Two Are Better Than One

We are told that two are better than one. That “doing life together” is better than going through life alone. This is true in marriage but also true in friendship – deep, committed, lifetime friendships.

Two are better than one is a reference to the synergy that “together” creates. It applies to those who would assume that multiple relationships are not worth the effort we put into them; that having a spouse and /or a close friendship is all they can handle, and outside of that, it’s better to keep to themselves.

I know it’s easy to feel that way when you’ve had relationships that were complicated. I get that, because I’ve had, and still have, a few of those myself. I’ve come to realize that as much as possible I want to do life with uncomplicated people. People who believe the best. People who don’t read something into what you say, causing you to constantly watch how you say things and overly explain yourself. People who are stable and secure in themselves, open to conversation, not moody, not easily offended, not socially awkward. These uncomplicated people are not perfect, but once you’ve had complicated relationships, you have a great appreciation for the uncomplicated ones.

When like-minded, uncomplicated relationships come together, it’s far better than being alone. Especially, when there’s a common goal. There are three great reasons given in the verses below for why togetherness is better:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. [Success] If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. [Safety] Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. [Strength]     (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT)

The writer is saying that in a healthy, life-giving relationship we help each other success, stay safe, and grow stronger. Who wouldn’t want that? See, God never intended us to do life alone. We’re all meant to do life with other people, specifically God’s people. We are formed for family.  We are created for friendship. We are created for community. The only way you can be all you are meant to be is to be connected, committed, and in community with others. When you’re in  healthy relationships, with like-minded people, you can’t help but get bigger and stronger on the inside.

That doesn’t mean that those people are perfect, nor does it mean their struggles are any less than yours. It also doesn’t mean that it’s easy or without challenges. But it does mean we should never buy into the idea that we are better off keeping our distance from people. To live life fully we need to continually work at staying connected to those who bring out the best in us. Connecting to those who are living life in Christian community. Connecting with those who want meaningful, in-depth, and long-term friendships. 

If you are trying to do life alone you are missing out on God’s best for you. You will miss out on God’s plan for your life. Don’t let other ideas, past experiences, or current fears hold you back. If you’ve withdrawn or been distant, closed in on yourself, just know that part of getting bigger on the inside means pushing past self-imposed limits to engage and be an active part of healthy relationships. 

Today would be a good day to begin that journey if you have not already started. And, if you already have connected with uncomplicated but sincere friends, let them know today how much you appreciate them. 

 

Sometimes You Have to Subtract to Add

In arithmetic, subtraction is the opposite of addition, but in relationships before the right people can be added, the wrong people have to be subtracted. The wrong people always hinder the right people from coming and staying in your life. This is true in both friendships and marriage.

Friendships: 

You might be at a place in your life where you could use some positive input and encouragement that the people around you can’t provide. In fact, if you look around at the people closest to you and all you see are people who talk about their problems or gossip about other people, you’re trapped in smallness with the wrong people. You’re surrounded by people who are going nowhere and complaining in the process. But that’s not what God wants for you. He wants you to rise up out of that. He wants you to be confident and know in your heart that there’s something better out there for you.

You can’t expect Positive Paul to come hang out with your friend Negative Ned. Oil and water don’t mix. But you can make a decision to not stay where you are surrounded by people who only pull you down or hold you back. People who drain emotional and mental energy from you and give little back in the relationship. People who take up your time and never personally change. People who use up the time you could be investing in changing and growing healthy relationships with others.

Don’t assume that God wants you to open your life to everyone. No, He wants you to:

        • Be cautious in friendship (see Proverbs 12:26)
        • Avoid being friends with fools (see Proverbs 13:20) and hot-tempered people (see Proverbs 22:24)
        • Do as much life as possible with people who sharpen and make you better and wiser (see Proverbs 27:17; 13;20)

The amazing thing is that when you relationally reposition yourself, free up the inner circle of your life, and start to be the person you long to be and God created you to be, the people you belong with will be drawn in to your life. They will come! Faith-filled people, encouraging people, people who live with hope and confidence will be added to your life.

Marriage: 

It’s pretty common for single people to say, “I’m looking for my other half.” Sometimes it’s just lighthearted semantics that express a desire to find the right person. Other times it’s a perception that a person has about themselves that they are never going to be happy unless someone makes them happy. They assume that their mood swings will be gone. Their fluctuating attitude will be stable. Their battle with low self-esteem will not be an issue when someone has fallen in love with them and is living life with them. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, in arithmetic one half plus one half equals one whole. But in a relationship, one half plus one half equals two different one halves. If you’re not whole going into marriage (or a friendship), you won’t be whole because of your marriage (or friendship). If you don’t overcome bad moods when you’re single, marriage won’t remedy your moodiness. 

Based on how the two of you are coming together, these things are true:

      • Two immature people coming together doesn’t make for a mature relationship
      • Two insecure people coming together doesn’t make for a secure relationship
      • Two unhealthy people coming together doesn’t make for a healthy relationship

But the opposite is true as well:

      • Two mature people will have a mature relationship
      • Two secure people will have a secure relationship
      • Two healthy people will have a healthy relationship

Whatever you are before you are married (or enter into a friendship) is what you bring into the relationship. The best thing you can offer another person is a healthy you, a whole you. Being healthy, staying whole, being our best, taking care of ourselves physically, spiritually, and emotionally is the best gift we can give the people we are relating to. Because in any relationship (marriage, friendship, team members) two whole people equals one amazingly healthy relationship. 

Nick at Night – Part Four

Let’s finish looking the civil conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. 

We started with seeing that “What the World Needs Now Is Love” …

Then we had a look at the fact that in His conversation with Nicodemus Jesus:

Went straight to the point speaking the truth in love

And that the Spirit of God is always moving and we partner with Him in the work of winning the lost

And a third element – third element in this civil conversation between the Lord and Nicodemus – Patience … Even When They Don’t Understand

As I attempt to put myself non Nicodemus’s sandals after this fascinating conversation with the Saviour of the world, here is what I imagine Nicodemus saying or thinking:

“Jesus, everything that You’re saying has completely turned my thought process upside down. Everything I have ever been taught since I was a child is that the law is what saves! You come along with these miracles and signs that force me to listen to You. You  tell me I have to be born again of the Spirit. And that the Son of Man must be lifted up (crucified and glorified).”

I imagine him continuing, “Jesus, I’m an educated man, but I need you to simplify this for me. I’m very interested – but I don’t understand. I know the Scriptures front to back. I know what the rabbis have taught for thousands of years, but … I have no idea what You are saying.”

Then, in perhaps the greatest verse in John’s entire gospel, Jesus really did simplify it all for Nicodemus when He declared: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

People can keep all the laws, but the law can’t save. They can be leaders among leaders, but fame and recognition can’t save. They can be wealthy, but material possessions cannot save. Only knowing the Son of God – Jesus – can save a person.

Christ went to the cross and died for the sins of the world. All who believe in Him will not perish (go to Hell) but have everlasting life (know God personally and the, when they die, go to Heaven)! As Jesus spoke amicably with Nicodemus, we can show others through patient civil conversations that it was all part of God’s plan.

God’s story.

God’s love.

God’s Spirit.

God’s calling.

God’s Son.

God’s salvation.

Any time you see people getting saved, lives being changed, miracles and signs, and people moving from darkness to light – it’s all God. Anything good you see is because God is at work around the world to redeem mankind before Jesus returns. Unbelievers may not understand this, but we can help them. Today, you can initiate civil conversations about matters of faith with someone you meet. 

Nick At Night – Part Three

We are looking at the civil conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. This is the first of three recorded connections that this religious leader and teacher had with Jesus.

We started with seeing that “What the World Needs Now Is Love” …

Then we had a look at the fact that in His conversation with Nicodemus Jesus:

Went straight to the point speaking the truth in love

And that the Spirit of God is always moving and we partner with Him in the work of winning the lost

Today – Let’s look at a third element in this civil conversation between the Lord and Nicodemus.

Patience – Even When They Don’t Understand

After Nicodemus asked, “How can this be?” Jesus continued to talk with him and explained Himself in quite some detail, Even though Nicodemus was a teacher of the law and should have been able to grasp these concepts. Even though, by all appearances, his conversion was nowhere in sight.

And what we learn from Christ’s approach and demeanour is that be must be patient with others, even when they don’t understand. 

Jesus patiently took Nicodemus back to a familiar story in the Old Testament – Numbers 21 – to explain salvation. The people of God were complaining when they should have been rejoicing because God had delivered them from captivity in Egypt and was leading them to the promised land.

They questioned Moses’s leadership abilities.

They didn’t like the monotonous and dry food. 

They began to second-guess leaving a life of slavery in Egypt.

And they began to infect the camp with poisonous words

So the Lord sent real, live snakes into their midst, to do literally the very thing the people were guilty of doing figuratively: poisoning. Many of the Israelites died. Those who were left realized their sin and went to Moses to repent. They knew they were doomed and beyond hope.

In recounting this story, Jesus reminded Nicodemus how Moses lifted up a bronze snake on a pole and whoever looked upon that snake would live. Just as He did with His “born again” statement earlier, Jesus was juxtaposing the physical with the spiritual. In fact, He told Nicodemus that He was speaking about heavenly things: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14-15).

Jesus was patient with Nicodemus as He led him to the truth of the Gospel. We are called to do the same in our civil conversations with others. It may look like they don’t understand. It may look like they are never going to receive it. But God has called us to lift up Jesus so that He can draw all people to Him (John 12:32). That is our only job. That is all we have to worry about.

More and more every day, our world is becoming so divided and confused. Like the Israelites who had snakes in the midst of the camp, it may seem as though we are all doomed.

Our only hope is Jesus Christ.

In everything we do, in every conversation we have, we believers must be loving, patient, truthful, and above all, lift Jesus so that the entire would will believe. 

More next time… 

Nick At Night – Part Two

We are looking at the civil conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus recorded for us in John’s gospel, chapter three. On May 12th we saw that “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and that Christians often fail to show love. We often don’t share the Gospel of the Kingdom because we fear upsetting others or having them reject us. And, often Christians have an adversarial attitude to those who are not believers. Being defensive and antagonistic. 

Then yesterday, “Nick At Night – Part One” we saw that Jesus lovingly shares with Nicodemus his need to be born again. And that Jesus went ‘straight to the point’.

The second thing we notice in the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus is that “The Spirit Is Always Moving.”

Jesus says to Nicodemus, “The winds blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

Nicodemus asked, “How can this be?” (verse 9) The reason he asked this question is because he was convinced that the law was what saved a person.

But since the law cannot save, there was a restlessness in Nicodemus’s soul. Despite the fact that he was a “law man” – and had money, fame, power, position, and religion – he was empty inside. He was searching. He didn’t know why he was searching. He didn’t know why he was feeling what he was feeling.

I imagine Jesus was trying to quiet the noice in Nicodemus’s mind and heart by saying, “Shh! Listen to the sound of the wind. The Holy Spirit of God is drawing you toward something that can save.”

And here’s the best part: even though Nicodemus came searching for Jesus that night, it was actually Jesus via the Holy Spirit who was searching for Nicodemus.

Do you remember the story in the Bible about a man named Zacchaeus who was small in stature? He climbed up a tree to look for Jesus, who was passing through the town of Jericho. Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5).

Let me ask you a question: Was Zacchaeus searching for Jesus, or was Jesus searching for Zacchaeus? Even though Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector, a “sinner” by everyone else’s account, he was valuable to the Lord. Jesus was looking for him and wanted to be a guest in his home. After encountering the Lord, Zacchaeus repented of his sins, vowing to give half of what he owned to the poor and pay restitution to anyone he had cheated in the past.

If there was any doubt that Jesus was in fact looking for Zacchaeus, what the Lord declared next should clear things up: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10).

The Spirit of God moved in the heart of a wealthy tax collector to climb that tree in Jericho in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world., As we have already discovered, God’s Spirit also moved in the heart of Nicodemus to seek out Jesus for the answers to his questions. 

Behind the scenes, this very moment, the Spirit of God is moving! He blows wherever He wants to. As you approach casual conversations with others, I hope you will take comfort in the fact that God’s Spirit is always moving and wooing – even in folks you think would never be saved. 

Author Russell Moore penned this powerful statement:

“The next Billy Graham might be passed out drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now.. But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so.”

Don’t ever doubt whom God can reach or whom God can save!

Right now there are people in your life – and perhaps even folks not yet met – who are restless just like Nicodemus. They are wondering what it means to be born again. There is an emptiness in their hearts that the law, or self-righteousness, or money, or power, or fame, or relationships, or drugs, or alcohol cannot fill. The Spirit of God could be reaching out to them through you. Let this amazing truth be your confidence as you initiate civil conversations with them about matters of faith. 

More tomorrow…

Nick At Night – Part One

Last time (Blog: What the World Needs Now – May 12th, 2020) we looked at the fact that what the world really needs from those of us who call ourselves Christians is love. This love will be seen first in the way we talk with people. In other words, knowing how to have civil conversations where we can express the Gospel while treating people with dignity and respect. We saw some examples: Philip and the Ethiopian, Peter and Cornelius; Jesus and the woman at the well, Paul and Lydia, as well as Jesus and Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was someone you might meet for the first time and think, He’ll never become a Christian. The guy had political influence and clout. He represented the status quo. He was wealthy. A guardian of the rules. A keeper of the laws.

Were you raised in (or have you ever been to) a legalistic church? The kind of church that emphasized “keeping the rules” – lots and lots of rules! Sadly, sometimes even “unwritten” rules are considered biblical.

Nicodemus most likely subscribed to all kinds of unwritten laws as a teacher to Israel. He represents the people who believe that by keeping all the rules they are somehow saved or made righteous. And yet Nicodemus came to Jesus at night because he was probable very intrigued by Him. He wanted to learn more about Him and the things He had been teaching. So Nicodemus said, “Rabbi,” which means “teacher,” and the conversation began.

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him (John 3:2).

There are a few things I want to highlight within Jesus and Nicodemus’s exchange and conversation that will be immediately helpful to you as your share your faith.

1> Straight to the point

Jesus was willing to have a civil conversation with Nicodemus, but He also got straight to the point, as we see in the third verse of John 3. It could have been because it was late at night and Jesus was too tired for small talk. But it probably had more to do with Jesus’s desire to see Nicodemus saved. He pulled no punches. He did not shy away from this opportunity to converse with one of Israel’s most important political and religious leaders.

He said to Nicodemus, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

That’s pretty direct. Nicodemus heard this phrase born again and he couldn’t figure it out; he didn’t understand it. So he asked the question heard around the the evangelical world: “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4)

Jesus answered, and once again, He did not mince words: “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:5-6).

And what He meant by that was that Nicodemus had already been born physically; he needed to be born spiritually. Nick at night still didn’t get it, but to be fair, consider where we are in history: Jesus hadn’t died on the cross yet, the day of Pentecost was still three years away, and the church hadn’t started yet. There were no baptisteries, no communion trays, and no crosses on church buildings. Jesus was speaking somewhat prophetically when He pointed out the truth about being born of water and the Spirit. 

No wonder Nicodemus didn’t understand. I’m not sure he was suppose to understand. Even mature Christians today have difficulty understanding this text! But Jesus laid everything out directly anyway.

Sometimes when believers are talking with someone who doesn’t know Christ, we beat around the bush. We use too many words. We preface or sugarcoat or water down the message. Jesus’s civil conversation with Nicodemus teaches us that sometimes we need to get straight to the point. This doesn’t mean you should be frantic, rude, or abrupt. Jesus was gentle and at ease as He shared the truth. He is the way, the truth and the life, after all, so it was probably completely natural to Him!

It may not be as natural to us, but you and I can learn to hone our message. As we practice sharing our testimony and the Gospel message, we will learn to cut out all the hemming and hawing and get down to what’s most important: the simple story of Christ’s transforming love. 

More next time…

 

Discouraged?

Have you ever felt discouraged? I know I have. And, it has not always hit when things were not going well or I was feeling emotionally down. Discouragement can come your way no matter what is currently happening in your life. 

I was recently reading the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament section of the Bible. A good story of God moving strongly and powerfully in the life of a young man who was taken from his home nation and became a slave in a foreign empire that did not believe in the God he worshipped and served. Eventually he earns the respect and trust of the ruler and becomes a key member of the ruler’s household. In time, he hears about what is left of his own nation’s capital, Jerusalem. It wounds him deeply that the city is in ruins and so is the temple within the city. 

He prays and feels God calling him to go and bring the people together to rebuild the city and the temple beginning with the wall that surrounds all major cities of that day as a means of protection. So, he heads off with the ruler’s blessing and letters of introduction. He has everything he will need to rebuild supplied to him. The people are favourable to the plan and join him in rebuilding. They have the wall half built. So, progress is being made and people can see things coming together. 

In the process, Nehemiah has faced some fairly strong and regular opposition to the plan and to the work being done. He handles it wisely and in both a very co-operative and gracious way. But the people are all aware of the constant opposition to this work God has called them to accomplish. In fact, they are surrounded by nations that are enemies of the Jewish nation. As the opposition continues to grow and threaten the work, those rebuilding the wall and the city work with a sword in one hand ready to defend what they are doing. 

But the people become discouraged … 

Rebuilding – whether it is a walled city or your life, ministry, family, business – can be exciting for a little while, but when the initial excitement fades and opposition arises, it can get discouraging really fast. Nehemiah 4:10 says, “Then the people of Judah began to complain. ‘The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.’”

When you work hard for a while and you are blasted with ridicule, resistance, and rumours, you’re going to get discouraged! When does that normally kick in? Discouragement usually creeps in around the halfway point. Verse 6 states, “The wall was completed to half its height around the entire city.”

How many of you have projects around your house that are half finished? We can all relate to the sources of the people’s discouragement in the book of Nehemiah. 

1> The first one is FATIGUE. 

“The workers are getting tired…” When you are tired, you lose your edge to fight off discouragement and opposition. 

2> The second one is FRUSTRATION

“There is so much rubble to be moved…” They actually were making a lot of progress, but the task felt overwhelming at the moment.

3> The third source of discouragement is FAILURE

“We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves”

4> The fourth one is FEAR

“They will come from all directions and attack us” (Nehemiah 4:12)

Beware of these four things that can stop our rebuilding process dead in its tracks. Take some time as you think through some of the projects you have half accomplished … and nail down why you never completed them. What was the source of your discouragement – fatigue, frustration, failure, or fear .. or maybe a combination of two or there of them. 

And, then look at the current condition of your walk with Jesus and your general overall spiritual health and well being. Discouraged? Why? And what can you do to get over the half-time slump? 

Being Honest With Yourself!

Our biggest enemy if often not the devil. It is ourself. We are not being deceived by him or by others. We deceives ourselves. We fail to look at ourselves – what we believe, how we live, our attitude, our thoughts, our morals, our values, our perspective on life, and our priorities. We don’t want to look at ourselves or examine what’s in our heart because we might not like what we find. 

But, I believe that in God’s Kingdom it a season for honest and deep reflection about the lives we live and what we think is important and not important. It is time to be honest with yourself. 

Are you not tired of pretending? Living to please others? Acting a part? Doing everything to cover up who you really are? Is it not time to stop hiding from yourself and thus from others. It is time to be who God created and called you to be. It is time to decide to live for an audience of ONE.

Am I saying you have to confess all your garbage in from of the whole church? No. With some issues, that might be what God requires of you. But with most personal matters, it’ll be wiser to divulge them only to a small, trusted circle of friends or a lone accountability partner. But this I know, playing the fugitive from the truth about yourself will never bring you lasting peace or freedom to live a full and fulfilling life.

The problem is that it is easier to stay the way you are – to coast and live an average, complacent life. You could avoid risk and keep acting. That’s what most Christians (and even the general population) do. In fact, you’ll often be rewarded for faking it. No one will complain. The status quo is always comfortable. You’ll blend in. Even though you know you were created to stand out.

But if you are sick of shallow, empty relationships – if you’re craving deep, sincere community – then you are going to have to take a chance, to risk it. You’ll risk harsh judgments, misunderstandings, criticism. But think about the reward. Imagine living in the freedom and liberty of fully knowing yourself and being really known by others. Dream about releasing guilt, shame, fear, and doubts. See yourself closer to God – and the people around you – than you’ve ever been before.

The choice is yours: Life as it has been, or life as it should be and could become. 

It is my goal to live the most authentic, transparent, vulnerable life a Christ follower can. And here is what I’ve found. Some people don’t like me. But that would be the case no matter what, wouldn’t it? On the other hand, others not only like me, they love me deeply. And the don’t love the image I once portrayed. They love the real me who God created. And, I love them. But most importantly, I have come to really love myself – love who I am and who I am becoming. 

The more honest I have become with God, myself, and His people, the richer and deeper my relationships have grown. In the past, I was always afraid of being ‘found out’. I lived in constant fear of people seeing the cracks in my character, of not measuring up. But not anymore. I overcame my fear because I took a chance. And I’ll continue to take obedient, truthful chances. The more I have come to know and love myself (as imperfect as I may be), the more real God has become to me and the greater love I have for those I relate to. 

The road to honesty and integrity is the path I choose to take. I won’t play it safe. And neither should you. In fact, you can’t play it safe and please God. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). And walking in faith is always a risk.

Even when our faith is small, God can do great things. As we step out with the faith we now have; as we take that first step toward living a life free of fear … and secrets… and doubts… and insecurities, we will find a deep freedom we have not experienced before. And we will live a life of honesty and integrity. A life pleasing to God. The life you were created to live. 

Friend! Really?

The relational impact of social media and technology has redefined the word friend. Once upon a time, even just a decade ago, when someone said they were your friend, you both understood what that meant: you shared interests, understood each other’s goals, and enjoyed doing life together. Things are no longer that simple. You can have dozens – even hundreds – of friends that you’ve never met IRL (in real life). They may follow you on social media, or vice versa, without really knowing who you are or what makes you tick.

The average North American has more than three hundred Facebook friends, but only two people that they consider close friends. And this is one-third fewer friends than the average person had just twenty-five years ago.

Also, according to the American Sociological Review, a quarter of Americans (that’s about eighty million people) say they have zero – nada, goose egg, none at all – close friends. 

Why the decline? While there are all sorts of theories, we can summarize four main reasons that people have fewer friends now:

        • People are working more. The more hours people work, the fewer hours they relate socially. More and more people say their closest friends are those they work with because they’re less able to develop or maintain friendships outside of work.
        • People are moving more frequently. In our mobile economy, people don’t stay in one place as long as they used to, so they aren’t becoming as close as they once did.
        • People are getting divorced more often. One spouse gets the couch, the table, and the television, while the other gets the recliner, the refrigerator, the bed. Just as they divvy up possessions, couples often divide their friends, who tend to side with one  over the other.
        • People are talking more online and less in person. While we know the benefits of social media, communicating online has many downsides as well. Many people carefully filter what they share with others so they can present only their best selves, making it much more difficult to be authentic in their real-world relationships.

Even as most of us are engaged in far more online activity now, many of us are experiencing less personal intimacy. For example, many people, when their phone rings, don’t answer, letting it go to voicemail instead. If the caller leaves a message, we may listen to it later, at our convenience, then reply with a text if we feel like it. That lets us stay in control of the ‘conversation’.

And this is hitting us in too many ways to count. I know people who check their Facebook page in the middle of the night because they feel alone. They may have seven hundred Facebook friends, but not one close friends in normal life.

We’re connected, yet we feel lonelier than ever.

Poverty used to mean only one thing. Now sociologists are acknowledging at least three types of poverty. The three divisions of poverty that you see mentioned often are:

      • Material poverty: the lack of basic needs
      • Spiritual poverty: the lack of eternal meaning
      • Relational poverty: the lack of intimate friendships

This third one seems to have taken many people by surprise. But if you think about it, you may realize that it’s true of you as well. Something is wrong. Something is missing. You might even acknowledge that it isn’t actually a something but a someone. 

Based on where you are right now, the decision you most need to make may be to connect. Really Connect. And invest in having a real friend. 

Be Confident – Be You

The Bible states and God says, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded” (Hebrews 10:35). Of course, our confidence is in Him and what He is doing in us and through us. On our journey with Jesus, as we discover who we are, we also learn what He has called us to do for Him and His Kingdom.

As we gain confidence in Him and thus who we are “in Christ” and what He has called us to do then we can reach the stage where we can relax and be confident and comfortable. You can “be confident in who you are, and comfortable with who you’re not.” In other words, you truly discover yourself – the real you that God created. And, you are then able to sort out and settle many of the issues that keep you from living a full and fulfilling life. You can separate what God expects of you and from you from what others expect and even demand. Your life-focus becomes much sharper and you stop wasting time trying to impress people or ‘keeping up with the Jones.’ You are too busy keeping up with Jesus and all that He is revealing to you about you. 

This means you can just be yourself. Being someone and thus something you’re not is exhausting. No one wins. You are plastic in your relationships. Conversations remain shallow and boring. You fear doing new things that might disturb the false ‘you’ that you have been projecting for years. You are fearful that if people really got to know you they would not like you and would reject you … walking away permanently. You live with that fear. You live ‘timid’ and afraid. As a result, you remain relationally unhealthy. And, never discover the real you; never experience what a healthy relationship is like; how life-giving and freeing it can be.

If you want to change and discover the real you and live with confidence … remember that if you cling to what got you to this point you will fail to evolve, and you will continue to be the you that you were never meant to be. 

However, if you want to create something that matters, for both yourself and others, you have to start where you are, with who you are and what you have. You can’t just jump into what you want and who God wants you to be. There are lots of small steps that you will need to take.The first being the way you see life, see yourself, and see what you do. To change your perspective you definitely need to push past your comfort zone. Get out of your rut no matter how comfortable that rut may be.

Remember this: Comfort zones are the places where dreams and hope go to die.

So, where others see the mundane and minimize it, you will need to see the possibility and maximize it. You will need to decide to live in “change mode” for the rest of your life, starting right now! You must stop thinking and believing small. I understand that what makes smallness difficult to overcome is that it feels easier and more comfortable than pressing forward into the new you and much bigger dreams. Just remember, comfort zones are the places where dreams and a better future go to die. Where the better you is buried and never discovered. You need to decide that no matter what happens you are going to move forward in the opposite direction to where you are currently headed.

Live fearlessly. Don’t allow past disappointments to abort today’s possibilities. See that everything is working together for your good. Don’t be petty.  Look for the good in everything. Find people – build relationships with people who love you, will stick with you, encourage you, and will be there for you regardless. There are relationships out there that are priceless. But they will be products of your own willingness to press into people, believe in them, love, take risks, and be open to the possibility of friendships and relationships that are open and transparent. 

Begin the journey and be yourself – the real you. Remember, being someone and thus something you’re not is exhausting.