How You Invest

Those who are faithfully invested and committed to relationship/community/family are rarely to blame for the “disconnect” of those who are hit and miss to the same relationships.

Whether it’s a father or mother, a grandparent or a friend, those who are present and invested are naturally going to grow deeper in relationship and spiritual intimacy with one another than those who are not. Those who cannot be present are going to have to work harder and be more committed to stay connected in the relationship if they want the same intimacy shared by the others in the relationship.

Benefits Versus Purpose

As followers of Jesus, our objective in parenting is so very clear and very simple. It’s not easy, but it’s not complicated either. There is little room for confusion or being overwhelmed by choices about how to be an intentional, Spirit-filled parent to our children.

The objective of intentional, Spirit-filled parenting is the exact same as our ultimate goal in everything else in life as a believer. It is to bring glory to God and glory to God alone. We raise our children for the glory of God. Our number one desire for our children should be that they KNOW God through faith in Jesus Christ and EVERYTHING that we do and feel and speak of and teach our children should ALWAYS be for that goal and that goal alone – that they KNOW God and glorify HIM as their Creator and Designer and Savior.

If we’re honest, many times in parenting we major on the minors and end up minoring on the majors – specifically raising our children FOR the glory of God and teaching them to glorify Him AS God. Keep the main thing the main thing. Remember the difference between the benefits of parenting and the purpose of parenting:

  • My children are my best friends. (benefit)
  • They act/look just like me. (benefit)
  • They’ve honed some great skills and natural talents. (benefit)
  • They’re gifted with intelligence and they’ve worked hard for that. (benefit)
  • They’re making a lot of money and are successful at what they do. (benefit)
  • They’re happily married and have a nice home. (benefit)
  • They’ve acquired a nice amount of material possessions for themselves. (benefit)
  • They’re popular and well-liked. (benefit)

These can all be some wonderful benefits…never the goal. If we make these things the goal, then we’ve failed God, we’ve failed our children and we’ve failed our community.

These might very well be some of the benefits of raising children for the glory of God and teaching them to glorify Him as God, but they should NEVER be the goal and may never manifest as benefits…but eternal benefits there will be.

Overcoming Insecurities

Insecurity is a weapon of the enemy that disables from two directions:

  1. It convinces you that you are unwanted, uninteresting, unfriendly, annoying, etc, and convinces you to isolate yourself from others. And then,
  2. It conversely sends the message to others that you don’t care about them or want to be in relationship with them, that they are unwanted, uninteresting, unfriendly, annoying, etc.

So how do I overcome this insecurity? How do I get past feeling like people don’t want to know me? How do I prevent from spreading it to others?

  1. I lose my identity in Jesus and I take on HIS identity. So many times we combat insecurity with “confidence”, a false sense of strength, which is really arrogance which is just another form of insecurity. It’s not about confidence in ME; it’s about being conformed into His image.
  2. I realize that I am a new creature, that I am filled by His Spirit and His Spirit is in possession of me.
  3. I realize that it’s not about me or what people think of me. It’s about where His Spirit puts me and what He wants to do through me in the lives of people with whom he has put me in community.
  4. I realize that He brought me from death into life to give my life purpose and meaning, to bring glory to Him by relating to others and AS HIS VESSEL OF CHANGE, reconciling a broken humanity with a God who wants to restore them to His glory.

It starts with spending time together with intentional, Spirit-filled purpose.

The God We Believe In

People will tell you that they believe in God, yet they do not live out that belief any way near what would line up with the Word of God. But this may not necessarily be an intentional or conscious lie on their part.

The god that many “believe in” is often a compilation of preferences, images, stories, and myths we’ve heard and molded into a deity that we can wrap our heads around, accept, and worship. This god is not necessarily the God we come to know from The Bible, the God who desires an intimate relationship with His creation, the God who brings light out of darkness, the God who brings life out of death, the God who brings order out of chaos, the God whose law is perfect, a law in which His worshipers meditate day and night.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1,2; Proverbs 6:22

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. [21] For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. [24] Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, [25] because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Romans 1:20-25 ESV

Grief and God’s Sovereignity

Have you noticed how often we grieve, express remorse, offer apologies and/or try to fix the CIRCUMSTANCES in the lives of people that are going through a valley – things that happen in life that we claim to believe are under sovereign providence…God’s constant care for and absolute rule, for His glory and the good of His people?

God’s “best life now” for me/you – if we’re completely honest, it rarely ever looks like the “best life” we imagine for ourselves – carefree, everything falling into place, nothing negative happening, money to burn, friends-a plenty, etc. This often happens because we are ignorant, controlling, and/or self-centric…often encouraged by heretical teachings.

This might also be because the god we believe in and worship is often a fabrication of our own compilation and rarely the God we come to know from His Word.

God is SOMETIMES glorified and I am made more like Jesus by walking THROUGH the valley. Sometimes He places me there…sometimes I dug myself into the valley. Just walk through it with me…it may not be His plan for you to get me out of the valley. He might just want you to encourage me and exhort me, love me and assist me as He grows me IN the valley.

**it’s not wrong to empathize or sympathize with the struggle that someone is going thru as tough things in life occur.

— “I’m sorry you’re struggling with paying your bills.”

— “My sympathies for the loss that you are feeling.”

— “I hate to hear that you are not able to resolve the conflicts in your marriage.”

— “I’m sorry that person’s terrible choices are affecting you this way”.

But if I believe that God is sovereign, then I can’t be sorry or grieve that we are in His constant care and under His absolute rule…nothing happens to us outside of His authoritative care. I can’t grieve that God is going to get glory and work all things together for the good of those who love Him THROUGH the things that we don’t like are happening to us or around us.

Reflection

There’s an endless number of people publicly shaming and blaming presidents, majority leaders, czars, spouses, parents, employers, doctors, pastors, etc. for the adverse conditions in our lives and the failure of others to meet “my” conditions of comfort. Soooooooo much finger-pointing and so little self-reflection. Mirrors are used today for ego and vanity rather than to reflect what’s really there.

That’s not to excuse the behaviors of those who do wrong in the sight of God and man. There ARE consequences for our actions. God IS going to hold each of us accountable for our actions.

But this is an indictment on the way that we often behave when humans do what they inevitably do…sin.

It’s a revelation that we often attack the fruit issues and ignore the root problem.

It’s the painful truth that we often rely on the wrong things to “get us through” or “right the wrong”.

God is sovereign…He is in constant care for and absolute rule over my life, my marriage, my children, my country, my friends, my foes. HIS care and HIS rule are for HIS glory and the good of HIS people. He is in control when it seems that no one is…and He allows things to happen for HIS glory and the good of HIS people. Sometimes, rather than being shielded, we need to be broken. Sometimes, rather than shooting at the dark, we need to learn who the real enemy is. Sometimes we fire the weapons of this world when what we really need is His armor, simply to stand.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." 
Ephesians 6:10-12 
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:31-35,37-39

Conditional Love

How often is my love for someone conditional upon what they’ve done for me and what they continue to do for me, how they treat me, how they talk to me, etc?

I don’t deserve the love of Jesus. I’ve done nothing to merit His love. All of my behaviors prior to His redeeming work on the cross for me, prior to Him dying for me and raising from the dead so that I might come to Him and know Him…even though I’d sinned, even though I’d failed, even though all my behaviors were in direct opposition to His love, HE LOVED ME and had a plan, from the beginning of creation, that I might know Him.

I love Him BECAUSE he first loved me.

Realizing that my love is reactive to Christ, realizing that I react to His initiating of love, it TOTALLY REMOVES the excuse for me not loving others.

Even if they’re not loving towards me, not kind or compassionate towards me, I have to realize, I wasn’t those things toward God either, so how could I not extend some poor imitation of Christ’s love to this person, compared to the true love that Christ has shown toward me?

Thanks for the reminder, Mike Winger.

The Difference

It breaks my heart, literally grieves my spirit, when people claim to be followers of Jesus but, under the banner of his name, spew distaste, hatred, contempt for other persons, stereotypes, groups, etc.

People matter to God; therefore, they ought to matter to us, too… ALL OF THEM, regardless of whether we agree with them, like what they do, what we think of their values, principles or logic and regardless of how they think of or treat others. We don’t have to like what they do or approve of their values or behavior (and we shouldn’t), but we are commanded to love them and our love for them exhibits the difference between professing Jesus and possessing Him.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Matthew 5:43-47 (ESV)

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35 (ESV)

be that change

A pastor is soooooo grateful for the partner that unites with, loves, and serves the church…just the way it is. And likewise, the body loves a pastor who does the same. The same is true with a marriage. A spouse is soooo grateful for the spouse that loves and serves them…just the way they are.

There is always room for improvement in the church…because it’s the sum total of its human partners. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The same is true with the local church. The church is only as selfless, as holy, and as compassionate as its weakest participants. As followers become more and more in every way like Him, so does His church.

There are people and pastors whose only contributions are, “You should do this…”, “I wish the church did this…”, “I hate that the church does this…”, “we left our last church because they did this…”, “we left our last church because they wouldn’t do this…”, etc. If it is in line with the Word of God, BE that change. Influence with love, sacrifice and service…not with demands, expectations and lines drawn in the sand around your preferences.

No marriage will ever survive those types of attitudes and contributions nor will any church partnership. I cannot go into a relationship wanting to change the other person for my self-centered preferences nor should I leave a relationship because the other will not change to meet my standards or expectations. I’ve observed many a divorce in young marriages because one thought they could force change in the other, once they were married and found out that it did not happen that way.

That’s not to say that there aren’t a couple reasons that you should leave a church partnership or a marriage…but not before first confronting it. Doctrinal error and immorality in a church MUST be confronted and escaped if the body will not heed sound doctrine. Infidelity and abuse in a marriage…the same.

That’s also not to say that every bride of Christ cannot better mirror the majesty of the Bridegroom, doing GOOD works as His workmanship created in Christ Jesus. We can most certainly better reflect His glory by doing some things better, adding some things, and eliminating some things. But according to Ephesians 5, Christ does this by loving and serving His body, giving Himself up for her, and cleansing her with the Word. It’s not about his preferences…it’s about His love and her wholeness.

What would our churches look like if we took the approach of Jesus?

Our marriages?

Our homes?

God’s image-bearers

It’s good to remind ourselves, on occasion, what kind of people are sitting in “church services” – the gatherings of the local body of Jesus followers. In our culture where people who are seeking God or something from God still “go to church”, not all people assembled in a “church building” are expected to be followers nor are all followers at the same stage of spiritual health, fitness, and growth. We need to bear this in mind and adjust our expectations accordingly. That doesn’t mean that we adjust our worship or our doctrine…just how we view people.

  • Some are seeking belonging and acceptance…but are not followers.
  • Some are investigating faith in and knowledge of Jesus…but are not followers.
  • Some are deconstructing false doctrines and false beliefs that they’ve been exposed to by family, education, and/or false teachers…they may or may not be followers.
  • Some are learning and beginning to place their faith in Jesus…might be followers but maybe not yet.
  • Some are growing in their knowledge of Jesus and The Word as they are taking baby steps of faith through the leadership of God’s Spirit…following Jesus.
  • Some are exercising their faith and intimate knowledge of Jesus as they serve, share, give, grow and worship…following Jesus.
  • Some are deepening the breadth of their understanding of The Way, The Word, and the character of God…following Jesus.

Not all voices represent God’s Word, God’s Will, or God’s Spirit equally. Not all know what they are talking about. Not all come from a clear God-centered perspective.

But all voices represent someone created in God’s image, deserving of the honor, dignity, and respect due to God’s image-bearers.

Be wise.

Be discerning.

Be kind.

Be compassionate.

Be gracious.

Be forgiving.