Building Healthy Relationships – Part Five

Within the realm of healthy relationships we have see:

1> You want others to encourage you

2> You want others to appreciate you. 

3> You want others to forgive you

4> You want others to listen to you and respond

5> You want others to understand and accept you

How do you feel when you are misunderstood? What kinds of feelings well up inside you? Loneliness? Frustration?  Disappointment? Resentment? Rejection? These are common feelings when we have been misunderstood.

Peter Drucker, often called the “Father of American Management,” claims that 60 percent of all management problems are a result of faulty communications. A leading marriage counsellor says that at least half of all divorces result from faulty communication between spouses. And criminologists tell us that upwards of 90 percent of all criminals have difficulty communicating with other people. Communicating is fundamental to understanding and acceptance. 

And unless a person truly listens and understands you, you never reach the stage of feeling accepted. Without feeling accepted you will not continue to feel free to share because it will seem to you that others are judging, criticizing, and rejecting you. 

A side note:

When someone shares a feeling you should never say “You shouldn’t feel that way.” That is actually rejecting the person’s feelings and thus rejecting them because the feeling is them at the moment. You may not agree with the feeling or the reason behind the feeling – but it is their feeling. It is neither good or bad as feelings are just feelings. What you do with them and about them determines good or bad. So, when someone is sharing a feeling you should work to accept how they are feeling, and let them know that you accept not only the feeling but them having the feeling. 

In the last week in this series of blogs we have discovered that in relationships you want others to:

      • Encourage you
      • Appreciate you
      • Forgive you
      • Listen to you
      • Understand you

As you think about these qualities, consider how they apply to your own life. Perhaps this short course in human relations can help each of us develop qualities that we admire in others:

  • The least important word: I (gets the least amount done)
  • The most important word: We (gets the most amount done) — relationships
  • The two most important words: Thank you — appreciation
  • The three most important words: All is forgiven — forgiveness
  • The four most important words: What is your opinion? — listening
  • The five most important words: You did a good job — encouragement
  • The six most important words: I want to know you better — understanding. 

In life, you are either going to see people as your adversaries or as your assets. If they are adversaries, you will be continually sparring with them, trying to defend your position. If you see people as assets, you will help them see their potential, and you will become allies in making the most of each other. The happiest day of your life will be the day when you realize “we” really is the most important word in the English language. 

Building Healthy Relationships – Part Four

We are looking at what makes for a healthy relationship within the family, with friends, and at work. Of course, not everyone will be your BFF in real life but we all need to be involved in a number of healthy relationships so we can continue to grow and mature and become all that God wants us to be. God created us to be social creatures. We need other people. 

Within the realm of relationships we have seen:

1> You want others to encourage you

2> You want others to appreciate you. 

3> You want others to forgive you

4> You want others to listen to you and respond

I spend a lot of time listening to people and responding to what they are saying. That is not only part of my ministry but it is also what people must do if they want to have healthy and vibrant relationships. I was recently sitting in a coffee shop reading and there was a man siting there talking to a younger lady across the small coffee table that separated them. Recognizing me he said, “Pastor, we are having a great conversation. I have been telling her my story.” I realized at that point how important it was to him that she was listening attentively and showed interest in what he had to say. It made him feel that he had value.

There is a difference between hearing people and listening to them. Listening is wanting to hear. As believers we are to love people as God loves us. And because we love people we should want to hear from them. We need to learn to listen with our heart and not just our head. People will respond in a very positive way to that kind of loving and visible, real caring.

As people people gain more authority, they often develop a lack of patience in listening to those under them. A deaf ear is the first indication of a closed mind. The higher people go in management and the more authority they wield, the less they are forced to listen. The same is true in the church and in ministry. Yet their need to listen is greater than ever. The farther they get from the firing line, the more they need to depend on others for correct information. If they have not formed the habit of truly listening and actually hearing what is being said – listening carefully and intelligently – they aren’t going to get the facts they need, and the people will resent their decisions.

I saw a television sketch which, in some variations, might seem familiar in many households. A husband is watching television and his wife is trying to engage him in conversation:

Wife: Dear, the plumber didn’t come to fix the leak behind the water heater today.

Husband: Uh-huh.

Wife: The pipe burst today and flooded the basement.

Husband: Quiet. It’s third down and goal to go.

Wife: Some of the wiring got wet and almost electrocuted Fluffy.

Husband: Darn it! Touchdown.

Wife: The vet says he’ll be better in a week.

Husband: Can you get me a coke?

Wife: The plumber told me that he was happy that our pipe broke because now he can afford to go on vacation.

Husband: Aren’t you listening? I said I could use a Coke!

Wife: And Stanley, I’m leaving you. The plumber and I are flying to Acapulco in the morning.

Husband: Can’t you please stop all the yakking and get me a coke? The trouble around here is that nobody ever listens to me. 

A couple of side notes:

When someone shares with you it is good to respond to what they are sharing. Let them share, listen thoughtfully, and then dialogue with them about what they have trusted you with. Tell them what you are thinking and feeling about what they have shared. Otherwise, you may say you care and that you are listening, but there is no real proof that that is a fact. Your silence can be read as not caring and not interested.

When someone shares something that seems important to them, don’t use it to jump off into something you want to share. Keep the focus on them and don’t use what they have shared to turn the focus onto yourself.

When someone shares – they are wanting you to listen and care. They are not looking for you to fix it. Most people know what to do to fix a problem or get out of the situation they are in. What they want to know is that you are really listening and that you care. Yes, maybe you can help and ‘fix it’ but that will be later. Caring before fixing.

Remember, most of us are very poor listeners. You will need to learn how to listen with your heart and not just your head. 

Building Healthy Relationships – Part One

I am a people person and I am an introvert. That may sound like a contradiction but really it is not. As an introvert I need personal time and personal space. I need to be away from others so that I can think, feel, and process. However, I like being with people simply because I enjoy relating and realize that I cannot journey successfully through life – and especially as a believer – alone. But, as an introvert I prefer one-on-one relationships and simply don’t do well in a crowd. 

The basis of life is people and how we relate to one another. Our sense of fulfilment and happiness depends on our ability to relate to others effectively. So, believing that, I have worked at developing the character and the personal characteristics that others are drawn to. I did this by studying the people who I am attracted or drawn to and determining what it was about them that encouraged me to come to know them and relate to them. In other words, I determined the qualities that I found attractive in others and set about to develop those qualities in my own life.

So, we are going to look at the qualities that we need to develop in our lives so that we can relate to others in a healthy and mutually beneficial manner in the process of building lasting, healthy, long-term relationships. 

What is the key to relating to others? It is putting yourself in someone else’s place instead of putting them in their place. Jesus gave us the perfect rule for establishing quality relationships. We call it the Golden Rule, a name it got sometime around the seventeenth century. Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus summed up a series of profound thoughts on human conduct by saying, “Therefore whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them.”               (Matthew 7:12). 

In this brief command, Jesus taught us a couple of things about developing relationships with others. We need to decide how we want to be treated. Then we need to begin treating others in that manner. It is not complicated. The qualities that make for good relationships aren’t complicated at all. Everyone of us needs, likes, and responds to five qualities that touch our hearts and help bond us to others relationally.

1> You want others to encourage you

There is no better exercise for strengthening the heart than reaching down and lifting people up. Think about it: most of your best friends are those who encourage you in one way or another. And, you don’t have very many strong relationships with people who don’t take the time to encourage you for whatever reason. And you certainly do not bother to build relationally with someone who puts you down. In fact, you avoid these people and seek out those who believe in you and lift you up. 

The happiest people are those who have invested their time in others. The unhappiest people are those who wonder how the world is going to make them happy. Karl Menninger, the great psychiatrist, was asked what a lonely, unhappy person should do. He said, “Lock the door behind you, go across the street, find someone who is hurting, and help them.” Forget about yourself to help others. 

A side note: Why is it that people you would like a decent and in-depth relationship with don’t encourage you? 

Well, maybe they never learned how to do that and so simply don’t know how to encourage. This could be the result of the fact that they were never in a relationship growing up that was encouraging. So, they have never had an example to follow. 

Another reason might be that they simply don’t value relationships in the same way that you do and so are not willing to invest the time and the emotional energy that it takes to encourage another person and thus build a healthy relationship. They simply don’t care to even try.

And, a third reason could be that they have simply decided that the relationship with you is not valuable or important enough to respond to you in a way that would encourage you. They like what you do for them but they are not willing to respond on the same level. You think that the relationship could be valuable so your encourage them but they don’t share that outlook and so they don’t encourage you in return. They simply make a decision not to encourage by not responding to what you share and not sharing their thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. 

Of course, it could be a combination of all three reasons. But the bottom line is they are not willing to learn and to try. They are not willing to invest in the relationship at a meaningful level. They are not willing to put the needed effort into having a healthy relationship even after you express to them what you are looking for and needing from the relationship. 

If this is the case then you need to either limit your time with that person knowing it is never going to improve or simply end the relationship. Of course, you communicate with them as you think through your decision and resulting actions. Why? Because you still value them as a [person even if the relationship never becomes what it could have been.   

Two books that are helpful in this regard:

“Never Go Back – Ten Things You’ll Never Do Again” by Dr. Henry Cloud

“Necessary Endings” by Dr. Henry Cloud

Sometimes I Deceive Myself

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-deceive-myself/

 

Sometimes I Deceive Myself

Slogan: Deception Infection

I don’t watch a lot of television but I do watch on You Tube parts of American Idol

I am careful, since it does sound kind of … idolatrous

If you were to watch the first few shows of the season — when the judges travel around the country for auditions

You soon become aware of how easily people are self-deceived

You watch people trying out for a spot on the show when competition starts in ernest

It is seriously difficult to comprehend how many horrifically bad singers truly believe they deserve to be the next vocal superstar! Read more

Retire? You Must Be Joking! – Part Two

We are to run the race and cross the finish line. The key to running the race well, to finishing well: Don’t finish. Always be looking forward to what the Lord has for you next.

It doesn’t take a deep dive into secular history or the Bible to discover that many great things are accomplished by people past the age of retirement.

Pianist-comedian Victor Borge, “the Clown Prince of Denmark,” continued to delight huge audiences until his death at age ninety-one. Tony Bennett, singer and performer, was still singing at ninety-three and left his heart not only in San Francisco but also in many other cities where he performed.

At ninety years old master cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he kept practicing eight hours a day. He replied, “I think I’m improving.”

The apostle Paul was over sixty when he made his gruelling voyage to Rome, where he preached, wrote, and taught until his execution four years later. He had no intention of slowing down, much less retiring to rest on his laurels. At his miraculous conversion thirty years earlier, Paul had found his life’s passion. He was doing exactly what he was called to do, what he loved to do, and it absorbed him completely.

Pearl Buck, the famous writer and the daughter of missionaries to China, said, “I have reached an honourable position in life because I am old and no longer young. I am a far more useful person than I was fifty years ago, or forty years ago, or thirty, twenty, or even ten. I have learned so much since I was seventy.”

So, don’t give up on yourself too early. Don’t deprive yourself of the many blessings God wants to bestow upon you in what the world would call your post-retirement years. Change what you do if you must, but don’t stop serving the Lord. 

Nine times in the Bible (ESV) we find the words old and advanced in years. I’ve always thought this phrase was an illustration of unnecessary redundancy. If you say someone is old, you shouldn’t have to add the words advanced in years. That seems like piling on.

But every word in the Bible is important, and one day I noticed something fascinating. Many of the times when that redundant phrase appears in the Bible, it’s a description of a person who is about to experience something astonishing. For example:

      • Abraham (100 years old) and Sarah (90 years old) were “old, well advanced in age” as they  are about to become the parents of Isaac (Genesis 18:11).
      • Zacharias and Elizabeth were “old and advanced in years” before they gave birth to John the Baptist (Luke 1:18).
      • Joshua is also described this way before he received his marching orders to enter the land of God’s promise: “Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the Lord said to him: ‘You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much yet to be possessed’” (Joshua 13:1).

Here are some verses to encourage you to keep on keeping on. They were given to us by our gracious God to keep us faithful throughout our lives. These verses show us: “If you’re not dead, you’re not done!”

      • Psalm 92:12-14 (NCV) “But good people will grow like palm trees; they will be tall like the cedars of Lebanon. Like trees planted in the Temple of the LORD, they will grow strong in the courtyards of our God. When they are old, they will still produce fruit; they will be healthy and fresh.”
      • Isaiah 46:4 (NKJ) “Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.”
      • Psalm 71:18 (NKJ) “ Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.”

Retire? You Must Be Joking!

Paul the apostle said in his final letter: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). He finished well and was ready to face those who were about to put him to death. 

I am planning on finishing well. To do so I have had to decide the retire with resilience — and with some sanctified resistance. Someone asked the late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar if he was thinking about retiring. He laughed and said, “Retiring? No! I’m re-firing.”

There is someone I recently read about who is still active in his mid-nineties. For the last twenty or so years, people have asked him is he was retired. His rely: “Yes, I retire every night to go to bed so that I can get up the next morning to find out what God has for me to do.”

When psychologist Michael Longhurst left his high-level management position in the corporate world, he undertook a major research project on the subject of retirement. He interviewed over two hundred retirees and discovered that too many are unprepared for retirement — especially mentally and emotionally. 

One man summed up the problem when he wrote, “I feel so lonely and depressed. I miss my job, the office, my lunch buddies, and friends at work. I used to be very busy at work, and now suddenly there is nothing to do, no deadlines, etc. So, this is what retirement is — boring and lonely. I wish I [could] be happy again like the good old days.”

A wife said to her retired husband, “What are you planning to do today?” He replied, “Nothing.” She responded, “But you did that yesterday.” “I know,” he said, “But I’m not finished yet.”

Many people have followed the general expectation in North America and the western world that when we reach a certain age, we retire. It’s just what you do. Retirement has become the final rotation in the cycle of life. Just as we ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We ask adults, “What do you plan to do when you retire?” Seldom do we hear the value of typical retirement plans questioned, and certainly not the value of retirement itself. 

But retirement as we know it today was virtually nonexistent throughout history. Retirement made little sense when the average age expectancy was only thirty to forty years. It has its roots in the early 1900’s, when many large industries, including railroads, banks, and oil companies began offering pensions.

In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the Social Security Act. An employee’s income was taxed throughout his or her working life to fund a retirement income beginning at age sixty-five. In North America today, most workers expect to retire, and the culture is geared to accommodate it.

Interestingly, the Bible records only one example of retirement: “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties” (Numbers 8:24-26).

While the Levite tabernacle workers were instructed to retire at age fifty, they were not put out to pasture to spend the rest of their lives twiddling their thumbs and gazing at the sundial. They were charged to minister to the younger Levites who took over their jobs. They became mentors and advisors. Today they would probably hand out business cards and call themselves consultants.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t take advantage of your retirement income or pension benefits. But you might want to avoid the word retirement. You don’t have to continue in your profession until you are just about to drop dead. But if you do leave your job, remember — retirement is simply God’s way of freeing you up for further service. God always has a plan for you next day. 

Preach To Yourself!

Sometimes we have no one to encourage us at the break of day, so we have to speak to ourselves, saying something like: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Try saying that aloud with enthusiasm upon rising each day. It will make a difference to the way your day unfolds because you are looking at your day in a positive light.

Outside of praying, your most important words are the ones you say to yourself. These words are most often silent but significant. Pop psychologists call this positive self-talk, but I’m going to skip the trends and go straight to Scripture. Did Paul, the apostle who wrote over 1/3 of the New Testament, ever talk to himself?

He said he strove to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). He said, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law” (Romans 7:22 NIV). He said, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). And, he also was the one who said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

One of my mentors long ago preached a sermon on how to handle negative thoughts, and I still remember the outline (and can actually locate my notes): Don’t curse them; Don’t nurse them; Don’t rehearse them; Disperse them. That’s still a good formula! Push out your negative thoughts — worry, anxiety, fear, pessimism — by filling your mind with God’s Word, the Scriptures, especially His promises. And then preach those promises to yourself. 

A medical doctor who is also a world-class athlete was asked how he accomplished all that he did even when approaching the age of 60 (including running triathlons). He said, “I’ve learned to talk to myself instead of listening to myself. If I listen to myself, I hear all the reasons why I should give up. I hear that I’m too tired, too old, too weak to make it. But if I talk to myself, I can give myself the encouragement and words I need to hear to keep running and finish the race.”

In Psalm 42 the psalmist said to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (verse 11).

We don’t know the author of Psalm 42, but it might have been King David, because he knew how to preach to himself when needed. As a younger man, a series of disastrous problems had befallen David in a town called Ziklag. His family and the families of his men had been kidnapped, and even his own men we’re turning on him and talking about stoning him to death. 

What did David do? He preached to himself. He “strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). And in that strength he rose up to tackle his problems with a positive spirit that came from his belief in God’s watchful care of his life. 

Jeremiah did the same. After watching his city go up in flames and his nation go down in defeat, he said in Lamentations 3:21-23: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

This is what we must do. If we listen to the negative tapes looping around in our thoughts, we’ll sink into the pessimism of the devil. How could I have been so stupid? What’s wrong with me? Everything is falling apart. This is a disaster. Why is this happening to me? 

Stop the tape! Here’s a better one: I know in Whom I believe, and I am persuaded He is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him. Why are you cast down? Hope in God. I’ll soon be praising Him again, for He is the health of my countenance. I’m going to recall something and keep it in mind — the Lord is merciful, and His compassions won’t fail me. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

We are constantly processing thoughts. Depending on how active your mind is, you may produce more than 45,000 thoughts a day. Whew! It might be compared to a flock of birds flying in and out of your mind.

To complicate our minds more, not all these are conscious thoughts, and sometimes they pass so fleetingly we barely notice them. However, every time you have a thought, it triggers an electrochemical reaction in your body … Each thought sets of a biological process — about 400 billion at once. Because of that thought, chemicals surge through the body, producing electromagnetic waves. These set off emotions, which affect how we behave. Science simply confirms what Scripture has been saying all along: we are shaped, in large part, by our thoughts. 

So, you should be careful what you think and what “preach to yourself.” As Ephesians 4:29 NLT advises: “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” This, of course, includes the words that only you hear as you speak to yourself. 

RIP … Maybe

You have seen it a thousand times. Well, I have seen it a thousand times. Especially when a celebrity athlete, musician, or actor “passes”. You know, dies. I hate that word “passes.” I prefer to face the reality of the fact that they did not pass ( I pass cars on the highway, pass gas on occasion, past the salt to the other end of the table.) Let’s just say it – they “died.” 

When someone dies – immediately, a barrage of epitaphs are posted on social media with the acronym RIP. Which, of course, means “rest in peace.” I’m always amazed at how many Christians post this without really considering what they’re saying or what their friends and coworkers will read in their sentiment. Now, we all know that no one can truly see what is in another person’s heart. It is very possible that a particular celebrity did have a relationships with Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour. However, I can think of rimes when an athlete passed away who was a very outspoken follower of a religion other than Christianity, or a musician dies whose lifestyle was the opposite of how the Bible describes an authentic follower of Jesus. Yet even from Christians, the RIP statements were ever flowing.

But if we’re going to commit to the truth, then we’ve got to be all in. The whole truth and nothing but the truth, even when it makes us uncomfortable. Especially in difficult moments of sadness and grief, people often check their faith at the door. However, it’s in these moments when we need the truth of Scripture and the freedom it provides.

Truthfully, according to the Bible, the only ones who will get to rest in peace are those who have an authentic relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus. Sadly, for those who have lived life without knowing Jesus as Lord and never had His Spirit dwell inside them, there will be no eternal rest. As gut wrenching as it is to write, their eternity will be marked by the very opposite of rest. Just as heaven is real, so also is hell.

Jesus Himself often used the word Gehenna to describe hell. The word literally meant “the Valley of the Son of Hinnom.” It is just south of Jerusalem. It is known as a cursed place. Some of the ancient Israelites sacrificed their children to false gods by burning them alive in this valley (see 2 Chronicles 28:33; Jeremiah 19). In Jesus’s day, it continued to be an unclean place used as the city dump. Gehenna was always on fire from the burning of trash. It was a place that people didn’t even like to discuss because it was marked by sadness, maggots, fire, and curses. 

One day, Jesus used an extreme illustration to show how serious sin is and how we must do everything necessary to avoid hell: “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43). Of course, Jesus is not asking you to literally cut your hand off to keep from sinning. Besides, sin is a heart issue, not a hand issue. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). However, He is so serious about sin that you also must take sin seriously enough to turn your heart over to Him.

Jesus also described hell as “outer darkness,” a place of extreme sadness and torment. “Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13). The worst thing about this place is the separation from anything good. For all eternity, there is now a chasm between God and everyone in this “outer darkness.” It wasn’t created for humans. It was created and reserved for the devil and his fallen angels: “Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). 

As heartbreaking as it is, hell will be the eternal home for all those whose name is not found in the Book of Life. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). If you live your whole God-given life and exhale your last breath without ever turning to Him as the Saviour from your sins, you’ll miss out on His saving grace, be left out of His Book of Life, and be trapped in an eternity of separation. 

The irony of life is that you can have a great name here on earth. Your name can be on the sides of buildings and in history books, but the only thing that matters is whether your name is in the Book of Life. Arrogantly, some say, “I don’t care if I end up in hell, because all my friends will be there anyway. We’ll have a heck of a party.” How stupid. There is nothing fun about this place. There is nothing to celebrate there. Nobody to turn to, nobody to talk to, and never-ending loneliness. People in hell endure constant suffering and remorse, knowing they had the opportunity to enter heaven with God but turned it down. There is no exit, no way out, no second chance, no redo, no mulligan. There is absolutely no rest in hell. There is no peace there. Anyone who ends up there will not be resting in peace. RIP does not exist for those there. 

As awful as this place sounds, the good news is that the Lord does not desire any human being to be there. He desires all those made in His image to have their namers in His Book of Life. This means you. Yes, even you. You may say, “You don’t know what I’ve done. There is no way He wants me in His Book of Life.” I am telling you in love that you can’t out-sin His power of grace and forgiveness if you turn to Him in faith. His grace is more than sufficient to cover your mistakes. His desire is that none would perish and that all would come to a saving knowledge of truth. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “[He] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). 

Only when you have a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord is your name written in the Book of Life. Only then will you enter heaven when you die. And, in heaven, you will be so busy celebrating and living life to the fullest as it is meant to be lived that you won’t even consider the letters RIP as a description of what you are experiencing. 

Because God Loves Us – Part Six

Because God loves us, we can love our enemies

Matthew 5:43-45, 48 “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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 … You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

So far we have seen the circle of love expand step-by-step. First we love God, then ourselves, then our fellow believers, and then our neighbours. Now Jesus tells us to take one more step and love our enemies. This is where it gets interesting. For many, it is a step too far.

Knowing the difficulty in loving our enemies, Jesus gives us an excellent rationale for the command. He says that if we love only our friends and family, we are no different from unbelievers who don’t know Jesus or His commandments. What we can offer that they cannot is love for our enemies.

If I knew the name of your worst enemy and suggested that you go serve that person in some good way, you might say, “I just can’t!” But Jesus knows it can be done because He did it. He found a way to love that race of enemies known as humanity, and we must be eternally grateful that He did.

Christ could have said, “Those men are driving nails into My hands. They’ve beaten Me, gambled for My clothing, and deeply grieved those who love Me. I just can’t love them!” No one would have blamed Him — or remembered Him.

Instead, from the agony of the cross, Christ looked down on those who had brutalized Him and asked Good to forgive them (Luke 23:34). Stephen, the first Christian martyr, did the same (Acts 7:60). Peter points out that Jesus, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Because Jesus loved His enemies, we live forever. Because Jesus loved His enemies, we can love ours.

As Jesus pointed out, God sends sunshine and rain to both the good and the bad — to those who love Him and those who don’t (Matthew 5:45). It’s known as God’s common grace. He does not shut out people who might be deemed unworthy, so we don’t have that right either. We love people not for who they are, but for who they can become — not for the value of their behaviour, but for the value of their souls. That’s when the world knows we are serious.

Paul, who built friendships with his prison guards, wrote: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them … To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:14, 20). It may seem that Paul is urging us to be “passive-aggressive,” until we understand a certain custom of the day. As an act of public contrition, some Egyptians wore a pan of burning coals like a hat to express their shame and guilt. Paul is simply urging a bit of human psychology: Return gentleness for aggression, and your persecutor will be shamed into being contrite. It will be as if he is wearing such a hat.

Because God loves us, we can, we must, love our enemies.

  Sometimes I am Not Thankful (Grateful)

Sometimes I am Not Thankful

 

I am bothered by a response that you now hear when you say “thank you” to someone

Instead of “You’re welcome” we now mostly hear “No problem!”

As I checked out with two turkeys yesterday I wanted to scream – “Of course it’s no problem. I am a gentle person, I am not angry, what I have caused you to become involved in is part of your job for which you are paid and is not really that taxing on your abilities….”

But, the real issue is how seldom you even hear people say “thank you”

As I was thinking about this all week – mostly because we were approaching Thanksgiving – God said that this was true even in my relationship with Him

That I am not expressing thanks to Him for who He is and all that He does for me

When I do something for someone I always appreciate it when they thank me for my time, my work, my concern… Read more