Tag Archives: heart

Restaurants & Relationships

I’d like to disclose one of my strong personal preferences that actually drives a certain set of behaviors in my life: I will not go to a restaurant that has poor service. Let me clarify that…I will go once to that restaurant but I will not go back again. If I will be spending money to eat out then I not only expect the food to be to my personal liking but I also emphasize that the people who work there at least pretend to be glad I have come. Call it snobbery, call it presumption or call it reasonable if you choose. In the end, it’s my choice and this personal preference determines my actions… and I have no plans to change my standards. It is one thing for me to take such an elevated view of my individual tastes when it comes to eating out. It would be an entirely different issue if I allowed this same principle to determine my relationships. By the grace of God I have been made to understand that I must not walk out on people, refusing to return, because they don’t serve my personal tastes. Let me explain.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” – Romans 14:17-19

The Apostle Paul teaches us in Romans (chapters 14 & 15) that we owe each other a debt of love and a commitment to work through our personal differences in order to cultivate lasting, meanigful relationships. Specifically, he is speaking to Christians who clearly have opposite views on some peripheral issues within God’s Kingdom. Paul takes off his scholar’s hat for a moment and has to replace it with a black and white striped referee’s cap as he tells the followers of Jesus that they must think a little more deeply and try a little harder at maintaining the unity of Spirit in the bonds of peace with one another. The people to whom he was originally writing were very frustrated with each other over things like eating meat, observing Jewish holy days and whether or not Christians were able to drink wine. Paul clearly identifies stronger Christians as those who were liberated from fixating on religious technicalities and presumably binding traditions. The weaker brethren were seen to be those believers who could not feel secure unless they obeyed their scruples – and they expected everyone else to obey those personal tastes also. To the freed, stronger Christians Paul gave a warning for them to be careful how they exercised their spiritual liberty. To the weaker Christians he offered the command to stop judging the freedom of the stronger brother. As a pastor who has navigated these waters many times, I can almost hear Paul sighing as he writes those two chapters.

Have you thought lately about how your particular views/preferences/standards are affecting your relationships with others?  What does it take for you to give yourself permission to stop associating with another believer? Are you thinking of breaking fellowship with your church and finding one that better suits your personal tastes? Sometimes you can convince yourself that your individual preferences carry the weight of Gospel truth. They do not and we deceive ourselves if we assume that God always allows us to step away from others because we do not agree with them in non-biblical matters. Going back to the restaurant metaphor, when we come to moments of decision like these we need to slow down and consider whether the saturation of other available “spiritual dining establishments” makes it too convenient for us to move along from where we currently dine. Let’s be honest: in the Bible belt where many of us live, we can head out a few miles in a different direction to locate a new home church every time we discover that our current fellowship serves up the Sunday meal with some seasoning we do not find appealing. We glibly call it church-hopping but I think we might do well to consider that sometimes it is simply outright selfishness and sin.

Paul told the Romans in the verses above that God’s Kingdom can never be reduced to our personal scruples. God’s Kingdom involves you but it is never all about you. As followers of Jesus we need to seek the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to become more like our Savior in this area. Think about it: everywhere the Son of God went He was surrounded by people, words, ideas and events that failed to meet His own holy standards. Nobody thought like He did, everyone was truly “beneath Him” but they never felt that way. Interestingly, He just kept revealing His commitment & availability to those people. He pressed further into the needs of those people. He remained in places where He knew that His words, Kingdom-offers and saving mission would not be appreciated nor accepted. Jesus even washed the feet of the betraying Judas… but some of His modern day followers cannot even give the right hand of fellowship to other Christians who don’t carry the same English bible translation as they do. Jesus went to a party at the scandalized Zaccheus’ house while some of His 21st century followers won’t go to a local church whose music style doesn’t meet their personal tastes or whose denominational banner doesn’t mimic their own . Jesus asked the Father to forgive His tormentors while He was impaled to a cross – yet today some younger Christians arrogantly write off the older as irrelevant and some older Christians callously judge the younger as irreverent. Turf wars never begin in the church house. They find their origin in proud hearts.

I won’t be going back to yesterday’s restaurant where I took my family to eat after church. The food was pretty good but the way I was served was woefully lacking. To not ever go back is not a difficult decision for me. They won’t miss me and I can just go across the street to the place I am more familiar and where I am always appreciated and served. Yet I don’t view my relationships with others in this same light. Do you want to know why? Because they are not here to serve me in my relationships. I am here to serve them. I am not a consumer negotiating a transaction with them. I am a follower of Jesus as they are and we are part of a forever-family. When that driving principle takes up home in our hearts we will love more selflessly, work more thoroughly, stay more lastingly and hope more enduringly. Set up your personal criteria for restaurants any way you may choose. Be a little more deliberate and humble when you are considering Kingdom relationships.

 

GUEST POST:

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Jeff Lyle,
Lead Pastor of Meadow Baptist, Lawrenceville, GA

@Transtruth

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Are You Stuck in the Old Testament?

imagesMany of us do it. We live an Old Testament existence in a world of New Testament promises. I guess Law will always appeal to our flesh more than Grace. So we go along mistaking the physical lesson of the Old Testament for the spiritual truth of the New Testament.

Recently, there it was in my Bible reading. In Joshua 5 there was a lesson I found thrilling. Here were the Children of Israel freshly arrived in the Promised Land, and after the drama of the Jordan crossing, the Lord’s first order of business was the practice of circumcision. They had carried it out years before in Egypt, but over the years of wandering they had neglected it.

Well, we are supposed to look at OT stories with NT light, right? The circumcision that the Lord is really after is circumcision of heart. So many times we neglect it and it is urgent that we put it in practice again. Just think of the pain of carrying out that call to circumcision! I understand that “sharp knives” of Joshua’s day were flint stones. I don’t want to be too graphic, but I would dread it! Any surgery with stones instead of modern day knives would terrify me.  So, I suppose even at the cost of discomfort we must do the work the Lord seeks in our hearts. In verse 9 we were even told that “This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you.” He never said it until the events of this chapter. This we need and in verses 13-15 the Lord came. Pretty exciting stuff, huh?

These lessons get by us too easily. We’d rather pull out the stones of flint than do real heart surgery. We’ll inflict the pain of body and leave our souls at ease.

We become consumed with the object lessons. We prefer the tangible, outward things over the spiritual, inward things. Since this lacks spiritual power, we turn on each other and watch for the pool of blood and listen for the screams.  We are always ready to point out everyone’s failure as if circumcision could tell us all of our hearts. Our conclusions miss the point and hurt others, as well as ourselves. Need I remind you that Jesus has come through in the interim between Joshua and us?

Perhaps we find the pain exhilarating. Perhaps we enjoy it more if we see others suffering with us. I don’t know. We inspect the circumcision, so to speak, while the Lord says you are seeing the object itself as the lesson and missing the point. But we can see the circumcision and we can prove we did it. We can never prove what is in our hearts. We settle for what we can impress others with while being indifferent to what might please the Lord. We live the Old Testament as if the Lord had no greater revelation in the New Testament to share. Pretty ridiculous, wouldn’t you agree?

If I saw the point I’d pray for my heart and yours. I’d listen carefully as the Lord spoke to me and encourage you to do the same. But I’d leave the stones of flint to your own consideration and ask you to keep them away from me. Live the Old Testament if you please and I’ll keep my mouth shut. As for me, though, I’m rather fond of the New Testament.

Symptoms of the Heart – Part 2

“Take two pills and call me in the morning.”

At times the heart may produce symptoms of a possible problem that requires immediate medical attention while at other times produce mild symptoms that cause no need for concern at all. For example, a person that is relaxing in a lazy chair may need to consult a medical professional should his heart begin to accelerate at great speed without cause. On the other hand, someone who has been running a marathon would not be as concerned with a higher heart-rate.

Unlike the physical heart, the spiritual heart has only two possible conditions; wicked or righteous. As mentioned last week, these conditions put forth symptoms that can be diagnosed to indicate the state of one’s heart. We have already discussed the heart that speaks with profanity and vulgarity but there are other symptoms that can reveal the condition of our hearts as well. Jesus said, “For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness and slander” (Matthew 15:19).

Every town has at least one gossiper, but you didn’t hear that from me! Morris Mandel said, “Gossip is the most deadly microbe. It has neither legs nor wings. It is composed entirely of tales, and most of them have stings.” Do you know anyone that circulates rumors, spreads secrets and speaks with hurtful words? No, I’m not talking about the new presidential administration; rather, I’m talking about those who have private information about people and spread that news with others who have no business knowing it. I’m talking about the intentional defaming of another person’s name or reputation without so much as considering the wound such actions will yield.

The Bible tells us, “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul” (Proverbs 18:7). We find today that the world has placed lesser value on sins such as these considering them “trivial” if nothing less. Because of this foolishness, the world has turned gossip into an accepted form of entertainment in which consumers actually pay to hear more of! Walk into any grocery or retail store and you will probably find newspapers and magazines devoted to nothing but the spreading of rumor, hearsay and scandalous affairs.

But the Bible speaks very directly to such things when it says, “Those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32). Gossip is not trivial; it is a serious sin and one not to be tampered with. Jesus said, “The things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” (Matthew 15:18).

Gossip is a symptom of a tainted heart in critical need of renewal. Only God can provide this renewing of the heart by His redeeming gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. If you are guilty of the sin of gossip but desire to restore your heart to God you can do so by turning from your sin and placing your faith in Jesus Christ. To learn more contact michael@michaelwaits.com

Article by Michael Waits

@michaelwaits

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