Archive for the “Relationships” Category

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
2 Corinthians 5:20a (NIV)

I was shopping at Walmart the other day and a sales associate smiled and greeted me as I walked by. His greeting took me by surprise and put a smile on my face.

And the Holy Spirit used the opportunity to remind me that I am Christ’s ambassador…and then to ask me how that was going. The answer – not nearly as well as the Lord and I would like it to be. You see, I keep forgetting to act like an ambassador. The Walmart associate was doing a better job that day of being an ambassador for Walmart than I was at being an ambassador for the Lord. Ouch!

I once took a missions trip, and throughout the trip, I was so aware that my behavior represented Christ to the people around me. I made a point of smiling and being pleasant and talking about the goodness of God. Throughout the trip, I was mindful that I wanted people to see Christ in me, their hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

Then I came home. And I returned to life as usual. I don’t want to live my life as usual in 2015. I want God to use me to impact the Kingdom of God. That requires living life as an ambassador for Christ. Let’s put the verse in context:

16So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

18And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NLT)

One of the purposes God has given us – and it’s one He will infuse with His power as we perform it (read this blog for more on that topic) – is telling others about Christ. That’s what this passage says, but it wraps in it in a bit of a different package.

God, through Christ, took the initiative to reconcile the world to Himself. That means He took the first step to restore the relationship between sinful man and holy God. That reconciliation is possible because God no longer counts our sin against us. That’s His gift to us. We are forgiven. And being forgiven, our relationship with Him is restored to the way God originally intended it to be – loving, intimate and ongoing.

He’s given us the message of reconciliation – in other words, He wants us to tell others that they can be reconciled with God, just as we are. God is making His appeal to the world through us – you and me. In other words, we are Christ’s ambassadors. We speak and act for Him.

An ambassador is “the highest-ranking person who represents his or her own government while living in another country” (Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary).

  • We’re not flunkies! As ambassadors for Christ, we are people of high stature and authority. We speak for the King. We’ll need to study what the King would say and how the King would respond to situations we encounter if we want to represent Him well.
  • We represent the government of our true home – God’s Kingdom. To do so, we must know as much as we can about our country – God’s Kingdom. Its values, customs and goals are significantly different from our earthly country.
  • We live in a country that is not our home. While we’re here on earth, we’re just passing through – earth is not our home. Lord, help me to live that way! Someone who is just passing through travels light. I confess that I’ve accumulated too much stuff to be considered one who is traveling light!

It’s important for us to get all three of those points firmly planted in our minds and spirits. Being confident of these things, we can fulfill our role as ambassador effectively. When we lose sight of any of those points, our ambassadorship is hindered. We don’t live or act in the authority of the King, we don’t represent Him well or we become too preoccupied with the way things are done in our temporary country.

While living in our temporary home, it’s important that we have a Kingdom perspective. Verse 16 reminds us that we should not evaluate others from a worldly or human perspective. In other words, everyone we meet is a child of God, create in His image, loved by Him. God wants to shower His love on each person we meet. He wants each person to join us with Him in eternity. Do you view people from this perspective when you meet them?

Lord, change my perspective. Help me to see others as you see them. Help me to love others from a Kingdom perspective and in a Kingdom way.

I want to be a better representative of Christ in 2015. How about you?

Comments Comments Off on Let’s Be Christ’s Ambassadors

Pair of Dolphins KissingLet me give you some insight into our typical schedule. Three or four days a week my husband works second shift at the job God has graciously provided to pay our health insurance. I work fulltime in our home-based business during the normal work day (and beyond). So I am in the office by 8am, but because he doesn’t get to bed until about 2am several nights a week, Phil doesn’t come in until 9 or 10am.

This morning, I was busy working – in the middle of writing something – having a full thought in my head that I was trying to rapidly get on paper (well, screen actually). I also had a second thought in my mind that I desperately didn’t want to lose – it was firmly planted as the next task, but if I didn’t get to it soon, I was afraid it would wilt before blossoming.

That’s when my husband came into the office. He didn’t follow his normal routine – going to his desk and cheerfully say “Morning, Beeb!” (now you know our favorite term of endearment for one another). Instead, he came to my desk, pulled up a chair and came in for a kiss.

Now I love my husband dearly and I love his kisses…but I REALLY wanted to get these thoughts down…kisses could wait, but could my thoughts? Yet I felt prompted, yes, I believe by the Holy Spirit, to turn away from my keyboard and give my full attention to my husband. Praise God that I was obedient to that prompting. My husband greeted me with a very tender kiss followed by professions of his undying love. It wasn’t a peck, and it wasn’t passionate – it was soft and gentle, letting me know that I am a treasured woman. Wow!

And the Holy Spirit turned it into a teachable moment.

§ Giving and receiving love and affection from my husband is more important than getting the next thought on paper or the next task done.

§ God can use moments to change our lives. How long was my “interruption” this morning? Not long. Yet my day is changed. And I know Phil’s day is changed. In the front of my mind is the tender moment we shared and the knowledge that I am very special to him. Moments that can change days can change our lives.

§ God is my Husband. He has given me an earthly husband not only for my joy, but also as an illustration – an earthly picture/experience – of my relationship with Him. He wants to surprise me with tender moments that can change my day and my life. I could have said to Phil “I’m in the middle of something” when he pulled up a chair this morning. I would have missed out. I can say the same thing to God – “Lord, I need to finish this thought before I pay attention to You.” And it will be my loss – I will miss the opportunity to experience God’s love, His grace, His wisdom – all things He wants to shower upon me. I will miss the moments with God that can change my life.

Lord, thank you for lessons that come out of tender kisses. Thank you for my husband, who loves me and who gives me glimpses of Your love and care for me. Help me to be tender toward You and toward him – even when I’m in the middle of some seemingly urgent task.

Husbands and Wives

1In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2by observing your pure and reverent lives. 3Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God….

7In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

8Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.
1 Peter 3:1-4, 7-9 (NLT)

Gentlemen – Kiss your wives tenderly. Love her.

Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
Proverbs 5:18 (NLT)

Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
Colossians 3:19 (NLT)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)

Ladies – Love your husbands passionately. Read Song of Solomon in a modern translation and love your husband as the young woman loves her bridegroom. And resist the urge to nag.

2Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine. 3How fragrant your cologne; your name is like its spreading fragrance. No wonder all the young women love you!
Song of Songs 1:2-3 (NLT)

A quarrelsome [or nagging] wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day.
Proverbs 27:15 (NLT)

Comments Comments Off on My Husband Greeted Me with a Tender Kiss This Morning

Two women friends chatting over coffee at homeWhat Ever Happened to Biblical Fellowship?
A few weeks ago, Phil and I spent an evening with a friend playing games, getting to know one another’s history, then worshiping and engaging in Biblical fellowship. It was a wonderful night. We had great fun playing a quirky board game. We enjoyed the food we shared. Worship was wonderful. But the best part for Phil and I was the Biblical fellowship. In all honesty, it feels a bit wrong to say that the Biblical fellowship was better than the worship, but I think it’s an issue of familiarity. I enjoy worship frequently. True Biblical fellowship is so rare. And that’s a sad thing.

Biblical fellowship is not just fellowship with other believers. It is fellowship centered around what God is doing in our lives. It is talking about what we are learning from our daily Bible reading. It is sharing the nuggets of joy or peace or His presence that we experienced during our times with God. It’s talking about a recent sermon we heard or book we read that impacted us. It’s sharing our spiritual history with one another.

The sad thing is that in Christian gatherings, the conversation sounds much like the conversation around the water cooler at work, perhaps different only in the cleaned-up language that is used. Topics and conclusions differ little. It is an indictment against us that we talk more about sports and hobbies and families than about what God is doing in our lives.

Why are our conversations so lacking in spiritual content?
Three answers come to mind immediately:

  1. We are embarrassed to appear “too spiritual” to our friends. Since no one else is doing it, we’re embarrassed to be the first kid on the block to change the conversation. I say, let’s be courageous! Start the conversation!
  2. We don’t want to embarrass the people we’re talking to. Maybe they aren’t in a place in their spiritual walk where they would have something to share. And we don’t embarrass them. Phil and I have found that the people we want to be around most are those who challenge spiritually. If that’s the case, why do we shy away from being those people? Again, I say – let’s be courageous! Let’s start the conversations!
  3. We aren’t spiritual enough. We can’t talk about what God is doing in our lives because we’re not aware of what He’s doing. We’ve allowed our life and our vision to be filled with the things of this world leaving little or no room to encounter God and see Him at work in our life. I don’t want to be that person (but admit that I sometimes (often?) am). I say – let’s make God a priority every day, and then practice looking for God at work in our lives. (Read Developing a Seeking Heart for more on this.)

Biblical Fellowship Conversation Starters
While generally it’s a good idea to start conversations by asking questions about the person you’re talking with, when introducing Biblical fellowship into your conversations, that might be a bit risky. It puts others in a vulnerable position. It’s much better to start your Biblical fellowship conversations with stories about your own experience. After sharing your vulnerability, you can engage them in the conversation by asking questions. Here are some ways to get the Biblical fellowship conversation started:

  • “I saw something yesterday that reminded me of the goodness of God. __________________________________.” (Sometimes all it takes is beginning the conversation. Your initial comment may spark continued Biblical fellowship in others without you asking them any questions.
  • “I read something interesting in during my quiet time this morning…” Then follow your story up with something like ‘What do you think about that passage?”
  • “I noticed something I’ve never noticed before in the story of _________________ (fill in the appropriate Bible story). Have you noticed that before? What do you think about it?”
  • “I read a blog this morning that challenged me to _________________. How do you _________________?”
  • “Recently, God has been impressing upon me the need to _________________, but I don’t know where to start. Do you have any ideas? How do you _________________?”
  • “On Sunday, our pastor said _________________ and it really hit me. So I’ve started to _________________. But I’m having a hard time with _________________. How do you do that?”
  • “Tell me about how you came to the Lord.”
  • “Have you attended any Christian conferences recently? What was the theme? What impacted you the most?”

In our society, the conversation rarely centers around God (at least not in a positive way), even at Christian gatherings. Be the person that changes that. Yes, it takes courage. Yes, it means making yourself vulnerable to others. And yes, you’ll be opening the door to uplifting and encouraging conversation. So a final time, I say – let’s be courageous! Let’s start the conversations!

Oh, and by the way, it’s a great way to enhance your spiritual walk with your spouse. Take your joint walk with the Lord to new levels by regularly having Biblical fellowship.

Comments Comments Off on Start the Conversation!

From Discouragement to Disappointment - Enlist a FriendFaith is the confidence, assurance and substance of things hoped for – things we confidently expect to happen. It is the conviction and evidence of things not yet seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (expanded translation using NLT, NASB, NKJV, NRSV and Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)

Faith, at its core, is confidence in God and what He has promised. My experience is that sometimes when we’ve been slammed by life that faith waivers. This series has been about specific actions we can take to strengthen or rebuild a waivering faith. We’ve looked at four specific actions so far:

There is a final action that will help you with these first four steps.

Faith Building Action 5 – Enlist the Help of a Friend
Don’t go it alone. Especially when you’re feeling your faith begin to slip. Find a friend and share your struggles with him or her. Then ask for help in three specific ways:

  • Ask them for encouragement. Ask them to remind you when you can’t remember about the goodness of God and about your own worth and value. Choose to believe them when they remind you how important you are to God. Choose to believe them when they remind you that God has gifted you uniquely and specifically for the things He’s called you to. Choose to accept their love when they offer a hug or an arm around your shoulder.
  • Ask them for prayer. Ask them to commit to pray for you throughout the coming month. Share specific situations in which the enemy is most likely to bring discouragement. Share weaknesses and sins that need to be exposed so that the enemy’s power is diminished or cut off. (Note that weaknesses are not necessarily sins – don’t beat yourself up because you can’t do things God didn’t create you to do, but be aware that certain situations may highlight those weaknesses and cause you to respond in sin or disbelief.)
  • Ask them for loving accountability.We all need someone who will lovingly tell us when we’re not making good choices – choices that build our faith. Give your trusted friend permission to do so and heed their words.
    • Perhaps we’re not remembering to praise (or have slidden further down the slope into complaining). A trusted friend can often spot our slipping behavior before we do and remind us gently to return to praise.
    • Perhaps we’re not embracing our identity in Christ. Your trusted friend can be a tremendous encouragement to you reminding you that you are a forgiven, redeemed, child of the Most High God and bride of Christ.
    • Perhaps we’re still working in our own strength or to please others. Allow your trusted friend to challenge you without taking offense.
    • Perhaps God has given us His strategy but we’re backing away from it. Our retreat may be from fear or simply poor priorities. A trusted friend can help us see what’s happening and encourage us to begin walking in the right direction.

Scripture says this about the value of a trusted friend:

9Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12A 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.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)

Enlist a trusted friend to help you strengthen your faith, and be intentional about making it a triple-braided cord – that is, one that includes God. When you enlist your trusted friend, be sure that you both agree that your goal is to grow in faith and pursuit of God. Develop your relationship to be one in which you spur one another on to the good works God created you to do (Ephesians 2:10).

Comments Comments Off on From Discouragement to Faith – Enlist the Help of a Friend

Therefore I [Paul], a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.
Ephesians 4:1 (NLT)

God is worthy. He called us. Paul begs us to lead a life worthy of that calling. Yesterday’s blog dissected this verse in greater detail. If you don’t have it strongly in your mind and spirit that you are of great value to God, re-read yesterday’s post.

Paul continues his letter to the Ephesians by explaining what that worthy lifestyle looks like:

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.
Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)

There’s an interesting phrase in that verse – “making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Have you ever noticed that your children or your spouse or your best friend can “get away with” things that might cause you offense when done by others? That’s called idiosyncratic credit. Your children or spouse or best friend have built up credit with you so their offenses don’t offend. You forgive immediately and easily. When someone else does the same thing, you get annoyed. Maybe it’s not an issue of offense, maybe it’s just a frustration.

Here’s a pet peeve of mine – people who open a can of pop but drink only a little of it. Yes, I know that’s a stupid little thing to have as a pet peeve. But it makes for a good illustration. If Phil opens a can of pop and then doesn’t finish it, I might feel a small irritation, but very quickly my mind and emotions “cover” the offense – “poor Phil, he set his can down and forgot about it – I wonder what’s on his mind today.” Or “that’s my sweetheart, always setting things down and forgetting them – I love him so much!” Or even “what’s with this half empty can of pop? Oh well, I guess he needed a little taste of something but then couldn’t finish it.”

Now if I have a gathering of people at my house and during cleaning up afterwards there are four half empty cans of pop it will annoy me. I have to work at extending grace to the four people who didn’t drink the whole can. I don’t have to work at extending grace to Phil, but others…well, it’s just not as automatic.

So don’t get hung up on my pet peeve (I’m getting over it), but take my point – I’m sure you can identify that you more easily extend grace and forgiveness to loved ones than others. Paul is telling us to treat others as we treat our loved ones. “Make allowance for their faults because of your love.” That’s extravagant love. That’s Christ-like love. It doesn’t come naturally. It takes effort – a lot of effort sometimes. Paul urges us to do just that:

Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.
Ephesians 4:3 (NLT)

Make every effort Paul says. Don’t make a half-hearted effort toward unity, but make every effort. That means making the first move…even if it wasn’t your fault. Because God who is most worthy has considered you – and whoever you might need to make an effort with – worthy.

What follows a few verses later is Paul’s discussion of gifts that God has given to the body – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Interestingly enough, often it can be the gifts God has put in others that frustrates us – because each gift brings some inherent characteristics along with it that are sometimes at odds with the characteristics of other gifts. An evangelist, for example, wants to see the bulk of your church’s effort go toward evangelism. The teacher, on the other hand, wants to see the bulk of your church’s effort go toward building up the body. Without making every effort, differences like that can become issues that keep us from living in unity. And without unity we cannot fulfill God’s greatest commandment:

29Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. 30And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
Mark 12:29-31 (NLT)

And lacking in that commandment, we will not fulfill the great commission God has given us:

18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NRSV)

Make every effort to live worthy of God’s calling. Live on purpose and with purpose.

Comments Comments Off on Live Worthy

February 13-19, 2012 is RAKWeek – that’s Random Acts of Kindness Week for those of you who missed the memo.

I am a big fan of random acts of kindness, although I confess to not doing them as often as I’d like. I think they are a great way to soften people toward the Gospel. Christians are frequently viewed or portrayed as judgmental or negative (we shouldn’t be either, of course). Random acts of kindness combat that stereotype. That’s a good thing.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading Proverbs 11 and learned that kindness has another great benefit:

Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel.
Proverbs 11: 17 (NLT)

We can nourish our souls in many ways, but being kind has a double kick – when I practice kindness (whether planned or random), both my soul and the recipient of my kindness are benefited.

I love the word “nourished.” It has the connotation of caring for something so that it becomes healthier and more beautiful. Wilted or brown edges are restored. Strength is revived. Flowers bloom and fruit grows.

In the context of this verse – that is, nourishing our soul, it also carries the connotation of bringing an inner peace and joy – a resting from toil and strife. Say it with me…Aaaaahhhhhh.

All that can be yours and mine through the simple act of kindness. Want some creative ideas? I’ve included a few below, but check out the Random Acts of Kindness website for more.

Lack of kindness is a spiritual issue. It is conceived when one sees the world through earthly eyes instead of the eyes of Christ. It takes root when we focus more on ourselves than others and is watered by impatience, jealousy and pride. Each of these things is called sin. Each keeps us from stepping outside ourselves to show kindness to others.

Yet that’s exactly what we need to do –remind ourselves that we are not the center of the universe, ask God to allow us to see others through His eyes, and commit to reaching out to others in kindness. It doesn’t take a lot of money, and it doesn’t even have to take a lot of time.

Show some kindness. Here are some ideas:

  • Smile – REALLY smile – at strangers.
  • Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk or cut their grass.
  • Cut flowers from your yard and give them to someone.
  • Buy two pizzas the next time you order and give one to a friend.
  • Pay for the Starbucks of the person behind you in line.
  • Invite the child of a friend to help you create a scrapbook for another friend.
  • Leave a generous tip the next time you eat out.
  • Pick up a candy bar for your coworker the next time you hit the vending machines.
  • Pick up trash from your neighbor’s yard.
  • Play with your neighbor’s children for an afternoon.
  • Call someone who needs to hear from you.

God has lots of ideas – ask Him! He’ll bring them to your mind.

My mom (Happy Birthday, Mom!) lives in a heathcare facility and has been for more than a decade. Yet she finds ways to be kind to other residents every day. Often they can’t reciprocate and sometimes they can’t even show any appreciation. But mom knows that when you give kindness away, your own soul is nourished. She laughs every day in the midst of very difficult living circumstances. I know that her laughter comes from a well-nourished soul.

What fools we often are! We hurry through life and worry about so many things, when slowing down just a bit would enable us to see the needs of others, respond in kindness and receive nourishment for our own souls in the process.

The New King James Version translates our key verse with a slightly different slant:

The merciful man does good for his own soul,
But he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.
Proverbs 11:18 (NKJV)

Kindness and mercy go hand in hand – showing mercy is showing kindness. Both require seeing someone’s need and moving to meet it. God has shown all of us tremendous mercy. He’s forgiven our sins – all of them.

Lord, help us to respond to others as you have responded to us. Help us to show mercy – kindness – to those around us.

Let’s nourish our own souls – let’s perform random acts of kindness – not just this week, let’s make it a lifestyle! Feel free to share your ideas for random acts of kindness as a comment or on Facebook.

Comments Comments Off on It’s RAKWeek – Nourish Your Soul

9Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. 10If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. 11And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? 12A 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.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)

As I read this passage last week, my first reaction was to praise God for the perfect life partner He’s given me. My husband is God’s gift to me, given to demonstrate unconditional love.

As I read verse 12, however, I saw a much broader application. Verse 12 tells me a couple of things. First, it tells me that being alone is a dangerous place. The enemy will attack those who allow themselves to live a life without relationships. There are those who take pride in being a loner. Let me encourage you if you are one of those people to resist the label and the urge. Loners are people who are at risk.

Verse 12 tells us that the person standing alone can be attacked and defeated. The enemy will attack and has the ability to defeat the person standing alone. Knowing this, we ought to take care NOT to be alone. Even when that’s what it feels like we want, we need to ensure that there is at least one person around us to help fight our battles.

Conversely, when we see others who are alone, we can become that battle partner sometimes. This doesn’t mean we’re always in battle. It can also be the fun things we’re doing that makes the person not alone – those things are part of the battle. We’ve been having a lot of conversations about community in our house lately. Community, especially Christian community, offers protection against all sorts of trials the enemy will throw at us, and as Phil and I see the end times approaching we believe that Christian community will be more important than ever. But I digress.

This passage provides a great picture of a friend – one who stands back to back with the person to fight off their enemies; one who helps us out of a pit when we’ve fallen in it. A friend is not one who tears us down. If there is someone in your life who is tearing you down, they are not your friend. If you are tearing down someone in your life, you are not being their friend. We are called to be friends, encouragers, and bearers of one another’s burdens.

So I see the passage cautioning us to be purposeful and careful in developing relationships so that we have at least one friend who will always have our back. That often means reaching out when I want to draw back. It also cautions us to be that friend to someone else who needs it. Again, that often means reaching out when I want to draw back because the person who needs a friend may be someone who is difficult to friend. Perhaps, if the enemy has been attacking that person for a long time he has won the battle for his or her joy. Such a person needs someone to pull them out of the pit, to warm their soul and to have their back.

That kind of relationship can be difficult and the battle we help to fight can be a hard one. But then we have the last part of the verse: “a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” It is that third strand, Christ in the midst of the relationship, that ensures our victory. He provides the strength – emotionally, physically and spiritually – to stand when we would rather rest. He provides the love when we would rather not love. He provides the wisdom when there seems to be no way to victory. He provides rest and nourishment in the midst of the battle.

As mom always said, “two heads are better than one.” Be purposeful in developing relationships in 2012. And be sure it’s not just the two of you in the relationship – seek out friendships with fellow believers and make Christ the center of your fellowship. For your protection and theirs…and for the glory of God.

Comments Comments Off on Momma Knows Best…Two Heads are Better than One!

A few weeks ago our church sang Robin Mark’s song “Fortress” during worship. Referring to heaven, verse 2 includes these lines:

Where with men and angels
Where with slaves and kings
I will sing my praise to You alone

As I sang, I was arrested by the image these lines brought to my mind. As sinful people, we are prone to focus on class differences. We are often awed by the “kings” of this world and put off by the “slaves.” In the United States, we might think of the “kings” as leaders in industry and culture. Michael Jackson is the “King of Pop,” Elvis Presley the “King of Rock ’n’ Roll” and “Benny Goodman the “King of Swing.” Were I to be introduced to any o f them, I’d undoubtedly feel intimidated. Heck, I’d even be a bit intimidated just to meet Clifton Chenier, the “King of Zydeco.”

Yet the song brings home the point that in the presence of God, those prejudices will fall away. We wouldn’t have praise for the kings; all our praise would be for God. Position and status in this world will be so meaningless.

As I thought about this, it further occurred to me that all earthly prejudices would fall away – including those of created by touchy relationships. If you’ve lived very many years on this earth, there are some people who have hurt you deeply. Perhaps you’ve done your best to forgive them but there is still hesitancy in your heart that causes some level of discomfort when you are around them. As we sang those lines in the song, I began to realize that in heaven, even these prejudices will fall away. I will stand next to those who have hurt me singing praises to God with full and complete joy in my heart and not a trace of discomfort!

How foolish we are to hold on to these things in our heart! God is so much bigger! In heaven, He will hold our full attention and we will sing our praises to Him alone…and the things we thought important in this world will fall away. Yet Scripture teaches us that we are to take hold of our eternal life while on this earth (1 Timothy 6:12). Perhaps one of the ways we do that is by allowing God to hold our full attention so that the petty class differences and relationship difficulties can fall away. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1) and being released from these things is tremendous freedom.

Here’s lyrics to the whole song:

Fortress, by Robin Mark
By Robin Mark & Paul Baloche
copyright 2007 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music

Verse 1
I have found a Fortress in the Living God
I have made the Sov’reign Lord my refuge
And my voice will tell of all His saving grace
Though the depths of which
No man could measure
In the days of plenty in the days of want
I will put my trust in You alone
For there’s no heart greater than the Father’s heart
And there’s no love sweeter than the Son’s

Hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah to my King
Hallelujah hallelujah Jesus Christ my ev’rything

Verse 2
That this love pursued us is a mystery
For the heart is base and You are holy
Yet the streams of mercy that flow over me
Will afford me grace to stand in glory
Where with men and angels
Where with slaves and kings
I will sing my praise to You alone
For there’s no heart greater than the Father’s heart
And there’s no love sweeter than the Son’s

Comments Comments Off on “Where with Men and Angels and with Slaves and Kings…”

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?
1 Cor 6:7

In my blog last week, I jumped off this verse, concluding that the Apostle Paul was able to overlook offenses because he kept his eyes on the prize – Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). He was so focused on Christ – what He had done, what He was doing and what He would do in the future – that he didn’t have the time or expend the energy to deal with slights, real or imagined. That’s a great message and one I need to remember.

But it wasn’t the message I had in mind when the Holy Spirit highlighted the verse to me. As I was typing out the phrases that might answer the question “Why not rather be wronged?” I could feel indignation (righteous indignation I would like to think) welling upwithin me. But God was showing me that the indignation, even if it was righteous, would lead to actions that didn’t reveal His heart to the offender. He brought this verse to mind:

12Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
James 2:12-13

Mercy triumphs over judgment. That’s grace! God is being merciful toward me instead of giving me the punishment I deserve. But grace carries two meanings – it is both that which is extended to me by God, and it is the reflection of that grace working in my life. (See a short blog about it here.) What that means is that in my life, I should be striving to allow mercy to triumph over judgment…not nursing my indignation whether it is righteous or not.

Considering the tremendous grace God has shown to us, it is not our place to measure out punishment. Paul put it this way when writing to the Romans:

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:17-21

Paul begins the passage with a warning not to repay evil for evil and ends with the injunction to overcome evil with good. He leaves little wiggle room for bringing lawsuits or claiming “our rights.” Between the two verses, Paul gives what might be even harder instructions – we’re to actually bless our enemies – not just with words, but in deed.

And then there is verse 18. God often brings this to my mind: “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” That wording implies that I ought to be proactive in bringing about peace. I’m not to just make peace in my heart, but to take whatever action is possible to make peace when there is friction between me and someone else. Yes, boundaries may be appropriate, but “if it is possible” I’m to make peace.

These are challenging instructions. God has given us His Spirit to guide and enable us. Sometimes the hardest part is being willing. I find that often, what is required is the simple prayer “Lord, make me willing.”

Comments Comments Off on Mercy…Judgment

“When you feel like your heart is broken beyond repair, remember that nothing about this place is ordinary. You are uniquely poised, at this very moment, to share an intimate part of God’s character. It’s the place of the broken heart, and it’s sacred ground.” Stephanie Voiland

Experiencing rejection, betrayal or abandonment? Read Stephanie Voiland’s article “The Sacredness of a Broken Heart.” It’s a great article and you’ll be glad you took the time to read it.

Comments Comments Off on The Sacredness of a Broken Heart

© copyright 2009-2013, Data Designs Publishing and Sandra J. Hovatter