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THE THREE _______________ ? (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

I love that Bible passage. I have seen it spiritually lived out in so many different ways. I’ve seen it work for good and I’ve seen it work for evil.

I haven’t posted in awhile, so before I get a new routine going again with some blogging about the Teachings and Commands of Jesus, I want to blog about and epidemic crisis going on throughout out too many churches around the world. If what I’m about to write is offensive then I would suggest that “the shoe is fitting you” and God might be using this post as a way to ask you to change.

A triple braided cord is not easily broken. Obviously true or it wouldn’t be in the Holy Bible. If you want to physically experiment the truth of this statement then go grab some dental floss. Take one strand of it and wrap it around a finger on each of your hands and pull and break it. Did you notice how hard you had to pull to break the strand? Now, take 2 strands of similar length and twist them together and repeat. You had to pull much harder to break it…some might not have even been able to break the two strands. Now repeat it, but use three strands that you have actually braided together. Its incredibly hard to break them, nearly impossible!

I have enough of a personal ministry network across the USA that allows me to hear and see many circumstances play out in the every day life of the local church. I hear stories that make me want to fall to my knees and thank God for such incredible news. I hear stories that make my heart ache for the pastor who is having to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I have personally walked through both scenarios. I’ve been around long enough to personally experience both scenarios and seen enough scenarios play out in other places that I have been able to see and link patterns. Its quite fascinating, actually.

The pattern deals with people and leadership.

The stories of triumph are preceded by a church that has a pastor that is connected with his elder board through honoring each other’s strengths and having intense team and trust. I love that kind of triumph.

The stories of walking through the valley of the shadow of death are typically preceded by a gathering of a pastor with a board. Usually the lack of team and trust and the lack of acknowledging each members strengths, this board typically and eventually dwindles to three. I don’t know why three, but I think somehow, someway this Ecclesiastes 4:12 passage ungirds it all.

I don’t need to go into too much detail about the Leadership Board built around strengths and team and trust. You can call the circle of people anything you want because when you boil it all down it’s the same thing. Elders, Deacons, Administrative Team, Corporate officers, Trustees, committees. ITS ALL THE SAME. People with positions of power. When this team of people come together and honor each other’s strengths and rely on each other’s team and trust, this team can accomplish nearly anything. This group of people live the Holy Scriptures in their personal lives. This group knows how to laugh and most definitely do not take themselves too seriously. This group is a group of people that are inspiring to be around. When this group comes together, success happens naturally through organized thinking, holiness, planning, prayer, and vision that is united in what Jesus wants. Period! This group naturally and without resistance rotates its leadership because not one single individual in the circle needs to have the position. Each individual in this group has developed their identity in who Christ says they are, instead of needing the position so they can have an identity. There is a lot of depth in that last sentence. If you pause for even 30 seconds you will be able to think of people in your life that fit both those descriptions. Which person are you? Which person would you rather spend time with…especially in a meeting?

This group of people very rarely, if ever, has the problem of the group shrinking to just 3 people. This group is of such that its actually fun to attend meetings and as birds of a feather flock together, this type of group attracts more people just like them. There’s never a shortage of people to ask to be a part of this type of rich environment. So cool when this happens.

So, there is a flip side to this environment. Again, call the group whatever you want, its all the same. However, this type of group usually has such an environment that it typically ends up only having 3 people who are left in it. Its hard to find new people to fill the absence of those who just couldn’t survive the walk through the valley of death type meetings. Death by meetings. What’s the difference from the description above? Why is there typically just three people left? The difference is simply the opposite of my first description. The Valley of Death environment is lead by a group of people who create their identities based off their position. This position puts them in such a spot that it allows them to pursue their personal interests. When you have a group of people in a meeting where three or more in the group are always vying for their personal preferences, you have, eventually, just three that are left and you end up with an organization that is full of things that these three people wanted. Everybody else in the group just shriveled and then disappeared. There voice wasn’t heard, because the big three continually cut them off and ignore their suggestions. The three people that typically remain are of two different types of people. The first type of three that might remain are the three that are very out-spoken, tend to be a bit arrogant and have a bully type personality about them. They control the meetings. They fight, endlessly, for their personal preferences. This type of person will say that they know what they are doing and that their ideas are God directed. The problem with this, is that they use God as the excuse to pursue their personal interests. The real problem is that each of these bully types will argue for their personal preferences and say that God has given them this position of authority to pursue their idea. Many times they will say that God gave them the idea. Then the next guy will say that God told them something different and has given them the position of authority to make the idea come to fruition. What you have is a meeting where God seems to be schizophrenic and can’t make up His mind, telling one person one thing and the next person something else. These meetings are maddening. They are made up of a few people all fighting for their personal preferences. There is a serious lack of Christ-likeness in these meetings and in a matter of time, there usually are only three left. If its not the 3 bullies that are left, then it usually means that even the bullies got impatient and left, leaving the very kind and gentle people sitting around the table wondering what to do next. This group will be too nice to make any tough decisions so the meetings usually last for hours while the group simply talks about ideas and never activating any of them. This last group of three remaining is very rare… most of the time all you have left in these leadership meetings are the three bullies. They love their position. They get their identity from their position. They individually try to win more followers over so they can get popular vote and power. These kind of people have a lot of meetings before and after the “official” meeting. I call this group of three, “The 3 Kings.” Self-appointed of course. The very kind and soft spoken group of three that rarely remain, we can call them “The 3 Stooges.” Kind of mean, but you get the point.

What the Church needs is a group of men that is described in the first group I wrote about above who all bow down to the real and mighty three. The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. That is the ultimate group of three that can’t be broken. If every Church/Org/Corporation/Gov./etc. were lead by such a group, wow…the world would be better.

Be careful what you think the role of a leadership group is. (Call the group what you want, its all the same.) Be careful if it seems the group that is leading your church carries a heavy stick. Jesus didn’t carry a heavy stick…except to the bullies. Jesus kicked the bullies butts all the time. They eventually killed Him, but then He kicked the bullies butts again 3 days later. What is it with the number 3! Be careful relying on a group of people to give you directions of how you should live your life. You have a Bible for that. I suggest we all follow the great 3.

The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. When those three are leading, incredible things take place, no matter the personalities of the others sitting around the leadership table. Take a look at your organization, your Church, your Government, your personal family. If there is dysfunction of any kind it can be traced, more often than not, to a group of three who are not listening to The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, but are listening first to their personal preferences, which are being swayed by a group of people they are trying to please.

We as God’s creation are better than this. The solution to the problem of ending up with the 3 leftovers, is for everybody to follow the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When you have a group of three left over that aren’t doing this…look out! Danger and Death with hovering everywhere. In the Church world, God nor the Devil is present in this kind of setting. The great 3 show the Lord that they don’t need Him and they lead on. This also dismisses the devil’s need to be present, for when people are in control, the devil doesn’t need to be around to cause chaos, it will be prevalent without him around.

What do you do?
Figure out a way to get the 3 removed. If that is impossible, then remove yourself from the organization and the dysfunction. Life is too short and…there are enough exciting and dynamic organizations/churches/families out there, that you don’t have to be trapped in one that is lead by the 3 Kings or the 3 Stooges.

Choose THE FATHER, THE SON and THE HOLY SPIRIT! It won’t be easy, but its what’s best!

A triple braided cord is not easily broken. This is true if the braid is holy or evil.
Don’t forget that the devil disguises himself as an angel of light.

So, I recommend that you check the fruit. A good tree produces good fruit. While checking, if you find a group of 3 people who say that they know what they are doing and that you just need to trust their leadership…well…choose wisely, your choice will have consequences. Remember that life is challenging enough as it stands and I would recommend that find a group of people who fully submit to only the will of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

They are truly the Great Three.
Keep their desires at the very center of your life.
It won’t be easy, but it will be right!

HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 13 (Mt.5:23-24) “Reconcile”

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5:23-24

What the heck does RECONCILIATION really mean?

I think we can all agree on, for the most part, what Jesus is saying about offering a gift at the altar. The whole purpose of offering a gift at the altar is to give thanks to God for how much He loves us and for giving us the gift of forgiveness. Therefore it is hypocritical to offer a gift of thanksgiving for forgiveness and at the same time hold forgiveness back from others in our lives or have unreconciled relationships. Its a double standard.

Do you agree with me that God will not honor double standards? So, when the offering plate is passed and you are withholding forgiveness from anyone, don’t give until you have pursued forgiveness or have given forgiveness. If the communion tray is coming your way during a worship service, same thing, don’t partake until you have pursued reconciliation. If you are about to preach or teach the Word of God. If you are about to Lead Worship or sing on the vocal team. If you are about serve in the Children’s ministry. If you are about to work in your Church’s cafe, fold bulletins, make phone calls for the church, serve in the youth ministry, stack chairs, sweep floors….ANYTHING that you do for your local church as a form of work or volunteering is a form of “offering a gift at the altar” of God. Its ALL worship. Any worship that has a double standard will be rejected by God.

Bottom line…if we offer gratefulness and love and repentance to God without offering it to others around us, God wont accept our offering. Paul actually warns us in his letter to the Corinthians that if we take communion in an unworthy manner, it is the reason some of us are sick and even have died. This is a serious matter. Let me reinforce this notion a little stronger with a verse from the Bible. Matthew 6:15 says, “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This is big deal. Unforgiven people do not enter Heaven. If we don’t forgive others or apologize to others then we won’t be forgiven by God. Please do not be unforgiven. I love the passage of 1 John 1:9, ‘If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Please make sure you are offering forgiveness to those who have hurt you. And make sure you are apologetic and repentant to those whom you have harmed. You can’t control how they respond to you, you can only control yourself. I would like to teach on forgiveness here, but there will be a better time in a future Hydrate Devotion. Let me say this before I move on to the subject at hand. Granting somebody forgiveness is more for yourself than for the person who harmed you. Giving forgiveness allows you to let it go and move on with your life. I love what Mother Theresa said about forgiveness. She said, “If you can’t forgive your offender, its like drinking poison and hoping it will kill them.” Think about that. More to come on forgiveness in the near future.

Back to point…
I want to get to something critical that most people have forgotten about. Reconciliation. What exactly is it? My immediate thoughts about reconciliation lead me to think about extreme situations. For instance. What does it mean for a woman who has been raped, to reconcile with her rapist? What does it mean for a child who has been sexually abused by a family member to reconcile with that family member? What does it mean for a man, who has faced harm and heartache from another man in his life, to be reconciled with him? If you have been fired and hold bitterness towards your previous boss, what does it mean to be reconciled? If you have gone through a very nasty divorce and enormous amounts of pain were experienced in the marriage and divorce, what does it mean to be reconciled? If someone murdered your family, what would it mean to reconcile with the murderer? Do see how this issue isn’t so simple?

So what does it mean to forgive and reconcile? Now the Cynic in me wants to write out the typical “Sunday School Answer.” This answer would go something like this, “Well, Trent, you know that Jesus was harmed by you because of your sins. Even though you hurt Jesus, He went to the cross for you anyway. And, Trent, even while you abused Him some more while He was on the cross, He said, “Father forgiven them, for they don’t know what they are doing. So, Trent…when someone harms you, you must ‘Let Go and Let God’ and everything will be alright, so let it go and go in peace.”

I wish it were that easy.

So, let me take a shot at this reconciliation idea, and hopefully when its done, we will have an answer that is actually helpful to us all.

I think we first have to define reconcile. I would like to say that reconcile means “to resolve a problem to the approval of one or both parties involved.” You may ask, “why not both parties?” In the case of a murderer, sexual abuser, and many other kinds of offenders, I don’t think we can resolve the issue to the approval of both parties. In my opinion, when an abuser breaks the law with any extreme case of harm, they quit acting “human” and they may still be human, but in their non-human behavior they lose their rights to decide the resolution process that is necessary. In other words, some offenses are so harmful to others that the offender loses his/her rights as a human to decide for themselves what is best for moving forward towards reconciliation. They must receive swift and strong punishment for their non-human behavior. This offender, in their choice to harm, also gave away their rights to determine their future fate. (Crime never pays…it only kills, steals and destroys.) In fact, nearly every offender…no matter the offense, loses their immediate rights to help set what happens next in the relationship. In their choice to sin and cause harm, they become disqualified to dictate what happens next, and will find themselves at the mercy of other people, especially the person they abused/offended/harmed.

So what is reconciliation in these extreme cases? The answer is really left in the hands of the offended party or the hands of the law, in which, the offended party still has most of the influence and power. i.e. They can Press charges, seek revenge, grant forgiveness, etc.

The individual doesn’t have to have any kind of relationship with their offender into the future if they do not want to. The offender might even be a family member, but that doesn’t mean the one who is harmed has to be fully present in the offenders life again…and then call that reconciliation. (Reconciliation does not necessarily means physically present in each others lives again.)

I think RECONCILIATION means that both parties will stand before God someday in full knowledge that God gave the free gift of His only Son to forgive their sins. These individuals, in order to stand before God RECONCILED, must have either apologized for their offense and changed their behavior (repented), or granted forgiveness to their offender. What happens from this point on between these two parties is solely up to any one of the two parties. If either paty freely chooses not to have any further relationship with the other, then that is still reconciliation and is good.

What reconciliation does do, is fully removes, bitterness, anger, hurt, revenge, or anything else even close to those evil characteristics and actions, but it does not mean that full physical restoration into each other’s lives is essential for reconciliation to take place.

Some might argue that Jesus is not that way…even after we abused Him, He forgave and His kind of reconciliation is full reinstatement of relationship, physical presence and a continued healthy relationship with one another.

I would reply to that argument that this is the ultimate end goal result of any abusive situation. I think everybody would agree that it would be a miraculous and beautiful thing for this kind of reconciliation to take place. However…People are not Jesus! Jesus’ kind of reconciliation is the ultimate kind. Jesus’ kind of reconciliation is one directional. By this I mean that Jesus, after being abused, laid down His own life to pay for the sins of His offender and this was to Honor the Father more than anyone else. Then, Jesus took up His life at the resurrection and proceeded to approach His offenders/us with an open invitation to reconcile by actually moving into our hearts and living in us, if we the offender accepted His offer. This is the PERFECT and ULTIMATE form of reconciliation and is only possible if the offended party offers it. However it is not the only kind of reconciliation. It is a very different kind of reconciliation when one of the two parties in the relationship is The Perfect Son of God! We live in a fallen world and the relationships we have amongst one another are between two fallen and imperfect people. This fact creates a different kind of reality and creates different kinds of acceptable forms of reconciliation.

So, whatever the example of hurt relationships, offenses and abuses above…full reconciliation does not mean that
both parties have to be “in” each others lives physically again. It DOES mean that somewhere, somehow, and sometime there is/was facilitated a peaceful ENDING of the conflict. There is a mutual acknowledgment that “things” are okay and everybody will do well to move forward with their lives. (To the offenders…prison or other consequences is moving forward.)

Reconciliation also means that there are now firm boundaries that have been set in place, and frankly, both parties do not have to be in agreement, or even like the new boundaries. But boundaries will have been established and they will be followed. The reality is, when boundaries have to be set, it is only the offending party that doesn’t like the new boundaries. Boundaries are set to protect and honor the offended from being hurt again AND they are set to protect the offender from harming again. Reconciliation does not mean free from all consequences. Only offending parties/law breakers/abusers desire to have no consequences. New boundaries are what wise people do as a consequence of evil behavior happening to them. It would be wise to warn the “boundary setter” to guard the motives of “why” the boundaries are being set. If the boundaries are set as a form of revenge or getting even, then true forgiveness hasn’t taken place, and now the boundary setter is beginning to have sinful reactions. This is not reconciliation in any form. However, if boundaries are not set, the abuser/offender might still expect to be in control of your new “reconciled” relationship. You need to set and enforce the boundaries of the new relationship. When it comes to actually setting boundaries and trying to decide what are good boundaries and what are boundaries that go to far, its important to ask a few of questions.

a.) Do you want your abuser/offender in close proximity of you again? (Physically, Emotionally, Mentally, Spiritually, or Socially?)
b.)What do you wish to gain by bringing your abuser/offender back into your life?
c.) Will your life improve by having this person back in your life?
d.) Is the abuser/offender aware, with total clarity, your desires in the answers to the questions above?

Its tiring isn’t it? God never intended for our world and our relationships to be this way. But they are and we need to become wiser in how we deal with it all. This is a serious issue or Jesus would have never taught about it.

If you have been abused by anyone with any kind of abuse, if you are carrying hurt, anger and lack of forgiveness in your heart and life, and you think you can deal with it all on your own. You will be in big trouble. I want to encourage you to seek out a well known and credible Christian Counselor and ask for help. Pay for help. The cost of not handling any of this right is way more expensive than paying somebody by the hour to help you do it right!

Do you have anybody in your life, that when you think of them, you know you have an unreconciled relationship with them? If you do, either apologize for your sinful behavior or tell them you are forgiving them for their sinful behavior. (Remember…you cannot control how they respond, you can only be responsible for your own action.) If you cannot work on reconciliation yet, then please don’t ask God to forgive you for your sins, because He won’t hear your prayer. Don’t give anything to God, for it won’t be accepted. Don’t pretend to be holy because it will be a double standard. Does this sound too harsh? It is harsh. It’s harsh because ETERNITY is at stake and your soul is in the balance. SEEK RECONCILIATION NOW. NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT.

Keep working on your relationships. It is a daily battle that will rage on until your very last breath. It is a worthwhile and holy battle. This battle is all to often a battle that is not about flesh and blood as much as it is about what is called Spiritual Warfare waging all around you. I pray you will do your very best to not have sinful reactions when other people sin against you, but you will forgive, set new boundaries and have a new reconciled relationship. Remember that reconciliation has many different forms. It is easier said than done. Remember this…Hurt people…hurt people. So when someone hurts you, try to discover how they have been previously hurt and are simply having sinful reactions in that hurt. Make sense? Hurt people, hurt people.
When you are hurt…don’t have sinful reactions and repeat the hurt. Break the vicious cycle by seeking “RECONCILIATION.”

I can’t think of anything harder in life to do, than reconciliation.
Let’s end with this…
Hurt people, hurt people.
Forgiven people, forgive people.
Which one are you.
Its a choice.
Choose well…according to Jesus it has eternal consequences.

Retweeting Jesus “RT@JesusChrist #10”

(To Mary) Woman, here is your son. (To John) Here is your mother. — JC
John 19:26-27(HCSB)

Awkward. What a strange message for Jesus to share publicly. Yet, because Jesus said it publicly with other people hearing…I chose to make this one of Jesus’ “Tweets.”

Imagine the scene. Jesus is on the cross. He is literally about to die. He is looking out at the people and He sees His mom. His mom is Mary (do I really need to write that?) She is crying (I assume) and is standing next to the disciple named John. The Bible describes John as, “the one whom Jesus loved.” Is it ironic to anyone else that the book of JOHN is the only book in the Bible that actually says that “John is the disciple whom Jesus loved?” In case you don’t know…the author of the book of John and the John referred to as the one whom Jesus loved…is the same person. John, wrote that about himself! There has got to be a good story in there somewhere. Someday we can ask him.

What’s the point of this Tweet? Its pretty simple. In Jesus’ time where Hebrew Culture ruled the day…Jesus was Hebrew…Yes…Jesus was a Jewish man. That would mean He wasn’t white. That would mean He wasn’t black. He would have more likely been very…what we call…tanned. Dark thick hair. He was Jewish from the Mediterranean area. Dark eyes. But…I suppose I could be completely wrong. Maybe he really could have looked just like Jim Caviezel. We know his mom was Jewish. But His real Father….well…Genetics wouldn’t matter! I can’t wait to meet Jesus face to face and see what He really looks like. Maybe He really did have blonde hair and blue eyes. LOL

Back to the Hebrew thing here. In Jesus time and in the Hebrew Culture it was the husbands job to be the head of the household. The husband was the provider. If something happened to the husband, then the first born son would be responsible to step up and be the head of the household. If the new head of the household died…then right on down the line to the next oldest son. The next oldest son would take responsibility for the family in all areas. If there were no more men in the family to take this responsibility it would be passed to a different man in the family, maybe a cousin…if there were no other family men, the responsibility could be passed on to a friend of the family. You get the idea.

So this instance in time, where Jesus is sending this “Tweet,” has several angles to it. First…in my opinion…it proves that Joseph, Mary’s husband, has passed away. We don’t know for sure. We have no record of Joseph after the instance where Mary and Joseph can’t find Jesus for 3 days, and when they finally find Him, He is in the temple area speaking to the religious leaders…Jesus was about 12 or 13 then. After Joseph and Mary find Jesus, there is no mention of Joseph again. Nothing. Maybe God took Joseph’s life for losing Jesus? LOL…just kidding. See how I think? LOL

So in this Tweet, where Jesus is saying publicly to Mary….”Here is your son.” And to John….”Here is your mother.” I think this demonstrates that Jesus is the head of the household. The oldest son. I suppose its arguable that someone could say that Jesus is the Son Of God and can do whatever He wants…and He didn’t have to be the oldest son to give this Tweet. That could be true. But I see a theme throughout the Bible that Jesus honored culture and respected law.(He didn’t have to.) I’m pretty convinced that Jesus is head of the household here and is making sure that His mother will be cared for when He is gone. Now…Jesus had brothers and sisters. But it seems they weren’t on the scene. So, i think Jesus was asking John to step up and take care of His mother. We won’t know for sure until we physically meet Jesus someday. I’m sure we’ll ask and get a clear answer from Him then. How cool with that be?

The other, and more important point about this Tweet of Jesus being sent out while Jesus is on the cross…It shows that Jesus was continually focused on Promoting the progress and purpose of others. If there was ever a time for Jesus to say. “Hey…Everybody! This is about ME!” Then this was the time. Yet His focus was to make sure the people He was leaving behind would be cared for and loved. He was concerned about others. In fact, I can think of only one time where Jesus thought about himself. Its the time in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus begs to have “this Cup of Suffering” taken away from him. For a few moments, Jesus thinks about himself and begs for His Father to get Him out of the crucifixion. This thinking didn’t last long. Immediately after asking His Father to take away this pressure….He bowed and submitted and began to promote the progress and purpose of God/Others by saying…. “Not my will be done, but yours.” (If you want to watch a full message I preached on this very subject on video about this “cup of suffering” then click on this link, its the video titled “Cup of Suffering.”) PLEASE NOTE: If you leave this sight right now to watch the video without reading the rest of this blog because you intend to come back and read it later, the parts you have not read are all underlined. It should be easy for you to return and know where to “pick up” your reading right where you left off!

Jesus cared right up to His very last heart beat. He cared for you. He could have come off that cross and settled the score right then and there. He could have come off that cross right there and shut everybody up and prove His Lordship. He could have called on the angels with swords drawn to free Him from the cross and they would have obeyed Him. He could have worked any miracle He wanted to. Right then. How tempting it must have been. But He didn’t. He honored the wishes of His Father and stayed on the cross and kept His mind on others. He knew it was better to die to for you and your cause than it was to think only about His own feelings.

Jesus continually focused on the needs of others. Not his own. I love the phrase “Promote the Progress and Purpose of Others.” Its easier said than done.

There is no phrase that better describes the focus of Jesus.

Today…as you pursue your check lists and live in your rituals…would you pay attention to others around you? When you get to the office or wherever you work…God will already be at work there. Join Him. Open your spiritual eyes and see the spiritual needs in the people around you during your day today. Be the one who joins God in His work today and get to the business of promoting other people’s purposes in life. When you and I fully do that…That’s when Jesus has a way of bringing it all back around on us.

That is truly living.

What can I do for you today to help promote your progress and your purpose?
If you ask…I will do whatever I can.