Category Archives: relationship

Be a good friend

lightstock_160956_medium_user_3963721Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

 

 

 

 

 

Having the right friends can be a great benefit in life. They can challenge you mentally, support you emotionally, strengthen you spiritually, and otherwise just be there for you when you need them. It’s also important, though, to be a good friend as well.

We’re blessed through the friendship of others, but we’re sanctified by our friendship to them. Being on the giving end isn’t always the easy part of a relationship, but it’s the godly part. By showing interest in other people, we become more humble by thinking of ourselves less. By being a good listener we grow in wisdom. And by forgiving, we learn more about grace and the amazing gift God has given us in Christ.

We’ve all been given a unique opportunity to share Christ with others through our relationships with them. I can think of several friends I’ve had in my lifetime where I received little to nothing from them, but gave all I had. Those times could be tough, I’ll be honest. I did end up ending most of those friendships out of necessity, but I can’t say I didn’t benefit from those times I spent giving of myself, even when I knew I wouldn’t get anything in return. I didn’t know it back then, but I was learning to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. May I continue to grow spiritually through my relationships, and may you also.

Choose your friends wisely

IS4078RF-00005075-001Proverbs 12:26 One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

 

When you think about keeping yourself healthy, you might not think about your friendships as part of the mix, but the Bible warns us about who we choose as friends and the effects of choosing poorly.

There are certain kinds of people that we should never surround ourselves with, and then there are kinds of people that we should absolutely spend time with. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love everyone and care for all people, but the closest of friends should be chosen wisely. Will they build you up and strengthen your faith, or will they make it harder for you to live the life God has called you to?

I’ve had times in my life when I hung out with very negative people, with very immoral people, or with very unbelieving people, and as much as I wanted to be a positive influence in their lives, they made it incredibly difficult for me to grow spiritually. By distancing myself from those friends, while still maintaining contact, I was able to get around people with whom I could have a mutually encouraging relationship.

Love all people, seek out others to care for, but choose your close friends with discernment. They’ll affect your own health.

Children of God

1 John 2:28-3:10   And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.  See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.  Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

Are you doing what you ought to be doing?  How are your actions speaking to other people about Christ?  Are they giving a good witness or repelling people from the gospel?

This part of John’s letter is a powerful thought about our obedience.  Not only is he saying that followers of Jesus should do good, he’s saying that if you don’t do good, you’re not a follower of Christ.  You get that?  John’s saying that if you don’t do good, you’re on the opposite team.  If you’re not for Christ you’re against Him.  There’s no middle ground.  If you continue to practice sin regularly, you’re not a Christian.  Ouch.

We all need to take this passage to heart and assess ourselves from the inside out.  Are we really practicing righteousness?  When we received Christ we were empowered to walk with God and obey Him in a way that was impossible before our salvation.  But are we doing it?  Are we walking the walk?

No one who is born of God (reborn, we would say) makes a practice of sinning.  Are you a child of God?  Are you acting like it?

A father’s instruction

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

What is the primary responsibility of a parent? How about of a father? What about a Christian father? If you said to raise kids who obey the law and treat others kindly, that’s just part of the equation.

Raising moral kids isn’t enough to sustain them through the circumstances of life. Only a strong foundation in the Word of God, in the gospel, can carry them through. It’s the job of a father (and a mother) to parent in light of the gospel.

If our kids comply to everything we instruct them to do, but have no understanding of God’s grace and mercy, have no idea about the sacrifice He was willing to go through for our reconciliation, then it’s wasted effort in parenting. Compliance to rules does not mean a transformed heart.

Fathers, don’t just expect your kids to do what you say. Don’t use your authority to bend their will to yours. Utilize the authority you’ve been given by the Father to raise them up to know Him. They’ll know Him because you show His nature and character to them by the way you treat them.

If you’re not a parent, this notion still applies for you.  There’s someone, somewhere who’s under your authority, however little it may be. The way in which you use that authority, the way in which you instruct and lead will either draw them closer to God or push them away from Him. Lead wisely and be a follower of the Holy Spirit as He guides you.

Honor your father and mother

Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),  “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Marriage isn’t the only relationship the Bible speaks of, though it may seem that way in books like Ephesians where so much is said to husbands and wives. The relationship between children and their parents is an even more obvious depiction of the relationship between God and His people than marriage is.

Obedience, be it our obedience to God or the obedience of children to parents, is never just about compliance for the sake of compliance. God didn’t give us rules to follow just because He likes having His rules followed any more than our parents did that. There are reasons for the rules of the house; right? I’m always telling my kids that i don’t give them rules because I’m mean; I do it because I care about them and don’t want to see them get hurt. When they don’t obey, the result is often a negative experience. So it is in our disobedience to God.

The Law cannot be fully obeyed perfectly and we’ll never earn our way into heaven by keeping it. That’s not its purpose, though. We can thrive better, and live much more fulfilling lives if we stick to what the Lord has laid before us as right, avoiding what He says is wrong. It’s not about a dictator forcing anything on us. It’s about a loving Father who cares about His kids and wants to see them live well. His plan for us is better than our own plans.

How are you doing at obeying? Do you even see the need to do so?

Love like a man

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Continuing with the idea that marriage is intended to depict an earthly example of Jesus Christ’s relationship to His Church, the role of the husband is a heavy one. Men are called to love their brides as Christ loves the people of God.

Many of us gloss this over and simply boil it down to an instruction to “love your wife” without grasping the depth of the statement. Husbands, love your wives, AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER. How far are you willing to go in putting your wife before yourself, men? Have you given your life for her? This isn’t just a literal laying down of one’s physical life for another, it’s also a laying down of one’s own desires for the sake of another. If you’re keeping score at home, that means husbands AND wives are called to submission.

Furthermore, husbands bear the weight of responsibility for their wives’ spiritual state. Just as Christ overlooks the well-being of His bride, that she might be presented without spot or blemish, so too are husbands to look after their wives and assist in any area where they may need to grow. Husbands are to lead their wives in spiritual matters and failure to do so is disobedience.

 

Wives and husbands, Christ and the Church

Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Of all passages in the Bible, this one ranks among the top in its controversy quotient. Many read what Paul wrote to the Ephesians and see something sexist or misogynistic, but it’s anything but. We have to read it in its larger context though.

The problem with so much of our biblical interpretation is that we see a verse, pulled out of its context, and we try to interpret it on its own. This always leads to misunderstanding of the real idea. Such is the case in Ephesians.

The main focus of Paul is not that women should submit to men, or that men should rule over women, but that Jesus Christ is head of the Church. Marriage is an earthly picture of a heavenly concept. In it, men and women (in their sinful, broken way) depict the relationship that Jesus has to His bride, the Church. That’s all of us, by the way, the family of God who are called by His name.

Jesus is powerful and has unlimited authority, but He is also submissive to the Father. In a marriage relationship, both authority and submission are supposed to be present to show that relationship between Him and us. Both qualities exist in Christ and neither of them is inferior or superior to the other.

God’s Word points out both here and in other places that it’s not a husband’s role to lord his authority over his wife, nor is woman commanded to submit to all men. Submission doesn’t mean a wife has no opinion or that she is inferior to her husband. On the contrary, submission quite often means the wife (who is her husband’s equal) carries the great responsibility of being his confidant and greatest advisor. Just as a husband should physically protect his wife, a wife’s submission to her husband protects him as well. It’s the completion of a relationship – two halves equaling a whole.

Romans: Our Daddy

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

What is the greatest news you’ve ever been given?  Think really hard about it and give an honest answer to that question.  Now think about why it is that this was such great news.  Now, turn your attention for one moment to news that’s even better than the best news you can think of.

Because God loved the world He had created, He sent Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) to live a perfect, sinless life and to die a sinner’s death in our place.  We deserved to be treated with the cruelty He receive.  We earned the penalty that He paid.  He took on our sin and gave us instead His own righteousness, granting us access to God.  What news is this!

Not only are we forgiven by a just God, which is wonderful, but we are now His own children, adopted into His family.  Not only is He our Father, but the language used in this text is so intensely beautiful as the writer describes God as our “Abba,” which means “daddy.” God isn’t a harsh, demanding father who is waiting for us to mess up so He can punish us.  We’re not under Him as slaves, but as His children.  He’s our Daddy who loves us and cares about us.  We can approach Him without fearing His response.  What a perfect way to understand our relationship to our Creator and Redeemer.

Romans: No condemnation in Christ

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 Every single one of us has sinned.  We’re all guilty before a perfect God and have no chance at perfection.  We’re tainted from birth.  That’s the truth.  If it were the end of the truth, it would be a very sad existence that we lead.  But, thankfully, there’s more to it.

Yes, we’re sinful.  Yes, we’re unable to live up to a holy God’s standards and we’re headed toward death and destruction as a result.  But there’s a hero to this story.  There’s a Redeemer who sets us free from the condemnation that’s owed to us.  We have been forgiven if we’ve put our trust in Christ Jesus.

But why do so many of us still live like we’re under that condemnation?  Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies, piling on tons of guilt that isn’t ours to bear.  Worse yet, some of us do so in the name of God, thinking it’s actually Him that’s given us this sentence to be carried out.  But the Bible is clear, there is no more condemnation for us if we’re in Christ.  We’re free from that bondage.  If we’re living under self-imposed condemnation, it’s time to let it go and exchange it for the joy God wants us to have in Him.

Who is to condemn us?  If it’s not from God and He’s the all-powerful, eternal Creator and Ruler of all things, then who can possibly do this to us and be in the right?  No one.  Trust in the Lord and freedom is yours.  Condemnation is a thing of the past.  Live like it.

In Opposition

It’s hard at times, isn’t it? For as hard as one may try to live that good life, that example that is given in love and honesty, strengthened by the teachings of Christ, the truth is that it almost always seems as if someone somewhere is going to take exception to you. It’s one of those frustrating truths that sort of always seems to come out.

But then, can one really be that terribly surprised? If the perfect Son of God found Himself amidst the challenges of those who opposed Him (Matthew 22:15-22) despite all that He was and that He meant for humanity, suffering even unto His death, (Mark 14:53-65, Mark 15:21-41) then, in our own imperfect nature, what chance does any one of us have? If Christ Himself couldn’t please all of the people all of the time despite the fact that He had come to save all humanity, than how can we expect ourselves, in trying to live our lives, to find that we have any more of a chance?

No, the real challenge of Christian living, of being a disciple of Christ is not a question of if we meet opposition in our lives, it is not a question of whether or not we are challenged by those around us, if we are liked by those around us. The real question is a matter of how we meet them. It is a matter of how  we respond when it seems as if we are overwhelmed by the burdens of dealing with those who do not like us, who, for one reason or another, have taken exception to us.

The truth is that sometimes it is harder than others, sometimes it hits us harder than others. Sometimes it seems to pile up on us until finally we wonder exactly what is going on as we feel the pressure and the weight of it all. We don’t want it to affect us but, in a way, we just can’t seem to help it. After all, we are made to be social creatures, to exist with  companionship, whether it is marriage or relationships, friendships or acquaintanceships, with others. (Genesis 2:18)

God knows that we are going to have confrontations. Then again, it doesn’t take the Almighty, Omnipotent and Omnipresent sight of God to understand and to see that. Yet He also knows that, for as much as they may affect us, they aren’t what defines us. What defines us, what defines the love, the hope and the beauty of our souls is the way that we react to it. It is why, each and every step of the way, He seeks to show us the path towards righteousness, telling us that, though the race may be long, we need to run it with endurance, living with patience and love even towards those who have shown nothing but malice and hatred towards us. (Matthew 5:43-48)

You see, life is hardly going to be fair and there are times when it isn’t going to be right. It is during these moments when the only thing that can be done is that we live according to the people that God intended us to be, realizing that even though we are in this world we are not of it. (Romans 12:2) In other words, as the great Reformer Martin Luther once put it, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from making a nest in your hair.” For as negative as it may become, only you can let it have any power over you. Only you and you alone can let it wear you down or affect your mindset.

That doesn’t mean that you should not respond when you are attacked, or when the opposition you face comes to meet you head on. What it does mean is that the Disciple need to remember that whatever worries or stress it may cause, God is the one looking out for you, He is protecting you from trouble that it may be bring and, as such, it makes no sense in giving yourself grief over it. (Matthew 6:25-34) In the end it is going to be as it needs to be, for better or for worse, even as the Disciple comes to understand that the worst will always end up giving way to the better if they trust in the wondrous and divine nature of God’s grander design.

What opposition do you face in your daily walk? What challenges from others burden you? Lay them at Christ’s feet, go to God’s throne and kneel, praying that the hearts of those who may dislike you are changed, but also praying that your own heart is changed so that you are able to look past to the brighter future God has in store for you, realizing that sometimes life is just full of opposition but that is life and other people’s problem, not yours, even when they try to make it yours.

It is then that the peace that you seek will not be far behind as you focus yourself on the things you can change and trouble yourself not with those that you cannot.