsheba of the plot and advised her on how to ensure the right successor. Nathan was called in by David and told to anoint Solomon king – this he did and it was proclaimed to the people.

An editor works tirelessly so that you can be the best that you can be.

“Joe Myers illustrates the editability with the story of his wife, Sara, handing him back an essay she had edited for him, and all he could see was red. Every page was dripping with blood. As he tried to find one pure white page, she said these words: ‘Joe, this is fantastic! This is one of the best things I have ever read! This is going to change people’s lives.’
‘You’re kidding. You hate it…’
‘No, I love it.’
‘But look at all the red. You hate it.’
‘Joe, I love it. I just want you to get your ideas out as powerfully as you can. Every time you see red on the page, you should hear me saying to you, ‘Joe, I love this, I love you, and I want the whole world to read this book.’”

How many times do we see the editors of our lives as our biggest critics? How many times do we see the ink all in red and think that we’re not good enough? How many times do we take personally what we see as criticism but those that love us have said it to make us better?

Leonard Sweet writes, “What makes the Nathans unique in your life is that they are fundamentally best understood as welcome intruders. They tend to pop in unannounced to take the moral temperature of a particular moment, especially at the most inconvenient and disturbing of times. But because you are already in a relationship with them, and authenticity is your brand, their temperature taking isn’t always welcome. In a culture of increasing transparency, thanks to the internet and ubiquitous surveillance (the average Londoner is captured on camera over three hundred times a day), you refuse them entrance at your peril.”

In biblical language, Nathans “speak the truth in love.” As it says in James 1:22, a Nathan is not someone who rushes to “tell you the truth” but someone who helps you to “do the truth.”

As anyone who has ever written some words on a piece of paper, it’s not always pleasant or fun to get edited. The English major in me, cringes at the thought of taking my paper to the writing center and for them to pull out the fine tooth comb or the magnifying glass to make corrections. It’s like they see my soul stripped bare and the vulnerability is apparent. They see me. In all of my weaknesses, in all of my vulnerabilities, in all of the places I would rather not see – they see me.

So prayerfully consider the Nathans in your life. You don’t want to pick a person that is critical for critical’s sake, that is destructive to your world, or does not care about your well-being. So be discerning as you notice the people in your life that make you better, aren’t afraid to give you a reality check when the situation calls for it, and do so in love.

But as you notice the Nathans in your life they have some tell-tale signs. The first is they get under your skin. They look at the inner workings of your life and are not afraid to call BS. An English teacher in high school taught me the acronym meant Be Specific.

The second is they will ask you questions. Sweet says that questions can comfort, challenge, or convict. A Nathan looks at the heart. Snow White on Once Upon a Time wouldn’t get away with the darkness growing in her heart, if a Nathan was around. A Nathan would ask the familiar words of Wesley, “How well is it with your soul?”

The third and final thing is that they will tell the truth. A Nathan helps us see the truth about ourselves – truth telling, not truth dumping. Truth dumping is when we tell someone the “truth” but we’re really giving our own opinion, and it’s needlessly hurtful because the truth teller is not seeking to make us better but is seeking to destroy, cut down, or belittle. Nathan’s words are blunt, but with love. It is said about a Nathan, “There are kinder words that could have been said to me, but there aren’t truer ones.”

My brother Josh just happens to be a Nathan in my life. You’ll meet him on fall retreat because he’s going to be the speaker. He’s not afraid to call me on the carpet when he thinks I’m not being my most Godly. But I trust him implicitly. I don’t always like what he says. I don’t always agree with what he says. But 9 times out of 10 he has a point. He has perspective on my life. Even when I don’t see it. Even when I can’t see it. He has a way of breaking through. It may take a couple of days, of inner debate within myself, to see truth in his observational interruptions, but I trust him. So I listen to him. Because I know he’s watching out for me and just wants me to be the best that I can be.

So I’m glad that Len Sweet writes, “Everybody needs a Nathan. Even Nathan needs a Nathan.” Even Josh needs a Nathan in his life.

So open your eyes to the Nathan’s of your life. Your Nathan’s may easily come to mind. They may not. But we all need them. Oprah is attempting to be Lindsay Lohan’s, but that is another story and another sermon.

Do you know what David named his son? That’s right. Nathan. And that’s the line through which Jesus came through Mary’s side. You see, the Nathan’s of your life will have a big Godly impact in your life if you will let them. May it be so.

Holy and gracious God, may we be ever on the look out for the Nathan’s in our life. That they call us into account and are willing to ask the hard questions. May you set our feet on right paths and may we walk in your ways. Thank you that we were fearfully and wonderfully made and we can rest in the promise that you will never leave us or forsake us. May you give us wisdom as we discern answers to questions that seemingly have no answers. May you give us your peace that transcends all understanding, when we wrestle or need your comfort. May you give us your grace that we may know your more fully and as we continue in your sanctifying grace to be the person you created us to be. In Jesus’ name I pray. We pray now as you taught your disciples to pray….