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Monday, October 7, 2013

Who's in your circle?

We looked at the importance of friendships yesterday, but I just wanted to ask you this - who are the five most important relationships to you today?  If I had to describe these, they would be the individuals you consider to be the closest relationships of "choice".  In other words, you actively choose to be involved in their lives, draw close to them, drawing from them and being held accountable by them.  Did you know most of us would have a really hard time giving even three names, let alone five?  Society has gravitated toward a period in time when relationships are superficial and lack the integrity brought about by developing true intimacy (deep, emotional and spiritual connection). We need to recognize the relationships of "choice" matter - for whoever we surround ourselves with will eventually begin to "speak into" our lives.  In other words, they offer counsel, guidance, and direction - some by their actions, others by their words.  Maybe this is why moms and dads by the thousands consistently respond back to their children's pleas of "everyone else is doing it" with "If your friend was to jump off a bridge, would you do it?" The entire book of Proverbs is really a book on relationship - who we connect with in our "circle" of influence, how they begin to either direct us down paths which take us into "traps" and "hazards", or keep us on the straight and narrow.  So, the "circle" we choose is important! 

Saul also went home to Gibeah, and with him some true and brave men whom God moved to join him. But the riffraff went off muttering, “Deliverer? Don’t make me laugh!” They held him in contempt and refused to congratulate him. But Saul paid them no mind.  (I Samuel 10:26-27 MSG)  

Israel wanted a king - they wanted to be like the other nations.  They weren't content to just let God be their king - they wanted a man like the other nations had.  The entire chapter deals with how Saul was selected from among the tribes in response to their request to have a king like the rest. Then we find Samuel, the prophet, anointing the head of Saul, bringing him before the people, and proclaiming this one as the one chosen to be king over Israel.  Aren't we a group of fickle people sometimes?  We want something, but then we resist it as much as we wanted it?  It says the "riffraff" went off muttering their lack of approval of Saul and their heart was set on refusing to acknowledge him as king.  Yet, there is this group who are true and brave - moved by God to join Saul.  I would like us to consider these as Saul's "circle".

There are some things which matter in relationship.  Probably one of the most important is the matter of loyalty.  Early on, there was a determination by these men in Saul's "circle" to be loyal to him.  Others may have chose the path of least resistance - the one marked with criticism, taunts, jeers, and gossip.  These men chose the path which would require honesty, integrity, and involvement.  I daresay, the "inner circle" requires much more difficult "relationship" skills than the rest!  It doesn't really take any great skill to criticize or gossip, but to consistently be truthful, even when it is hard - now that requires some real "skill".  Like it or not, one of the main things these close relationships do is "speak into" our lives.  The wrong ones in our inner circle can draw us down - the right ones can help us take flight.

There are some things we need to know about being IN someone's "inner circle", and it is equally important for us to find the kind of people for our own "inner circle" who will be able to do the same:

- It is their counsel which we draw from when things don't come clearly to us, so being certain from where they receive their "counsel" is important.  Let me just say, you don't find wisdom when aligning with a fool.  Scripture reminds us a fool is anyone who denies the existence of God - I would go so far as to say it is one who chooses to live with any other authority in control of their lives OTHER than God.  So, choosing those in our inner circle begins with choosing those who align their lives with God's authority, not their own.

- It is important to surround yourself with individuals who know what to ignore and what to direct their attention toward.  Let me just say, not everything in life is worthy of our attention.  Not every voice is worthy to be given a place of "audience" in our head - for what makes its way into our head will eventually affect our heart.  When we surround ourselves with others who know what needs to be ignored, it is kind of like building a safety net to catch us before we get too far down the road - falling for every whim and fancy. Some fads or trends just need to be ignored.  Some issues will get us off track quicker than we'd like to admit.  Some people aren't worth our investment of time and energies. Saul could have spent all his time trying to win over those who would not celebrate his appointment as king - but he knew some people will always see things differently, so it isn't worth the time or energies to spin your wheels!

- Inner circle friends know when to battle and they also know when the battle is not going to turn out well.  Not every battle is ours.  Not every battle needs our input.  It easy to get roped into things which really don't require our time, talent, or energies.  Learning this is made easier when there is the wisdom of wise counsel to assist us in avoiding the "hook" of these battles.  In the days when this scripture was written, there were some areas where the battles made sense - like good pasture land, supplies of water in abundance, or a good thoroughfare for the passage of goods.  Other areas were not so important - like the unyielding and barren fields.  You could focus on the wrong stuff if you only saw it from your perspective - there is wisdom in receiving the counsel of others when going into any battle.

- Inner circle friends know the power of "motivating anger".  Before you get all wigged out about me saying anger can be "motivational", remember Jesus cleared the Temple of the money changers and the livestock vendors in a pretty dramatic manner.  His "anger" was not sinful, but it did motivate him into an action which was long overdue in the realm of keeping the Temple as a place of connection with the God who cared very much for his people.  Our inner circle should be able to accurately judge between what will yield regret (sinful anger) and what will promote growth (motivational anger).  Step on the scale frequently enough and eventually the "creep" of the extra pounds which you already knew was there will begin to provide a little "motivational anger"!

Those we form relationship with as "inner circle" friends will provide much protection - but they also provide much needed correction whenever necessary.  Right people afford right motivation; right motivation affords a better chance of right action.  Sometimes we focus more on "having" a circle of friends than we do on who is "in" the circle.  I think we might just do well to choose our circle with a little more care.  Just sayin!