Word of Relationship #5

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.  Romans 12:10-13

   There are 59 “one anothers” in the New Testament. Evidently, the early church needed lots of instruction about maintaining good relationships. It seems we still require help getting along with each other.

   When our kids were little and there was a tussle brewing between two of them, I would have them stand on opposite ends of the living room and recite Ephesians 4:32 while looking at each other. (“We will be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave us.”) There was usually some rolling of the eyes and resistance, but I held firm. After the verse was quoted, I instructed them to take one large step toward each other and say it again. This would be repeated until the two squabblers were nose to nose. Then I would make them end in a hug. It is very hard for two children to stand nose to nose without breaking into giggles. I knew it was an effective method when I overheard one say, “We’d better quit arguing or mom will make us do that thing.”

Living a life of faith would be much easier if we didn’t have to deal with people! But from the beginning, the church was created to be a community representing the very body of Christ in the world. To be effective, we need to get along. We need to be devoted to each other, honor one another, share with each other, have people over for dinner. It takes practice. Let’s get to it.

  Lord, thank You for my place here in the body of Christ. Help me to do my part in the life of the church. Forgive me for isolating when I should be investing in relationships with my brothers and sisters.

Word of Relationship #4

One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. John 13:23

  I routinely tell each of my kids, “You’re my favorite.” Of course, they know I say the same thing to their other siblings. It’s true though. I want all four of them to feel that they are particularly loved and have a special place in my heart.

   Four times in John’s gospel, this mysterious phrase pops up: “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” The fact that those words aren’t used anywhere else in the scriptures raises suspicion that John may have been referring to himself, while trying to stay humble.

   John was the youngest of the twelve disciples, probably in his late teens when Jesus called him to follow. He was often part of the “inner circle” along with Peter and James — the three disciples allowed to enter into the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus. After three years with the Master, John was sure that he, of all the disciples, was especially loved.

   John alone recorded the words of Jesus from the cross concerning Mary. It’s likely that John was the only disciple who was near enough to the cross to hear Jesus’ words. The rest had run and were in hiding, fearing for their own lives. Because Jesus was Mary’s oldest son and because Joseph had likely died by then, Jesus fulfilled his duty to provide for His mother. He asked one of His closest friends to take her into his home.

   In the book “The Shack”, by author William P. Young, the character portraying God says of every person, “I am especially fond of him,” or “I am especially fond of her.” God doesn’t play favorites — yet somehow, we are all His favorite.

  Lord, it is one of the mysteries that is impossible for us to comprehend — that You love each and every one of us with an everlasting love. We each can say with assurance, “God is especially fond of me.” Thank You.

 

Word of Relationship #3

 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.”
 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:3-5

 Weddings are a big deal. We’ve planned and helped pay for four of them. After months of decisions about cake and flowers and caterers, the big day seems to fly by. Be glad you didn’t live in first century Galilee. In Jesus’ day, wedding receptions lasted for a whole week.  

  Jesus enjoyed a party. As Matt Chandler says, “He was invited to lots of dinners and parties because He was not a party dud.”

   We get a glimpse of Jesus’ relationship with His mother at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. Mary went to her son with a concern: the family would be terribly embarrassed if the party had to shut down early for lack of wine. At first, Jesus seemed to drag his feet, not wanting to be involved in the drama unfolding. But Mary had confidence that her boy was the only one who could make a difference. She told the servants to stand ready because something was about to happen.

 Jesus must have smiled at his mother’s tenacity. She must have smiled as Jesus turned water into wine so the celebration could keep going — although 120-180 gallons of wine might have been overdoing it a bit. (Six jars, each holding 20-30 gallons. It’s right there in John 2:6!)

 Perhaps Mary gave us a lesson on prayer in John 2. She didn’t ask for anything specific and didn’t whine, worry or nag. She didn’t tell Jesus how to solve the problem or make suggestions or offer opinions. She simply stated the issue and then waited expectantly. Mary didn’t know what Jesus would do, but she knew He would do something — the right thing. That’s trust.

  Lord, sometimes I pray bossy prayers, telling You what I think You should do. Sometimes I pray worried prayers, showing my lack of confidence in Your power. I’m sorry. Help me to trust You in all my prayers.

 

Word of Relationship #2

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:51-52

    Unlike mothers in Biblical times, I have photographs and home videos to pull out when I want to take a walk down memory lane. I have Skype and Instagram and FaceTime. But there’s something about those “snapshots” that are embedded in the heart — they are such treasures.

   Mary held her remembrances “dear, deep within her heart”. Scripture records two instances of Mary pondering. The first was at Jesus’ birth, as she watched shepherds bow to worship her newborn son (Luke 2:19).  Years later, when Luke was gathering information for his gospel, Mary was able to go deep into her heart to retrieve memories of that wondrous night in Bethlehem.

   Her second instance of pondering happened twelve years later when she and Joseph finally found Jesus in the temple after a frantic three day search (Luke 2:51). They were on their 70 mile return trip from celebrating Passover in Jerusalem, when Mary said to Joseph, “I thought he was with you” and Joseph said to Mary, “I thought he was with you.” They had lost God’s Son. How would they explain this to God?   

   There must have been many more treasures in Mary’s heart as she watched the Son of God grow up in their family. Jesus didn’t leave home until he was 30 years old, possibly taking care of his mother after the death of Joseph. Jesus loved his mom and grew in wisdom and stature because of her tender care.

  Lord, there are so many things I wonder about Jesus’ early years, when he was at home with his parents and siblings. Thank You for His example of obedience to His parents. Help me to grow as He did, in favor with God and people.

Word of Relationship #1

Today we enter into the third week of Lent
and we consider Jesus’ third statement from the cross.

Week 3
Word of Relationship:
When Jesus saw his mother there,
and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby,
he said to his mother,
“Dear woman, here is your son,”
and to the disciple,
“Here is your mother.”
From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
John 19:26-27

Relationship: a connection, association or involvement
an emotional connection between persons

Jesus went up into the hills and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve — designating them apostles — that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. Mark 3:13-15

woman behold

   I used to know all the common prepositions by heart. About, above, across, after, against, along, among — and 28 more. Memorizing that list helped in picking out the prepositional phrases when diagramming sentences, which was important because…… Why was that important? My favorite preposition is at the bottom of the list.  …….over, since, through, to, toward, under, with. With. What a lovely word.

When Jesus came to earth, he sought out relationships with people. Jesus picked twelve disciples to walk with Him, talk with Him, do life with Him. It was a great honor to be chosen by a rabbi, an opportunity that fishermen and tradesmen rarely were given. Most rabbis went to the nearest temple school to find worthy candidates.


But Jesus wasn’t looking for Talmud scholars or experts in the law. He was looking for friends. “He appointed twelve…that they might be with him.” In time, the Master would teach His disciples to preach and even drive out demons, but first and foremost, Jesus wanted to simply be with them. He wanted them to simply be with Him.


When God picked out a name for His Son, it was Emmanuel — God
with us. (Isaiah 7:14) That choice of name should make us grateful. It’s so much better than God above us, God behind us, God beyond us, God over us. Or any of those other prepositions.

  Jesus, thank You for leaving Your heavenly home to come be with us. I know You are calling me into a deeper relationship with You. Be near me, Lord Jesus. I ask Thee to stay close by me forever.

Word of Assurance #6

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6

   When I was 13, my mother died of cancer. I was scared and lost without her, yet it was through that time of grief and pain that God became real to me. This verse helped me cope with overwhelming feelings of loss. God spoke this truth into my heart: “You may feel lonely, but you are never alone.” I held onto that promise — and still do.

   God first spoke these same words 1500 years prior to the writing of Hebrews, when Joshua and the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land. Hearing God’s pledge gave Joshua confidence to lead the people. God’s promises don’t expire or wear out, but remain in effect for all time. His promise to never leave us or forsake us was good for Joshua, it was good for the believers in the early church, and it’s still good for us.

Similar to the passage we read last week from John 10:28-29, there are five negatives in the original language in this verse. It could be rendered: “I will never, never desert you, and I will never, never, never abandon you.” In the Greek language, when a word or phrase is repeated, each one grows in intensity. This is a promise God does not want us to forget.


We all need assurance from time to time. We need to know we aren’t alone. In an uncertain world, where friends move away, promises are broken, and loved ones die, we can be certain of the Father’s steady presence. Then we will be able to say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”

  Dear God, help me to remember that my feelings aren’t reliable and that I can’t always trust them. But Your promises are solid and sure, so I will lean on Your words. No matter how lonely I may feel, I am never alone. Thank You for Your faithful presence. I love you, Lord.

 

Word of Assurance #5

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2

   On the nightly news we are hearing more and more stories of people who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes, but due to DNA testing they are being cleared and set free. They go from condemned criminal to free citizen overnight.

Paul made a staggering statement in his letter to the church in Rome. There is now no condemnation. Before Christ died on the cross of Calvary and before He rose again on the third day, we were on death row. The law we could not keep perfectly, condemned us. We were sentenced to death.


But now. Christ took upon Himself the penalty for our sin and paid it in full on the cross. Unlike those who have been wrongfully convicted, we deserve to be punished. Unlike those who submit to DNA tests for release, we need only to stand under the blood of Jesus and submit to His Lordship.


It seems too good to be true because we all still struggle with sin and will continue in that battle until we reach heaven. Although His grace is never to be interpreted as license to sin, the truth remains: there is no condemnation. “Do you know what that means? We may stumble, we may fall, we may trip, we may make a thousand mistakes, we may sin (and we do), we may get off the path, we may go astray, we may have a thousand problems, but for the believer in Jesus Christ, there is, therefore now, no condemnation because God has said it is so.” Pastor Ray Pritchard

Lord Jesus, You were perfect and yet You took my sin. And somehow, You gave me, an imperfect sinner, Your righteousness. I don’t understand it, but I gratefully receive it.