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.

Affirm others

Proverbs 3:27 (NIV)  Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.

 

There is a lot to be found in scriptures about others believers poorly. A believer is told to turn the other cheek in Lamentations 3:30, and the entire book of Job is filled with stories of distress. Life as a Christian does not come with a built in guarantee that happiness and joy will come easily. But God tells us how we should treat others while he reminds us that life isn’t always going to be easy.

 

Proverbs 3:27 is one of my favorite verses. In my opinion, one of the most empowering things that you can do for someone else is to give credit where credit is due. A variety of things get in the way at times. We get too busy. We are too proud. But one of the best ways that you can give someone strength is to pay them with your words. Give them verbal credit when they have earned it. It may feel uncomfortable, but giving positive words of affirmation can be completely what another person needs and perhaps God wants to work through you today!

 

Ecclesiastes 7:5 It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke than to listen to the song of fools.

 

Self Worth is earned when we work hard for something and earn it. Let someone earn positive words of affirmation today that come from you. They may be surprised, and honored. Flattery doesn’t find it’s way into true self worth. Your genuine words of truth and affirmation are a special and unique gift that can only be given by you.

 

Those of us who have children can apply this in a practical way today with our little ones, and affirm them with positive and appropriate words. Even children know when adults simply flatter them.

 

Even better, affirm people in the presence of others. Giving credit where credit is due is a gift that is deserved. It will fill your children up better than a drive through meal and appropriate, deserved affirmation will give them more self worth than the half dozen other activities that we tend to enroll our children in, and then subsequently rush them to throughout the week.

 

Galatians 6:10 (NIV) Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

 

The gift of our words

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Facebook is an amazing reflection of the relationship between the voice in ones head, and voiced expressions. Statuses update regularly with statements about how old, or young, the cashier at the grocery thought that the writer was, a comment that someone’s boss made, and what someone’s teacher said about their child. Various surface interactions don’t often require our full attention, but at times, they consume our full attention and tend to leave us thinking about the exchange of conversation. Later, we facebook about it:

“I can’t believe I got carded at Publix…”

“My son’s teacher told me that I look tired- I must look terrible today!”

“The Walmart cashier asked me when I was due; the baby is 4 months old!”

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

What we say, although seemingly fleeting, often lasts much longer than we realize. I think that we can all relate to an unwelcome harsh word that sticks with us longer than we would like, or the blessing of an uplifting kind word that sticks with us for days, months or even years.

Words that we speak can give someone the discouragement necessary for them to give up on trusting God for something big.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

In fact, planting something positive in someone’s life is one of the best ways that you can ever pay it forward. We don’t easily forget the kind things said to us, or on our behalf. The blessing of positive words can be life affirming and can arm a person with confidence and security needed to walk with God, even when it is scary or uncomfortable.

Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle- Plato

Give someone a beautiful gift today by speaking positively into their life. Give somebody something wonderful to facebook about!

The importance of words

Our small group is doing an excellent study by Rick Warren, and our latest installment discussed truthfulness, forgiveness and patience. All hard things. All important things.

 

We all have the power to emotionally debilitate someone with our words; they are immensely powerful. We also have the power of providing infinite healing to others with the words that we choose.

 

I think that many people have been in a situation of uncomfortable confrontation. Sometimes warranted, sometimes not. At times, feelings of defensiveness, being misunderstood and hurt, and betrayal as the realization that the confronter has discussed your faults with others may abound.

 

The Bible calls us to care enough about others that confront one another when a person has a stronghold of sin in their life. In my experience, this is very difficult. We often imagine a twosome of classic dogooders, rightfully confronting in love, but bracing for the confrontee’s escape from their grasp. We pretend like it’s black and white, and that we ourselves can manage the situation with a co-confronter, and maybe a little elbow grease. We don’t like to do it, but bygolly, we’ve got to because the Bible says to do so. Why would damage come to the relationship if we are Biblical about our approach?

 

But what if we are wrong? What if the Bible is calling us for a different level of confrontation?

Ephesians 4:29 ESV 

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Please consider to do the following, when the burden to confront a friend arises:

 

Remember the effort. Validate that person for the effort and the cost that has been required in their situation and in their life. Give credit where credit is due within confrontation and outside of confrontation. Leave your pride at the door. Really. Every person has value- find it and pierce them with it. Even if it hurts you to do so.

 

Remember the emotion. A childhood victim of abuse must still suffer the consequence of any adult crimes that they commit. This is no excuse. But their experiences and their emotions are valid. Don’t forget to validate them. When we don’t validate emotion, we give people no other option than to defend themselves. When we don’t recognize their feelings, we slay them with judgement. The consequence must still come, and the confrontation must still come, but the circumstances are valid.

 

Proverbs 12:18

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

 

Recognize the exhaustion. A person who is treating an area of their life or another, is often hopeless and tired. Recognize it, name it, and put it away. The runner needs validation of the exhaustion of the race, even if they have lost their way. Validate, and help them to find the right path.

 

 

Validate the effort, validate the emotion, allow the hurt or pain to do the backstroke around the room, but don’t make excuses for the behavior.

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ESV 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; … 

A loving relationship requires much, but I encourage everyone to remember that it is difficult to confront in love and truth, if your words and actions don’t represent words and truth. When confrontation isn’t necessary, I continue to believe in the need to validate the effort, exhaustion, emotion and validate. The times in which we lay down our pride and get uncomfortable about reality may just be the times in which it is the most important. If we give credit where credit is due with our words in good times, then we will be heard when times are bad. If a person is recognized and knows that they are appreciated and heard, then they will likely be less likely to feel under appreciated, unheard or slayed when a confrontation arises. If we practice removing the layer of pride that we take everywhere with us, then the confrontation will feel more natural to both parties.

 

1 Thessalonians 2:1-20 ESV 

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. …