Archives For relationship

Continuing the series Meat & Potato (MP) Sermons is a foundational, yet greatly misunderstood part of the Christian faith. The importance of understanding Grace in the context of God’s Love is mind-blowing and life-changing to say the least.

Grace is defined as unmerited favor and it is a gift from God. Gifts are valued by what they cost and I think the lack of understanding of what Grace cost God is the root of the issue for why most people don’t “get it”. In order to process the immeasurable value of Grace, you really have to go back to the garden of Gethsemane and see Jesus wrestling with His destiny of being separated from His Father for three days.

Jesus spent hours asking one question in the garden – are you sure there isn’t some other way – all the while committing that the Father’s will be the leading factor in the entire decision. Think about that for just a minute. Here is the Son of God wrapped in human flesh – the only man to have perfect communion with God 24/7 – wrestling with God over having that communion broken for 72 hours.

If you’re a parent, you can probably remember the first time you left your child with someone else overnight. There was probably multiple phone calls and very little time not wondering how they were doing. That bond is insignificant compared to the bond that Jesus has with His Father.

Grace is a gift that is given at a very high cost and it was Love that propelled both God the Father and Jesus toward being able to present that gift to mankind. Grace is what allows us to respond to God’s call when He wants to save our eternal soul. Grace separates unrighteousness from the person God wants to use for His purposes. Grace is the ultimate expression of God’s Love and is the only way God and His creation can be in relationship with one another.

Understanding the Grace that God gave us should also have a dramatic effect on the way we relate to others.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. ~ Col. 3:12 – 14

You see, we have been forgiven everything and been loved into eternity with God. That Love dictates that we extend that same kind of forgiveness and love to others. May we allow that very Love to compel us to place the highest of value on each and every person we face and consequently strive toward relational harmony always.

Bitterness, strife and hatred are signs that God’s Grace isn’t understood. Likewise, legalism (the strict adherence to rules at the sake of relational intimacy) is a sign that we place a higher value on being right than being close and indicates spiritual immaturity.

We need more teaching on Grace and Love – first to better understand what God gave us and then applying that same gift to the people all around us.

Lord, may you continue to extend my understanding of your precious gift and grant me the wisdom and courage to act accordingly toward those people you place in my life. Thank you for saving me and expressing your wondrous Love via Grace.

As part of the human condition, we will naturally gravitate toward what is not good for us or others. It’s OK, we can all finally admit it – we are not inherently “good” by any definition of the word. This is unequivocally true when looking at the person of Christ for He is the only good man that has ever lived and died on this spinning rock.

Which brings me to the importance of being intentional and keeping the things our renewed heart longs for right in front of us and chasing hard after them. Because, as Christians, we have been changed at a fundamental level, life – true life is now obtainable in a world where death is all around.

I’ve been reminded (again) that life is not found alone – for some reason, God designed life to be found, experienced and given in the context of intentional relationships. Seeking out others and doing everything you can to ensure the relationship survives thrives is what is required.

If you look at the life of Jesus, He chose His followers with a great deal of intentionality – seeking out just the right men to train and eventually hand over the future of His church. It wasn’t random or left to chance – it was tactical precision based on the end He knew was coming.

For us, such precision isn’t possible because we can’t see the end of our story, so we have to explore and evaluate what God is doing when He brings people into our lives. Sometimes, it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but being open to taking a look is the key.

James Bryan Smith writes in the last chapter of “The Good and Beautiful God” about pickles. It is an analogy to God’s people and just as the ordinary cucumber is transformed into the mighty pickle through the right environment over time, we are transformed when we soak in His spices (Prayer & Scripture) and bunch up with other people in the process throughout life.

Making pickles is a very intentionally transformational process – one that can’t be rushed and produces a wonderfully unexpected result. It is time we become intentional about relationships again and commit to putting the small stuff behind us and allowing the Grace of God to overcome our bumpy exteriors.

Who is in your life that knows EVERYTHING about you and loves you anyway? If the answer is “nobody”, let me suggest that you add that request to your prayer time. It might take some trust and will for sure take some faith, but in the end, we were always meant to be a Sweet Baby Gherkin rather than just small cucumbers.

God has been stirring in my heart over the past several weeks and the Tipping Point (great book) was a friend of mine torpedo-ing his life. I say the Tipping Point (great book BTW by Malcolm Gladwell) because God has been working on this in me for a while now, but seeing a friend lose everything in a blink of an eye made it very real and God used it to knock me off center.

One of the “ah-ha’s” from my friend’s situation was me concluding that nobody was close enough to him to identify the signs that led to his very public failure. There wasn’t anyone with enough relational capital to get in his chili about the condition of his heart and what he was doing to stay out of the deep weeds. I concluded this because I’m confident that had a person like that existed, things would be different for my friend.

That conclusion sparked another rabbit trail centered around the analogy of war. I had just finished watching Band of Brothers for the tenth time and that provided the visuals God needed to bring some very important points home to me:

  1. No war is won by an individual – it takes a team. Not just any team, but a well-trained, strongly led, close-knit group of soldiers with a common mission and like minded strategies.
  2. Success is a result of solid preparation, great execution and fanatical perseverance. The soldiers of Easy Company that jumped in behind enemy lines on D-Day (from the series) had all of the ingredients to play a critical role in winning World War II. They trained tirelessly, kept their heads in the heat of battle and dug in like ticks when they absolutely had to hold that line.
  3. There’s a time to play it smart and a time to get crazy. Taking undue risks usually meant trouble for those soldiers except when it was the last thing the enemy expected. Wisdom is knowing the difference and that comes from great leadership.
  4. We need men around us that would weep if we died. One of the things that can’t be calculated tactically is the extent we would fight for those we love. The war produced a bond that was both unexpected and surprisingly strong. When that bond was threatened, logic faded, raw emotion took over and survival became the sole focus. And when survival didn’t happen, their hearts broke and were never the same.

I started trying to take an inventory of my own life against these principles and I found myself sorely lacking in every one of them – and that scared me.

  • I don’t feel like I’m on any teams that both believe victory is possible and have a consensus about how it can be achieved.
  • I don’t feel like I’m prepared or execute very well and at the first sign of resistance, I crumble like a Christmas cookie wondering where my fallback position is.
  • I play it smart when I should be charging the hill and I charge the hill when I should be playing it smart. Sounds like Paul’s famous passage in Romans 9:15.
  • I also don’t think there is any man who would miss me so much that tears would be the result of my passing.

This is very sad to me and not how I wanted it to be at 37 years old. And God tells me that isn’t how He wants it either. Scripture is filled with references to how important it is to live life in the context of close relationships. Love implies that very condition and we are called to love above all else.

I’ve thought a ton about how I got here and why the principles listed above aren’t more true of me and perhaps they will find themselves listed out in another post; however, I want to conclude by telling you that I am on a journey mission crusade to change this.

  • I’m going to be sure that the teams I serve not only believe victory is possible, but they have a good sense of how it will be achieved – especially those in the Church.
  • I’m going to better prepare my mind and heart with His Word and use it when making decisions and facing the hard things in my life.
  • I’m going to more frequently use prayer for wisdom when discerning¬† the difference between hunkering down and issuing a battle cry.
  • I’m going to, in faith, reach out to my friends and figure out a way to move those relationships to the next level. I’m ready to be open and honest and place my heart in their and His hands in the hopes that it will produce a bond that makes a difference in the middle of a firefight.

I’m so convinced that these steps are no longer negotiable that I’m going to dedicate this year to seeing real change in this arena. And now that I’ve made my plans public, you are free to ask me how it’s going. I hope you will from time to time and I also hope you will take a moment to assess where you are and come up with your own action plan to ensure that no man is allowed to take himself out of the fight.