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The Relationship

Man and woman outdoors clasping hands, close-up

Connect. For the love of God, connect.

There is a person I know whom God has put on my heart, an unbeliever so far from Christ it seems impossible she could be saved.

But all things are possible for Him.

This person speaks out often against religion and is committed to atheism. I’ve been praying and waiting for the right moment to speak, for speaking at the wrong moment can spell disaster.

Recently, this person said something and the Spirit said, “Speak. Speak now.”

The person said, “Religion is destroying the world. People are ruined by it and they don’t need it or any other silly superstitions.”

I said, “So you have no beliefs at all beyond the natural? For you it’s just survival of the fittest? Your immediate needs and that’s it?”

“No,” the person replied, “I do believe in karma, that people end up getting what they deserve.”

“So? That’s a religion. There’s no “god” or whatever, but you believe in something more. Something beyond the natural, because science says that’s bunk. There’s just what’s in front of you.”

“Well, I’d call it a belief system. It’s not a religion.” the person explained.

“Oh, then we may have different definitions of religion then. Sounds like your definition is like rules and rituals and so forth.” I said.

“That’s right.” the person clarified.

“In that case I’m not religious either and I agree with you as well. What I am a part of is about a relationship. I believe there is a Being who transcends everything and Who created everything. I believe the most important thing in a person’s life is to have a relationship with this Person.”

“Oh,” the person said, “Well that’s different, that’s good then.”

For all the miles this person has to go before they are even close to responding to the Gospel, we moved an inch today. But I praise God, because due to our human nature, that person shouldn’t have moved at all.

But that’s not why I am posting this. I am posting this because as I drove home something hit me.

I am religious. I observe rules and rituals. I have not been pursuing God as a relationship.

A fire that had long lay dormant within me kindled, and I began to weep. I pray every day, but how long had it been since I was so enraptured with His presence that I had to be torn away from it? I read the Bible almost every day, but how long had it been since I opened my Bible with eagerness the way a wife embraces her husband after he has been on a long journey?

Too long.

Takeaways:

  1. Engage the Lost. You will learn as much from bouncing what you believe off them as anything else. We Christians are far too good at patting each other on the back.
  2. Forget your problems. God actually commands this of us. We should focus on our relationship with Him. All good works will flow from that relationship. We don’t do good to know God, we do good because we know Him.
  3. Check your affections. How much affection do you have for Christ? This is something we should check on a daily basis as we should with our spouses.
  4. Relationships are of highest importance. God first, and others second, but for the love of our Lord, connect. I feel like I’ve kept everyone, including God, at a distance. Do not do this. God is all about relationships. That is what matters.
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Posted by on August 19, 2015 in Sanctification

 

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But God…

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Pictured: A living embodiment of God’s grace for me.

Grace.

I’ve always struggled with this concept.

“How can a good God send people to Hell?”
I have never struggled with this question. God’s justice and his wrath have always made sense to me.  Even from a very young age, I understood the Law of Sin and Death. Those who sin deserve to suffer in Hell. It just made sense to me. You’ve offended almighty God, what else should you expect?

Then there is me. I deserve Hell. I don’t know what others have done, but I know what I’ve done. I’ve caused people misery and suffering just because I could, because I wanted to. I deserve no less than Hell.

“But God…”

There is a hymn we all know that tells us that grace taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. The Bible taught me about the ugliness of human nature, about the holiness of God and how we all deserved to burn in Hell for our terrible sins.

“But God…”

But I could not ignore it taught something else too. Something beautiful beyond words. Something I could not understand.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Ephesians 2:1-9

What? You mean God isn’t going to punish me according to my sins? That doesn’t make sense, I am a lawbreaker. I deserve Hell, I must go there, it is only right.

“But God…”

Yet somehow I found myself daring to believe in this. It was a miracle of God, just as the passage says, not because of any decision I made. One October night, God suddenly and miraculously convinced me of the truth. The same truth that taught me to tremble in fear of His wrath taught me that wrath was borne by Christ and now I had nothing to fear. I believed on the Name, I repented of my sins, and I was born-again.

But the grace of Ephesians was something I struggled daily to believe in. I struggled so badly to believe it, but I still felt that this gift must be a “trial run.” I was going to have to make it up to Him. I was going to have to live up to the gift, or it was curtains for me again. And I tried. I tried so hard. Not surprisingly, I failed miserably. I cried, I pleaded for forgiveness. “Just one more try God, I can do this.” I couldn’t. God and I played this game for many, many sad years.

“I’m going to Hell.” I told a friend one day. I had stumbled once again into a habitual sin, and this time I knew He was done with me. I felt it inside, like something was gone forever. For three days I prayed for forgiveness, but felt like He was no longer listening. It was perhaps the most depressed I’ve ever been.

“But God…”

Yet by this point I was a new member at Steven’s Street Baptist Church, and God had placed several great men in my path to help me. They reminded me of this verse, and others, and pleaded with me to lay my guilt aside and carry on. I did, and I believed in grace on faith as I had before, but I still did not understand it at all.

Over the next couple of years, my heart grew cold and hard. I was disappointed in myself. I had failed Him. I was not worthy. Every emotional connection just caused me more pain. So I closed my heart up. No one could get in. I sealed it up carefully with many skilled locks. I had friends, but they could only come so far. No one was to know the real me. Sitting with a sister in Christ one night at the coffee shop, she told me, “I don’t think anyone knows you, really.” She was right. Had this continued, I would have become a soulless wretch.

“But God…”

Then I met her. At first I did not like her. Being around her made me uncomfortable. The things she said got under my skin. But we were part of the same circle of friends, so I had to tolerate her company.

One night we found ourselves talking to one another. The conversation went on….and on….and on. Soon, I was sharing parts of me with her I’d never shared with anyone. I did not want to. It was like she had some magical key to my heart and everything was coming out. The conversations went on night after night. She was never repulsed by my pain and fears. She listened to me, she cared about me.

Her eyes told me, “Don’t be afraid. Tell me everything. I will heal you.”

One day, I expressed all my fears and doubts about God’s grace. She sat down with me and showed me in the Scriptures all that God says about His love for the elect. I had heard these verses before, but somehow hearing it from her…I started to really grasp them for the first time.

Before long I realized I could not live without this woman. God led me to pursue her, and eventually I asked her to marry me. She said yes. But my fears and doubts made me a poor boyfriend. Afraid of losing her, I became selfish and insensitive towards her. She should have left me. She did not.

Her eyes said, “I am committed to you.”

Soon we were married. It was one of the happiest days of my life. Yet I was not a very good husband. I was still selfish and insensitive. We would argue and I would withdraw from her for hours, sometimes days, living in my own little world and neglecting her. She cried, she prayed for me, but she never gave up. When God would turn my heart back to her, she was there with open arms to welcome me back.

Her eyes said, “I will not leave you. I will not give up.”

Over the years I’ve struggled to pick up the pieces of my foolish youth and start a real career. I’ve had many pitfalls and moments of humiliation in that time. When no one believed in me, she did. When my career looked hopeless, she held out hope for me. She encouraged me, she praised all of my pathetic accomplishments as if they were titanic milestones. She has given up her dreams to see ours become a reality.

Her eyes said, “Don’t give up. I will always be with you. I am proud of you.”

Today, I still struggle with the concept of grace, but I am miles and miles from where I used to be. Gena’s love and faithfulness have taught me so much. She is the best wife any man could hope for. Her gentleness has turned away my wrath, and her quiet obedience has helped me to repent and change.

Do you know I wake up each morning and by the time I am done with my shower she has breakfast on the table for me? That might not sound impressive, but remember this is not breakfast for the fantastic man who has a stellar job and makes lots of money, who is in perfect physical shape, is kind and understanding with his wife and a great role model for his children. This is breakfast on the table for me. The selfish, uncaring, overweight, 31-but-just-starting-a-career man who is insensitive and is not nearly as invested in his family as he ought to be. That is love. That is grace.

Every day I see those beautiful eyes, still speaking grace into my life. And now I am starting to understand that the voice in her eyes wasn’t hers. It was His.

Gena is to be valued higher than gemstones. I can trust her totally and lose nothing. Every day she does me good and not harm. She works hard all day long for this family. She is wise with money, and without her I’d be a financial wreck. She is generous and compassionate to all. She takes care of our children and sees to all their needs (physical, mental, spiritual). I am honored to be her husband and have an extra strut in my step just to know she belongs to me. She teaches righteousness to the younger women and makes a good impression upon the old. She fears the LORD and loves Him too. I am blessed because of her, and I praise God daily for her. Many women in this world do great things, but she exceeds them all.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Sanctification

 

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Love Story

Did you know that all of us are part of a grand love story? It is a love story written by God himself before the world was made or time began.

Today, the world has so distorted and diluted the courtship process that it is sometimes hard to understand how God explains his grand love story. In order to understand our relationship to Christ, we must understand how the ancient world courtship and marriage customs operated.

In those days…

When a man loved a woman, he began to pursue her. The woman’s role was reactionary. Her heart did not belong to him so the suitor had to win it from her. In his quest to win her heart, he showered her with affection, gave her tokens, and performed acts of kindness to show his love for her. The woman had to decide if she would accept the suitor’s affections or reject them. Eventually the suitor would approach the lady’s father to ask for her hand in marriage. If her father approved, he would require a bride-price. The suitor then approached the lady and asked for her hand in marriage. While by this point in the courtship it would probably have been a sure thing, the lady could still reject his offer and walk away from the relationship. If she accepted his hand they become betrothed (or engaged). Unlike modern engagements, these could not be terminated. When two people became engaged, the marriage was already agreed to and the covenant was already in place. The two were still kept apart (intimately) during this time, and would not come together until the wedding day.

Scripture tells us many times that Christ is our bridegroom and that we the Church are his bride. (John 3:27-30, Ephesians 5:22-32) We are betrothed to him and one day there will be a wedding celebration where we will at last come to know him just as we are fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12) When that happens we will be made one with him just as a husband and his wife are one. We will become perfect with him and dwell in his glorious presence forever, showering him with respect and admiration.

And this is the Church’s love story…

Christ loved us. He pursued us. We did not seek him nor did we pursue him, for we did not know him nor were our hearts with him. (Romans 3:11) Christ would have to win our hearts. (1 John 4:19) He poured out his love for us on the cross, proving his undying love for us as he took on our sins. When he ascended to the Father, he offered his blood as the bride-price, which the Father accepted. (1 Corinthians 6:20) Christ then came to each one of us when we heard the gospel, offering his hand to us in marriage. He offers his hand to all, for he loved the world entire. (John 3:16) Many will reject his proposal despite all he has done for them. Those of us who accept his hand are betrothed or engaged to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2) Now betrothed, we are promised in marriage to Christ, so the marriage cannot be called off. (Ephesians 1:13) This marriage covenant cannot be broken. (Matthew 19:6, Romans 11:29) We are now destined for marriage with Christ. (Romans 8:29) As our wedding draws near, Christ through the Word cleanses us and prepares us for our wedding day. (Ephesians 5:25-27) On that glorious day when the trumpet sounds, we will at last be joined to Christ as his wife for all eternity. (Revelation 19:7-9)

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2008 in Christology

 

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Crushed

A crush is an intense, consuming infatuation with another person, usually for romantic reasons. We are all very familiar with this term.

A crush is nothing more or less than selfish desire coupled with idolatry. On one hand the admirer covets that which they do not have and on the other they place undue admiration and admonishment on the target of the crush.

The Book of James outlines the stages of sin’s development. I will outline the development of the crush according to these stages.

Desire Conceives
Crushes are born when one person (admirer) sees within another person (subject) a physical, mental, or spiritual characteristic that they greatly admire or desire. There can be more than one of these desirable characteristics, but it only requires one to set off a crush.
In and of itself, this fleeting notice of a desirable characteristic is harmless. However, if the admirer dwells on and ruminates about it, they will begin to feed that desire and admiration, and it quickly becomes what we call a crush.

Desire Gives Birth to Sin
Once a crush has started, the admiration quickly (sometimes in just days) begins to swell beyond reality. The admirer begins to apply positive qualities to the subject that they do not even possess. Eventually the admirer has a desire and admiration for someone that does not really exist, someone larger-than-life, who only vaguely resembles the real-life counterpart.
As the crush continues to take hold of the admirer, more and more of their thoughts are directed towards the subject to the point where they can think of little else. The admirer begins to dream, fantasize and conspire about the subject. This develops into a lustful desire to see, touch, smell, and possess the subject. The subject by this time has been blown so far out of proportion that the admirer believes them to be near-perfect…even godlike. At this stage, the admirer has reached certain idolatry, and has elevated the subject of the crush above God Himself, even if they are not consciously aware of doing so.

Sin Gives Birth to Death
When a crush is allowed to fully mature, the result is disaster.
The admirer becomes totally obsessed and highly possessive of the subject. If the subject becomes involved with someone else, it will produce hatred and jealousy in the admirer. This burning hatred usually leads to the admirer attempting to ruin or sabotage the relationship, which hurts many people. In extreme cases, it can lead to violence and murder. Of course, true hatred is murder of the heart. In any case, these evil emotions twist and and destroy the admirer from within, making the admirer a spiteful and bitter person, irreversibly in some cases.
If the admirer loses hope in possessing the subject, it can lead to depression and suicide.
If the admirer actually does succeed in possessing the subject, the situation only gets worse. The relationship will be short lived and likely filled with sin, because of the nature of its conception. Later, when the admirer realizes the subject is not who they thought they were, or the subject becomes aware of the unhealthy relationship, either could result to drastic measures. This can include anything from a bitter break-up, lies, cheating, or even in some cases things like murder or suicide.
If the two are married based on this infatuation, the crushing blow of reality is even harder to accept. Divorce is almost certain, and extreme measures such as affairs, murder and suicide are even more likely.
There is always hope, even in these cases, for God to salvage the lives of those involved, but that requires them to submit to God and face the consequences of their actions, which are often dire.

A holy marriage is one created by God’s divine appointment, not one created by a selfish desire or idolatrous admiration. The line between a Godly relationship and a selfish, man-made one is thin indeed. The Adversary knows this and conspires to lead Christians across the line and into sin and destruction. Most people cross the line due to a lack of patience and trust in God. Trust in the Lord’s timing; If He wants someone to be married then they will be, if they are obedient. We should not go hunting for a spouse. We should not mistake our own selfish desire as God’s will. If a selfish desire conspiring to become a crush arises within us, I encourage everyone to rebuke and deny those desires. Pray about these things, and the Lord will give you insight into all this.

I do not want you to be deceived, I speak from experience. I have had my share of crushes in my lifetime, and all led to disaster. Not one led to anything good or profitable, and at least one might have taken my life were it not for a friend. Praise God, for He did not let me be destroyed by these things. I will not mistreat His mercy, but I will tell others. I too must continue to deny my own selfish desires otherwise I will be dragged down once again into this dangerous idolatry.

There is only One worthy of admiration and only One worthy of praise and honor, and He is Jesus who is Christ and Lord, the Savior of mankind forever and ever.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2007 in Sanctification

 

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