Tag Archives: Relationships

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.

 

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

@Transtruth

5 Tips for Living On Mission with God

For us to live on mission with God and allow Him to do His work through us means that we must be attentive to how ‘we see life.’  It will help if we can see the whole of life in the context of sowing and reaping… understanding the importance and implications of this Biblical principle in the context of everyday relationships.

Sowing and Reaping1. Forget shortcuts

Don’t look for substitutes, cramming schemes, and quick-fixes when sharing the gospel.

2. Focus on sowing

Live to contribute, not consume… to invest, not get… to serve, not be served.  We are usually too harvest-driven, too focused on reaping.

3. The fruit is the seed

The Spirit’s fruit produced in my life is the seed planted in someone else’s life.  The Spirit’s fruit in me grows out of a good root system.

4. The field is not my solitude

The field of others is located a great distance from the solitude and isolation of self-interests.  I can’t live for self and others simultaneously.  Note: My interests may not be evil within themselves… only if they keep me from my purpose for being on earth as one who worships God.

5. My fulfillment in life will be the sheaves I bring forth with rejoicing

Praise the Lord!  It is after we go and sow in tears… that we come and reap with joy, bringing our sheaves with us… those we have influenced to follow Jesus.  In this experience, we find fulfillment and the joy of obedience.

 

by Pastor Bob Cook | facebook |  bio
The Church at Grace Park

Postmortem for a Dream – Part Four

In February 2011, I wrote a series of blog posts for ChurchWorks Network about what has been by far the most acutely painful time of my ministry life. Though nearly two years have passed, I remember everything like it happened yesterday.

rowell2In the time between my announcement and the last gathering, some of the original people came back into the picture and expressed, with some degree of smug satisfaction, their disapproval of my leadership. These were people whom I’d ministered to as spouses became sick and either died or regressed irreversibly, whose bedsides I’d sat next to, weeping and praying. Their rhetoric stirred up emotions in me that I hadn’t felt in a couple years, emotions I thought were behind me.

So it became clear to me that the church had never fully moved on from what it was, because some people had never moved on. If I were to list the lessons I’ve learned, perhaps the first would be that some people will never change, and it’s better to know as much as possible ahead of time whether they will or not. In retrospect, I have to take responsibility for never asking them that question.

I’ve learned that I was irresponsible in going into a situation without having planned, as much as possible, for how I would provide for my family. Almost from the time I got here, I reacted to changing realities (in terms of the church’s ability to pay me, what kind of job I’d need, raising support, etc.), instead of proactively preparing.

I’ve learned that a dream is only as valuable as the plan for accomplishing it. And I’ve learned that the dream of healthy, deepening relationships with my God, my wife, and my children is of far greater importance.

I’ve learned that, even as the odds were stacked against me, God was shaping me and my ministry style. And I’ve learned that the end result of this chapter of my life does not invalidate who I have become and what I have come to value as a leader and pastor.

I’ve seen the grace of God, in giving a dying congregation five more years to advance His mission. I’ve watched God used a dying church to reach out to and completely, beautifully change the very life trajectory of some very special people. And I have every confidence that God will use our experiences in their lives to impact the churches they engage.

So there is pain, and there is joy. There is frustration, and there is gratitude. There is doubt, and there is faith. There is the end of one chapter, and there is the beginning of another, even as it’s fuzzy at the moment.

And above it all is God, Who gives and takes away, Who comforts and frustrates, Whose ways are not my ways.

I trust Him.

Article by Mike Rowell

@redhedrev

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Is Peace in Every Human Relationship Possible?

I was recently watching a TV show and saw a character, a grown man, who was talking about his list of “mortal enemies.”  The comical part was the reasons the man had that led them to get on his list.  One “enemy” was a TV character he idolized who failed to make a scheduled appearance the man had attended as a child.  Another was “on the list” for opening the package of a collectible toy that apparently was valuable.  The reasons this guy had “enemies” was not because they committed some atrocious act against him; in many cases the reason had practically nothing to do with things the “enemy” had done but was instead about his reaction and his pettiness.

Shortly after this I read Proverbs 16:7, which says: “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”  That’s powerful!  Implicit within this verse is the idea that there is peace in all relationships, even those relationships which humanly you cannot imagine being peaceful.  According to Matthew chapter 5, when we, as believers, remember that our brother has anything against us, we are commanded to make reconciliation.  Immediately following, we are also instructed to agree with our adversaries quickly.  These verses put the onus on us, not the other person in the relationship!  We are commanded to consider whether someone has a problem with us and, may I add, when we have a problem with someone.  We are told to take the steps necessary to reconcile and to do so quickly.  Few of use regularly practice step one; and I fear even fewer even consider step two!

Inspection

Most of us rarely stop to evaluate our human relationships.  We may look at our marriage or our family, but, assuming we do even this, we almost never evaluate our workplace relationships or our friendships.  It’s as if we think things are unchangeable.  Are there regular conflicts with others in your life?  When you do recognize a conflict or strained relationship, do you think things like “so long as he works here it will always be like this” or “I wish those people would just find another church” or “why does my spouse always create problems?”

Introspection

When we are dealing with issues in any relationship, especially with people we’ve never gotten along with, the tendency is to complain about and blame them.  Our first reaction should be inspection, followed immediately by introspection.   What should you and I do?  Look inward and see if “our ways please the Lord.”   Biblically speaking, this our duty.  Are you living life according to God’s commands?  Are you exercising patience, love, and forgiveness towards others?  Have you taken affirmative steps to mend relationships, even when you think you weren’t in the wrong?

The Exception

Bible study reveals that sometimes there are times when Satan attacks Christians, but contentions and strife generally are of our own creation.  Our biggest mistake is not that we fail to realize there is conflict or a lack peace; our mistake is often that we want to blame it on “the Devil” when it likely is “our ways” that need examining. Don’t try use the exception as an excuse to avoid inspection and introspection.

In Proverbs chapter 3, God tells us that the ways of the wise are “ways of pleasantness” and “paths of peace.”  Does this describe all of your human relationships?  We can claim God’s promise of peace but only after we have look inwardly and know that we are living our life in a way that pleases the Lord.  With God, peace in every human relationship is possible.

Article by Bryan Likins

@bmlesq

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…Because It’s Not Just a Lesson

I recently accepted the opportunity to teach the adult Sunday School class at Fishers Baptist Church, and today was my first class as the teacher. I was grateful to be asked!

Sunday School presents unique opportunities for a more interactive style of communication, and for building community, that can sometimes go underutilized. I thought I’d share with you some of the ways I’m being intentional with this opportunity:

  • Our physical environment is the main worship space, where the seating is divided into four sections in a semi-circle shape. I began our time by asking everyone to come together into the middle two sections, a request they complied with mostly willingly. 🙂 Physical proximity changes the dynamic of any environment, and awareness of physical presence sometimes is a first step toward engaging at other levels.
  • As part of my other roles at the church, I generally wear a suit or sportcoat and slacks, with ties and, if I say so myself, some pretty sweet pocket squares. But for this environment, I wanted to project a less formal presence, and send a message of willingness to get to work. So I took off the sportcoat and rolled up my sleeves.
Ip-man-rolled-up-sleeves-donnie-yen

I struck this pose after I rolled up my sleeves. That wasn’t weird, was it?

  • I used a lectern on the main floor of the worship space, and did not use the pulpit/platform. It puts me closer to the group, and also sends the message that this time/setting is different from the worship service, and has different purposes.
  • I explained to the class that I had three things I wanted to accomplish in this setting: to facilitate building relationships, work together on the rhythms that allow our relationship with God to grow and deepen, and study the Scriptures together (I’m using James Dyet‘s study of Colossians as a base).
  • I encouraged the class that, though it would be hard sometimes, being honest and open would help us to build relationships God could use to meet needs. I asked if anyone in the class had something that was weighing on their mind going into this week, and a young mother mentioned that she had finals coming up. I asked her how we could pray for her, and she wasn’t sure, so I asked if anyone else in the class had taken finals before, and others offered specific ways in which they would be praying for her. Then another lady in the class volunteered to watch her young son so she could better prepare. It was a pretty cool moment, and, I hope, a validation of it being worthwhile to push through the discomfort to be more open about our needs with each other.

In whatever role you’ve been given, in whatever sphere of life you’re operating (work? family? church? spirituality?), you have the chance to be more intentional about doing the things, sometimes large but mostly small, that set you up to be successful in your endeavor. These are some of mine: what are yours?

Article by Mike Rowell

@redhedrev

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Prioritizing Important Relationships

Think about this for a moment – All relationships are not important. If all relationships are important, no relationship will be important.
Developing and maintaining key relationships is a critical discipline if we are going to genuinely care for people, live out vision, and help others achieve their full potential.

Relationship development (especially with those closest to us) is not something you or I can simply check off of the to-do list. And it’s certainly not an exercise in convenience. Effective leaders genuinely value key relationships and make them top priority.

All about relationship

Sarah and I have scheduled a standing lunch date every Friday. Our lunch dates have become a time for us to push the pause button on the rest of the world and catch up with each other.

Last week we decided to eat a quick lunch and run a couple of errands together. From my perspective, this plan would require an abbreviated lunch to allow time for our errands.  So we selected a restaurant and I asked her if she’d like for me to call ahead with our order so it would be ready when we arrived. Good plan, huh?

If you said yes, Sarah didn’t agree with us.

She responded, If you’re going to call ahead we might as well go through a drive-thru.

Since I sincerely had her in mind when I suggested streamlining the process, I asked her why it mattered if I called ahead.  She reminded me that our Friday lunch dates are less about eating – and all about relationship. (So we went through the Chick-fil-A drive-thru – just kidding.)

Be all there

It took me several seconds to slow my thought process – and enter the moment with her. She is important to me – my most treasured relationship in the world. So why would I want to rush this one afternoon which we set aside to enjoy our time together?

Important relationships will not grow when we’re in a hurry. In fact, these relationships will become strained and fall apart if we approach them without intention. There are no shortcuts in relationships. So leave the phone in the car. Forget about emailFacebook, andTwitter. It’ll be there when you get back.

Listen. Laugh. Love. Wherever you are, be all there. – Jim Elliot

 Worth it

We chose a table out on the porch of one of our favorite cafes in Clemson. Sitting in the cool breeze, we laughed about our differing perspectives. While we talked, I scribbled down these thoughts on the back of my receipt. (I know, I was supposed to be in the moment with Sarah.)

It didn’t really matter that our order took extraordinarily long to make it to the table. Or that this restaurant cost a few more dollars than drive-thru alternative – it was worth it! Because I value her – and I value our relationship.

Prioritizing key relationships will cost you. Relationships require time when it’s inconvenient. They require more money when there’s not much. They keep you awake when you’re exhausted. And, they’re worth it!

Because those few relationships that you value most – whether family, friends, or colleagues – will become those which bring the greatest fulfillment in life.

So create more perfect moments with those who are most important – when time stands still and, at that moment, they realize that they are the most important person in the world.

How do you give make sure that you are giving your full attention to key relationships?

Article by Michael Nichols

@michaelenichols

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