Posts Tagged ‘ Relationships ’

Ethics & Relationships

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:16-17 NRSV

MP900439536[1] One of the favorite courses I took in college was a course on ethics. The instructor was frail white-haired gentleman, who knew how to cut right to the heart of an issue, and then apply the principles of the Christian faith to the problems of daily living.

Now, more than 30 years later, I don’t remember any rules he taught or principles he proposed. What I do remember is a man whose life was fully given over to loving and serving Jesus Christ. He lived and breathed his faith. He walked with Jesus every step of the way. It was out of the relationship he had with Jesus Christ that his ethic developed.

My ethics are the principles by which I live. I didn’t wake up one day and choose what ethical principles I follow. My ethic gradually emerged as I spent more time growing in my faith and drawing closer to Jesus. As my relationship with Christ matured, the principles that would guide my life became clearer. When I think back, that is exactly what I saw in the life of my professor so many years ago.

MP900422584[1] In my opinion, wise people aren’t wise because they just know the right thing to do. Wise people have a relationship with their Creator. They humbly receive the love and grace offered them by their Redeemer. They submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Then, those experiences so shape and transform them that they are able to see the truth and apply it in powerful ways to the challenges and dilemmas of life.

We could argue about what’s right and wrong. In the end, whoever shouts the loudest and argues the longest will probably win. But as Christians, we are called to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Out of that relationship love will grab hold of us, open us to truth, teach us wisdom and guide our hands to doing what God wants done. In my book, that’s the best ethic of all!

Networking Gone Bad

That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other, before this they had been enemies. Luke 23:12 NRSV

MP900402718[1] As we get closer to remembering Jesus’ last days and his resurrection, I want to look behind the scenes for a minute. We know that Pilate and Herod were both reluctant participants in the Jews’ plot to do away with Jesus. But what often gets missed when we talk Jesus’ death is that these two became friends.

That relationship was certainly an unholy alliance. Still, it was a coming together of enemies around a mutual problem. Interestingly enough, after the whole Jesus affair was over, the relationship continued.

In today’s terms, I would say that Herod and Pilate were good at networking. They reached out and found a way to help each other. The only problem was that their actions were directly responsible for Jesus’ death. That sounds to me like a case of networking gone bad!

MP900439345[1] Networking is supposed to connect people to people of influence. It is supposed to help us form useful alliances. It is supposed to expand our opportunities and open doors for us.

Networking did all that and more for Pilate and Herod. Unfortunately, they had a total disregard for who they were networking with. I don’t think I would want to drop Herod’s or Pilate’s name, if I were trying to get into the kingdom of God. I wouldn’t want anyone to know I had anything to do with those two!

Today social networks are all the rage. The more “friends” people get on Facebook the more connected and important people feel. I have nothing against being well-connected and having rich social networks. But I wonder what those networks say about us.

MP900442246[1] What does your network look like? What does your list of people who have friended you say about you? What do those relationships say about your beliefs, your desires, your goals, your reputation? Do your social connections reflect your faith and the truths you try to live by?

Let your faith guide you to God-honoring alliances that will build you up, bring honor to the kingdom of God, and help you fulfill Christ’s calling on your own life! As you do, you will enjoy the benefits that come with networking done right!

Avoid Spontaneous Combustion

Strife is stirred up by the hot-tempered. Contention is calmed by those slow to anger. Proverbs 15:18 adapted

MP900390445[1] In the certain industries, people work around combustible materials and explosive gases. In those places safety is the #1 concern. Everything possible has to be done to protect the workers. Of course the key to safety in those situations is prevention. The focus has to be on reducing the risk of combustion and explosion.

Relationships can be just like those combustible environments. Angry, temperamental people can spark conflict in a flash. All it takes is little misunderstanding, and they explode. That is the wrong kind of person to be in a relationship with. For some, it creates a dangerous environment, which threatens their safety and well-being.

abstract fire on blackWise people understand the dangers of spontaneous combustion. They recognize the  havoc a hot temper can cause. So they are careful to not throw gasoline on the fire. They don’t fight back with anger. They know that fighting fire with fire can explode into a disastrous situation.

Wise people are slow to anger. They don’t purposely aggravate a situation. They don’t look for ways to cause trouble. They are the kind of people I want to surround myself with.

What I find is that when I am around those who are slow to anger there is a calm, even in stressful times. My life is tough enough. I don’t need to be around angry people who stir up problems and set fires. I need to partner with those who work hard to prevent conflict, and who respond to life’s stress with patience, love and Christ-honoring action.

You may be in a combustible situation, and you may not be able to change your MP900442246[1]environment. The key is to surround yourself with people who will work hard with you to prevent the kinds of explosions that break relationships apart and destroy lives. Those who put the love of Christ into action can reduce the risk of strife and bring calm to even the most difficult times.

Why not keep yourself near those people?  Why not do all you can to reduce the risk of spontaneous combustion!

Committing to the Cause

MP900399987[1] Finding satisfaction and stability in relationships is one of my favorite topics to teach.There’s lots of research on having successful relationships. The problem is that knowing what works is one thing, doing it is another.

One of the most interesting trends in relationship research is the finding that couples who move-in together, prior to marriage, have a much higher rate of break-up than those who do not. There may be many reasons for this, but I imagine the lack of commitment that goes with cohabitation plays a big role.

Whether married or not, all relationships go through highs and lows. The demands of life and the stress of daily living can leave two people feeling distant and disinterested. Once the relationship is strained, cohabiting couples see little reason to stay together. Ending the relationship seems the logical course.

Of course when there is a commitment, like that offered in marriage, it is much more difficult  to walk away, and the consequences tend to be much more damaging.  MP900423080[1]So when stress mounts, and the marriage relationship ends up on rocky ground, doing what we promised to do is key. Marriage involves promising to love, honor and cherish our partners. There was nothing in my vows about “as long as it works out” or “as long as I feel like it.” So when the going gets tough, the committed stay together. They hold true to their vows, and do what they promised to do.

I am surprised at how often what I learn in my marriage relates to my relationship with Jesus Christ. Just like in marriage, I find myself at times feeling very close to my Lord. I enjoy a sense of deep satisfaction, because of the faith relationship I have. There are other times when that isn’t really the case. At those times I don’t walk away from my faith. I don’t turn away from Jesus’ calling on my life. I don’t look for another religious guru to follow. I do the best I can to work through the issues I am having, and try to stay true to my commitment.

Loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and loving others as myself is not always what I feel like doing. But that is what am I committed to doing. My commitment to Jesus Christ, and my promise to serve him to the end, is what keeps me going.

Relationships that last don’t come from the luck of the draw. They last because the people in them are committed to the relationship, and willing to do whatever it takes to honor that commitment. A faith that flourishes isn’t just luck either. It’s the result of disciples who honor their commitment to Jesus Christ!MP900309381[1]

As I mentioned earlier this week, an exceptional life comes from an exceptional commitment. Let’s rededicate ourselves to the cause of Christ, and recommit to being a people through whom Jesus can touch the world with love!

Families That Flourish

MC910217021[1] Our homes can be havens of blessing and places of peace. Instead, many families struggle to stay together, as relationships grow distant, and the ties that bind are strained.

MP900422733[1]I am certainly not a pessimist, but I am a realist. I recognize many families are in trouble. The divorce rate in our country for first marriages is trending to 50%, 60% for second marriages and over 70% for third marriages. That tells me the problems that plague our most intimate relationships are not fixed by changing partners. If we want to save our marriages, and build homes that are healthy and nurturing, we have to change ourselves!

Jesus’ command to love one another as we love ourselves is key to having the kinds of relationships and family ties God created us to have. But what does it mean to love another as ourselves? I want to make a few suggestions of how we might start applying Jesus’ words to our homes and family relationships.

First, we must move from a me-focused to a we-focused life. As much as I care about what I want, how I feel and what is going on in my life, I should be equally concerned about my family’s wants and needs, feelings and challenges, dreams and goals.MP900289346[1]

Second, we must put our faith into practice in our homes. In James 2:26 we are told that faith without works is dead. What good does it do for me to claim that I am a follower of Jesus Christ, if I refuse to put Jesus’ teachings into practice in my most important relationships?

A home that is built on a dead faith is going to be in big trouble when the wind starts blowing and the waves begin rolling. Relationships that lean on the joy of the Lord for strength, that cultivate the peace of Christ, and practice sacrificial love are more likely to stand strong in good times and in bad.

Third, we must put Jesus Christ in charge. He must be the Lord in our relationships and the Master in our households. His truth must be the law we live by. His Spirit must be the guide we follow. His will must define the direction our lives take.

Happy family of five together at homeOf course you probably knew all this. But I hope this is a gentle reminder of how important it is to guard and nurture the precious relationships and families ties we have. Relationship require work. As we do the kind of work Christ calls us to do, our homes will become havens of blessing and places of peace, and our family relationships will flourish!

Getting Beyond Fairy Dust

MC900445012[1] The songwriter writes,Oh, how I love Jesus…”

John Piper writes, “To love God we must know him…If we do not know anything about God, there is nothing in our mind to awaken love…There may be some vague attraction in our heart or some unfocused gratitude in our souls, but if they do not arise from knowing God, they are not love for God.”*

Relationships are complicated. The quality of our relationships depends on many things. Piper’s words suggest that a loving relationship can only be built on knowing the other person. The more we know about the other person, and the more intimate our understanding of them is, the deeper our love for them can be. couples,love,men,persons,photographs,romances,women

But some relationships involve more infatuation than love. Infatuation provides a kind of “vague attraction.” I like to call it fairy dust. When fairy dust falls, something about the other person grabs our attention. That kind of relationship is fun for awhile, but eventually the fairy dust disappears and the attraction subsides.

Interestingly enough, the Bible talks quite a lot about relationships. Jesus even referred to himself as the bridegroom. The question is, what will our relationship with Jesus be like once the honeymoon is over? What kind of life will we enjoy with Jesus? The answer depends on what our relationship with him is based on.

If I am infatuated with Jesus Christ, awed by his power, moved by his kindness, and caught up in the enthusiasm of the crowd that follows him, there may not be much to build on after the honeymoon.

But, if after my initial attraction, I spend time really getting to know him, if I walk with him, talk with him, listen to him, and start trusting him, I will be fanning the flames of true love. I will be building my relationship with my Savior and Lord on solid ground. That way, when the fairy dust wears off, I will still have a relationship that is rich, deep and lasting!

10215923 We are all born with an amazing capacity to love. That love can draw us into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. It can also help us build rich and rewarding relationships with others.

But lasting love requires that we go beyond the fickleness of our feelings. Love requires an intimate knowledge of our beloved. The more we know, the deeper our love will be. That principle applies not only our love for God and Jesus, but to every love relationship we cultivate in our lives!

So, if you want to live a life of love for Jesus Christ, do whatever it takes to know him better.  The better you know those you love, the richer your relationships will be after the fairy dust settles!

*John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World, p. 76