living and serving with others

serving with others

Living the others can be difficult. My first experience living with another person was in college. As a freshman, I was preselected a roommate and had no idea who he would be. I was going to share a fifteen foot by fifteen foot room with a stranger. It turned out my roommate was a dairy cow farmer from Ohio and a camping ministries major. I remember after a whitewater rafting class he got a bad sunburn. He bathed himself in vinegar and smelled like a pickle for a week. Although we were very different and butted heads on occasion our living arrangement worked out.

Sometimes living and serving with others doesn’t work out so easily. Sometimes it is work. Hard work. If you are doing life with members of a church or are serving on a team with other Christians you know just how hard it can be.

At the end of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he writes five rapid-fire imperatives and one promise to those who are living and serving together in the church. The five imperatives have one singular focus on bringing unity to the Corinthian church. Take note of how intentionally intrusive they are. Paul knows firsthand that ministry relationships are full of passion and opportunities for disunity are apparent. Unless you are a hermit, being intentionally intrusive with others is important, especially if you are living and serving with others.

“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)

1. Rejoice.

There is no surprise that the first imperative is “rejoice”. Why? Paul longed for the Corinthians to be a cause for his own rejoicing (cf. 1:24; 2:3). He loved the church deeply. He knew there would be rejoicing in the church if all members listened to him, trusted his apostleship and walked in repentance. Paul had every reason to despise the Corinthians and to give up on them. So “rejoice” is an imperative full of faith and expectation that the Corinthians were on the verge of joyous unity. He was nowhere near giving up on them. They brought him that much joy!

How can you rejoice in the Lord giving you a church? How are your church members a cause for your own rejoicing?

2. Mend.

The second imperative, “Aim for restoration,” has the sense of putting back into place or mending or repairing. Living and serving with others is a group assignment and the more you are with each other the great the probability there will be friction and fraction. Paul lays the responsibility directly on the church—“Get it together”—work at restoring your unity in Christ (cf. 13:9; Ephesians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:10). Paul echoes this when writing another church, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1b-3)

Are there any relationships within your church that need mending or repair?    What are the most prominent heart idols that you anticipate may get in the way of you allowing others from being intentionally intrusive into your life (i.e. fear of man, lover of pleasure, pride, wanting control, comparing yourself to others, failing to believe the best in another, etc.)? Are you working towards restoration rather than destruction? Explain.

3. Comfort.

The third imperative is to “comfort one another” or listen with tenderness (cf. 1:3-11). Paul was aware of the depth of the hurt among both those who were in the right and in the wrong. He himself needed comfort as his relationship with the Corinthian church was frayed.The situation then and now in Corinth demanded mutual tenderness and comfort. Comfort is the currency of unity and harmony. To comfort another means you spend your time and energies to reassure, relieve and repose another who is hurt or struggling.

Who is someone in your church who needs the tenderness of Christ right now? How will you comfort them?     If you were to be struggling with allowing someone to be intentionally intrusive into your life, what would be the manifestations of your struggle (i.e. not returning phone calls, short answers, no eye contact, easily irritable, blame shifting, etc.)?

4. Harmony.

The next imperative is to “agree with one another” or “be of one mind” or “live in harmony” (cf. 1:10). Every church needs this admonition, but no church needed it more than Corinth. The elitist, Corinthianized super-apostles had issues with everything Paul stood for. Harmony is sounds working together on different notes that make a pleasing sound. Paul did not ask the church to agree on everything, but they were called to agree with one another on the the main things like his role as an apostle and message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Are there secondary issues that are causing disunity among you and another church member (i.e. decision making style, not being understood, not liking what someone else is doing, etc.)? Have these secondary things become an idol in your heart? How can focusing on the main thing or the essentials help build harmony between you and others?

5. Peace.

Lastly, the imperative to “live in peace” flows out of such harmony, since being out of tune is not a peaceable sound; rather it’s discord. Peace doesn’t come passively. Nevertheless, living in peace requires intention and determination (cf. Mark 9:50; 33-37; 42-48).

How are you pursuing peace with church members? Would others describe you as a peacemaker? How can you actively live in peace?

God’s Promise

Now, if you step back and look at the whole, all five imperatives call the Corinthians to continuous action day in and day out. If the Corinthians heed them and walk in them they are given a resplendent promise: “and the God of love and peace will be with you” (v. 11b). God promises to give his children his love and peace as they actively do his work together.

What is it like to not experience the love and peace of God? How can the love and peace of God be with you when others do not seem to be at peace with you? In what ways are you being blessed by God’s love and peace with your church members?

Unity by living and serving with others in a team/church does not come easily. We must work at every facet at all times. Restoration is work, comfort is work, harmony is work, peace is work, and even rejoicing requires work. Paul called for continuous, specific focus for the church—and everything depends upon their response.

“Passion for the church involves diving into the community of the local church. It means ‘doing life’ with other Christians by pursuing relationships that extend beyond the church building and official church functions… ‘Fellowship is a uniquely Christian relational experience,’ writes pastor John Loftness. ‘Fellowship is participating together in the life and truth made possible by the Holy Spirit through our union with Christ. Fellowship is sharing something in common at the deepest possible level of human relationships – our experience of God Himself.’ Fellowship means belonging to each other” (Joshua Harris, Stop Dating the Church pg. 75).

Paul was so concerned about restoration and unity in Corinth that he became especially directive about demonstrating affection. First, he called them “brothers.” (v.11) Paul’s relationship to the church is not professional. The familial language assumes that Christians are family in meaningful spiritual relationship. Second, to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (v. 12) was a cultural expression of affection among family members. It is difficult to embrace another person with whom you have discord. Third, Paul shares a “Hello” from his companions in Ephesus, “All the saints greet you” (v. 13). The unity he desires to renew in Corinth is universal. Christian unity is true for the whole Body of Christ. Finally, in Paul’s final benediction he says, “The [amazing] grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the [extravagant] love of God and the [intimate] fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (v.14) The example of the Trinity is also a picture of unity. The promise was for everyone—the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was Corinth’s hope. And today it is ours too!

Who is a person in your life whom you welcome to be intentionally intrusive who you know will love you in Christ, show you grace and provide intimate fellowship? How will you be more intentional involved in the fellowship of your church? How does the grace, love and fellowship of God encourage you to share the same with others?

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love & relationships 101

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WITHIN RELATIONSHIPS

  1. Who’s in your drivers seat?
  2. Why preparing for marriage matters?
  3. What about sex before marriage?
  4. Dating, courting, or waiting?
  5. Is true love possible?
  6. How to choose the right relationship?

GOD’S ANSWER & HIS HIGH STANDARDS FOR RELATIONSHIPS

  1. Both of you must be faithful followers committed to Jesus Christ
  2. Marriage is a picture of a divine and permanent relationship
  3. Sexual intimacy is for the marriage bed only
  4. Every relationship is to be viewed as sacred
  5. You cannot get a refund on your relationships
  6. Seek someone with Christlike character

JUST FOR FUN

When Vince Lombardi took over the Green Bay Packers as Head Coach the team was a mess. The team did not function as a team. They were confused by complicated schemes and lack of discipline. During one of the first practices Lombardi gathered the men together and said, “This is a football.” It is not that they didn’t know what a football was, but they had forgotten the basics of the game. That summer Lombardi gave his men a 101 course in the fundamentals of football and their dedication helped them to become world champions.

Bookstores are lined with relationship advice. The internet is bogged down with sites sharing the newest dating and marital tips. You could spend over a thousand lifetimes reading all the love and relationship information in the saturated media-sphere until every orifice of your body is oozing relationship factoids. You might be a self-proclaimed expert on relationships and win the love and romance categories on Jeopardy, but in real life your relationships are flunking.

More information is not the answer, rather it is living as your were called within your relationships. Let’s make it simple, pull off your dusty Bible from the shelf and see what the wise inventor of human relationships has to say. God has high and helpful standards for our relationships. If God’s has a high standard for relationships so should you.

who’s in your driver’s seat?

The first two cars I owned were hand-me-downs. When I was 16, I bought the 1987 Dodge Daytona from my stepmother for $500. She lasted about 6 months before she gave up the ghost. My second car I bought while in college—a 1989 Chevy Corsica from my grandmother. She was a fairly reliable 4-door sedan. I named her Angus, mostly because she was black and I wanted her to have a bold name for the complex I had while driving her.

Angus had issues. First, my door got stuck. I felt like one of the Duke brothers climbing through the window of the General Lee to get into my car. Second, the ignition broke, so I had a buddy hotwire a toggle switch to help start the car without a key. I was embarrassed to take dates in this car because I never knew what would happen next. On one occasion I took a gal out for dinner and it started raining really hard. I turned on the wipers to full blast and they rocketed off the windshield never to be found. I spent the rest of the ride with my head out of the window like a panting dog to see where we were going. Nothing like that to dampen your date!

I did upgrade to nicer cars, but never really got the car of my dreams. If you could have any car what would you drive? Many people desire the German BMW or Mercedes, while others adore the Italian Lamborghini, Ferrari or Bugatti Veyron. I would settle for a Ford Mustang Shelby. I often daydream about what it would be like to drive one of these hot wheels around town, feeling the roar of the engine; proud of wow-factor I get from people I zoom past.

Have ever realized how much cars and relationships have in common? The next few weeks I will share a series on dating and relationships. We are going to approach this topic from the biblical standpoint. You might be thinking, “I know what the Bible says about relationships, it’s so old fashion and culturally irrelevant.” Stay tuned. You might be pleasantly surprised how practical and helpful the Bible is when it speaks about relationships with the opposite sex.

you get what you pay for

There are two ways to look at buying a car: either you get something really cheap that quickly breaks down or you get something nice that will last you a lifetime. There is no middle of the road. When it comes to relationships, God is in it for the long haul for “nothing can separate us from the love of God” [cf. Ephesians 3:17-19, Romans 8:35-39, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7]. He has put the miles in for you and He expects you to go the distance with those you committed.

Jesus says marriage—the chief earthly relationship—is a visual illustration to the world of Jesus’ commitment to the church [Ephesians 5:25ff]. Never will He abuse, neglect or separate Himself from His Bride. The love binding together Christ and the church is eternal. He has a covenant relationship with His followers built on sacrificial love for His followers. Relationships are no small matter or a place for shallow commitment.

Do not settle for anything less than the best. What is the best when it comes to relationships? God says the best is for both partners to be committed followers of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, believers are commanded to set their relationship standards high, “Do not be yoked with unbelievers.” To understand this verse you must learn from the farmer. Back in the day, farmers used oxen to plow their fields. They would match up two animals that were similar in size and strength to get straight rows. A smart farmer would never match up a goat and Clydesdale, or wild stallion with an old donkey. If so he would simply spin in circles getting nowhere. Do you see the illustration God gives to us about relationships? A believer and non-believer pull each other in opposite directions, in fact, the relationship will spin in spiritual circles if both parties are not committed to Christ.

beware of lemons

Beware of the dodgy deals from the used car lot. In other words, be careful of the worldly messages you hear and see on TV, Internet, or romance novels. The message is of compromise not commitment, “Dating is just for fun and sex.” Also, be careful of ungodly advice from friends who are sinful sympathizers. His or her message is listen to yourself not your God, “You should be with someone who makes you happy or makes you feel fulfilled.”  Lemons are sour deals that as you think back on them you regrettably know you have bought into a lie and you should have been cautious enough to search under the hood of that person’s heart before you signed the paperwork. Here are common lies and excuses about dating a non-believer:

“He or she is really nice person and is very good to me.” This is admirable and chivalrous. Some non-believers truly have better character than believers. However, if they are not in Christ their motives in the relationship are always selfish. Use your friendship as a God given opportunity to share with them the gospel. Let them know that Christ wants to reconcile an eternal relationship with them.

“Don’t worry, I will share my faith inside our relationship.” Missionary dating is sin. You have already compromised the relationship. How can you tell your partner to obey God when you are not being obedient to God by dating them? It is never God’s will to sin, even if it feels so good and right.

“If God was loving He would let me date who I want.” Remember, God is the standard. What He commands is for my good and His glory. God is not being cruel when He commands you to date believers and steer away from non-believers. He is protecting your heart. Take the time to read the story of Sampson [Judges 13-16] and Solomon [1 Kings 1-11]. You see how quickly love blinds their hearts from their God to the idols of their women. God warns about inter-spiritual relationships because He knows how distracting and spiritually detrimental they are for both parties.

In order to prevent yourself from getting a lemon you need to do some research into the person you want to partner. When buying a car you will get an inspection from the mechanic, check under the hood yourself, or go to carfacts.com to see the specks and history of the car. When it comes to our relationships we must go to the Word of God. The Bible says by their fruit you will know the kind of person they are [Matthew 7:16-17; John 15:8; Galatians 5:22-23].

How can you see someone’s fruit? See how they handle conflict [Proverbs 9:8-9], probe their passions, and ask x-ray questions: First, who is driving your life? If they give you a shallow answer or they are offended you asked this should be a red flag. Second, what is your relationship like with your mom and dad? You can tell a lot about how someone will treat you by the way they treat or speak to their parents. Third, are you involved at church? If they are serving others and loving the church this gives you a seek peak at their passions and priorities [cf. Philippians 2:4]. These are not fail proof questions since people can put up good fronts or change, but they are a starting point. [Note: more on danger signs for relationships next week].

no more backseat driving

Backseat drivers are annoying. They whisper or wail in your ear what they think you need to be doing. They are never satisfied and always complaining about your driving style. Are you a backseat driver to God? Do you say to Him things like, “Stop telling me how to run my relationships,” “Can you get going already? I am tired of waiting for the right guy or gal to come along,” Now if I were God I would be like the parent who says, “If you do not stop it right now I am going to pull this car over and give you something to think about!” Good thing I am not God, but if you say that God is in your driver’s seat let Him drive.

quick Q&A about concerning biblical relationships

Just because someone is a Christian does that mean I should date them even if I do not like him or her? What if never meet a Christian that I am attracted to? Waiting is never a bad option. In fact, while you wait, your primary relationship—between you and God—can be growing some great fruit. Also, pray to God asking Him to provide you a partner that will love God more than you.

What if you are in a relationship that you are convinced is second best? Repent and respond by doing the right thing. Speak honestly with your partner and break off the relationship until you are both faithfully committed to Christ.

How can you tell who is behind the wheel when it comes to your other relationships? Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Surround yourself a great examples of faithful followers who have done it right. Take good notes.
  2. Learn from the examples of failed relationship. Don’t let history repeat itself.
  3. Keep accountable to someone wise while dating. Ask them to assess your relationships often with objectiveness.
  4. Listen to the advice of your parents and heed the warnings of the Word of God.

cross-centered relationships

What is at the center of your of your life? Your center is what is your main thing, your top priority, and the thing you most passionate about. It is what defines you. Your center is clearly seen in what do you talk about or what is on your mind the most. Commonly it is a relationship, passion, career or cause. Have you seen your center change over the years?

What is the one thing God says must be our center? In 1 Corinthians 15:3 Paul says that our first importance is the cross of Christ—the gospel. The cross is like a hub with spokes to a wheel. It affects everything you do—your passions, career, causes and relationships. It wasn’t until I came to know Christ and begin a relationship with the God of the universe that I realized my relationships with my parents, friends, and authorities could be different.

For those who do not know God the cross is silly and stupid. “The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.” [1 Corinthians 1:18] People hate the work of Christ because it runs so contradictory to the way people think and live. The cross is foolish because people do not make the connection from what Christ did on the cross to how it impacts their life. The cross is crucial to all our relationships. If you say you have a relationship with God, the proof of it is how you view your relationships. How does the cross impact my relationships: with my parents, friends, authorities, or dating partners?

1. The cross is the means to change my motives within relationships [2 Corinthians 5:14-15]. Jesus went to the cross not because he thought it was going to be fun or a vacation to the beach. It was hard, painful, and torturous. He could have backed down, but He didn’t. He was motivated by love and joyful obedience, even when people mocked Him and beat Him and bullied Him.

First, my relationships must be motivated by Christ’s love. This is often difficult because we are motivated by getting things from people. We are consumers. We view our relationships as people owing us attention, love, and respect [note Pharisees: John 12:43; Luke 7:47]. We say to our parents, “You owe me a nice room with privacy. You owe me new clothes for school and respect for my possessions.” We think our authorities and friends should treat us fairly and respectably. If you think people owe you it will frustrate you because you often do not get what you want.

My esteem does not come from self or others, but comes from Christ. I have Christ-esteem [v.15]. The question is not what do people owe me, but what do I owe them? “Owe no one anything, except love each other.” [Romans 13:3] “Walk in love as Christ loved you.” [Ephesians 5:2] “The love of Christ controls us.” [v.14] I owe others love because God commands me to love one another [Colossians 3:12-17]. If I am a genuine follower of Christ I am able to love others because He has loved me [1 John 3:7-21]. The cross is proof of His love [1 John 3:16]. The cross shows just how horrendous my sin is, but how immense is God’s love. The cross puts me on equal terms with everyone else. I am no better, and no worse.

Second, my relationships must be motivated by joyful obedience. I am willing to submit to others authority in my life because I see it has benefitted me to submit to God’s authority. God protects and provides. No longer do I need to live in the frustration of being a man pleaser, but in the joyfulness of becoming a God pleaser. My motivation as a follower of Christ is not what other people think about me, but is God pleased with me [2 Corinthians 5:9].

2. The cross is the means of dealing with conflict in relationships [2 Corinthians 5:16-19]. The cross challenges my attitude towards those I have something against [v.17; cf. Titus 3:1-11; Colossians 3:8-15]. Often when I have something against another person I want to control the situation by letting them feel my pain or know my hurt. However, God says that vengeance is not yours and when we take wrath into our hands we make a mess of the situation [Romans 12:19]. Only God can be God. So how does God desire us to deal with conflicts?

What if I have sinned against someone? What if I have blow it and messed up a relationship? As a new creation in Christ I seek reconciliation and forgiveness for your sin. What if they do not accept my forgiveness? You cannot control their response. You have done your part. Trust God to minister to them [v.18-19]. What if it is physically impossible to ask for their forgiveness because of death or distance? If death take your unforgiveness to God, but if not write a letter or call the person you have something against.

What if someone sinned against me? If someone has wronged you and you are struggling with thoughts of bitterness or rage seek their forgiveness for your sinful attitude. You can, “Forgive as Christ forgave you.” [Ephesians 4:32] because “Love covers a multitude of sins.” [1 Peter 4:8] Love is powerful.

What about those who don’t seem to deserve my love? Have you heard it said, “Hurt me once shame on you, hurt me twice shame on me”? The Bible says, “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men.” [1 Thessalonians 5:15] What does it say about you if God can forgive sins eternally, but you cannot forgive someone? The proper response is to confront in love pointing them to the cross. In the cross, there is no one undeserving of God’s love.

Some people are fire starter while others are fire extinguisher. Who are you? An attitude of humility, gentleness, and understanding can diffuse many arguments, tensions and disagreements. “If any man is caught in any sin, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” [Galatians 6:1ff] “Let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” [1 Peter 3:8-9]

3. The cross is the means to restore broken relationships [2 Corinthians 5:20-21]. The cross makes our relationship right with God and gives us the ability to reconcile our earthly relationships because we are ambassadors of reconciliation [v.20]. The cross attacks the issues that hurt relationships. The cross attacks and defeats sin. The cross does not tear down a relationship with God it builds up. Teenagers are champs at knocking others down with their teasing and tearing words. This has no place in the life of a Christian, “Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” [Romans 14:19]

How has the cross impacted your relationships with God and others? The proof of your relationship with Heavenly Father is seen and heard in your earthly relationships.

Quick Q&A on Cross-Centered Communication in my Relationships:

Q: What does a cross-centered relationship look like at home with my parents? What if my parents are on my case? What if we do not get along What if they have does something to you that scarred you really deep? Begin with the road towards reconciliation and obey joyfully as to the Lord [Ephesians 6:1-3]. As you honor your parents you are really honoring God.

Q: What does a cross-centered relationship look like at school with my teachers or at work with my boss? Trust God who appoints all your authorities [Ephesians 6:1-9; Titus 3:1ff] Even if some are unfair or unreasonable God has placed them into their positions of authority. Remember your boss is ultimately God. The way you work can be a shining light for God’s glory.

Q: What does a cross-centered relationship look like with my friends? If you see your friends sinning be willing to confront their sin [cf. Matthew 18:15-17]. This is what good friends do—they hold one another accountable. A loving friend does not sympathize with sin; rather they help their friends overcome sin. Also, humbly accept confrontation for your sin too.

Q: What does a cross-centered relationship look like in my future marriage or dating relationships? [More on this the next few weeks] Check out: 1 Peter 3:1-7, Ephesians 5:22ff, and 1 Corinthians 7.

what does the Trinity teach us about relationships?

Within the Trinity there is both unity and diversity: unity without uniformity, and diversity without division. This unity and diversity is at the core of the great mystery of the Trinity. Unity without uniformity is baffling to our finite minds, but there are demonstrations of this truth all around us; like a symphony, the human body, ecosystems, the church, the human race, a delicious meal, or a sporting event. Unity and diversity are woven into the fabric of the world by multiple images of the One who made it with unity and diversity.

Our human relationships uniquely and divinely reminisce the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity. This is no mistake, since man’s Maker stamped each man in His image. Most people never consider where this similarity has originated, but God has innately marked His creation with creative features that mimic Him—including our relationships. Today we will look at three distinct relationships that the Bible demonstrated both the unity and diversity of the Trinity:

Marriage is a relationship that demonstrates the Trinity’s unity and diversity [Ephesians 5:22-33]

Marriage is a wonderful picture that God uses to demonstrate His character as an unconditional, faithful, and sacrificial Lover. From the beginning of Creation God made man equal in His image [Genesis 1:26-27]. Though man and woman are quite diverse in appearance and God-given roles [Genesis 2; 1 Peter 3:1-7], they are both equally made in the image of God. If only man and woman within marriage would consider one another images of God, much of the conflict and chauvinism would dissipate.

The unifying love that Jesus has for His church is a beautiful demonstration of marriage [Ephesians 5:22ff]. Marriage is pictured in Christ sacrificing Himself for His church and the church submitted to Christ, which is paralleled by the husbands love his wife, the wife submitted to her husband, and both out of reverence towards Christ.

Church Body is a relationship that demonstrates the Trinity’s unity and diversity [Ephesians 4:1-16]

There is a glorious union between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Biblical Christianity stands or falls with the doctrine of the Trinity. Within the doctrine of the Trinity there are practical Implications. First, the Trinity makes God known in Christ [John 1:18; Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16]. Second, the Trinity makes the salvation possible [Hebrew 9:14]. Third, the Trinity is fully dependent upon Himself [Acts 17:25]. Fourth, The Trinity provides the ultimate model for relationships within the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 11:3; 12:4–6; Ephesians 4:4–7].

When believers enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ they are adopted into God’s family—the church. The church body is made up of members who are all equal in the eyes of God. God in His divine purposes designed the church to function locally as a means for each member to grow spiritually through mutual relations and gift-oriented ministry with one another. Within His Body, God has given all a diverse role in order for the church to be unified in its display of God’s glory. God gave to the church offices: elders and deacons from the membership who are equal, but the elders are supposed to lead, the deacon’s serve, and the membership minister. When each one is doing their part the Body is a beautiful reflection of God’s unity and diversity.

Leadership (i.e. parenting & governing authority) is a relationship that demonstrates the Trinity’s unity and diversity [Ephesians 6:1-9]

The Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit—one God, three persons, all equal but submissive. God the Son submits to God the Father and recognizes Him as the leader. There is leadership within the Trinity. This is called relational subordination.

Jesus, though He is equal with God, willfully submits Himself to the Father. He submits to the Father out of love [John 4:34; 14:31; 15:9-10], reverence for His divine authority [1 Corinthians 11:3; 15:25-28; John 3:16-17; 10:36; 6:38], and reliance upon the Holy Spirit for power and direction [Luke 4:1-2, 16-21]. Likewise, it is marvelous how the Father shines His spotlight on the Son as He purposes all things to be subject to Jesus [Psalm 2:7-9; Ephesians 1:9-10; 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:27-28; Revelation 5:1-5, 8-9]. Likewise, the Holy Spirit pours forth the message of Jesus in the Word of God [2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20-21, Luke 24:24-27, 44, 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23, 2:2, Galatians 6:14].

Submission to leadership practically plays itself out in two ways: through parenting and governing authorities. In the government of a home: mom, dad, and the children are equal made in God’s image, but dad’s are supposed to lovingly, humbly, and sacrificially lead [Ephesians 6:1-4]. Also, God appoints government leaders and bosses, and our response is to joyfully submit as if we are laboring for God [Ephesians 6:5-9; Romans 13:1-7]. This can be difficult especially in a world that is filled with crooked politicians, unreasonable employers, and passive fathers, but we have an awesome example to follow in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, the Trinity gives us a multifaceted look at relationships. Whether, in a marriage, church, home, business or nation God has demonstrated to us unity within diversity. Imagine if in each arena of your life you were to embrace the diversity rather than run from it, what unity could there be?

what if those I am pouring my life into have gone empty?

Sometimes relationships go sour. Sometimes discipleship hurts. Sometimes those we invest our lives into bail on life and our efforts seem bankrupt. What do I do when I pour my life into someone and there are empty returns? What do I do when I am left speechless on the other end of and unanswered call? Or your cries are unheard or ignored?  Here are some good thoughts to remember:

Discipleship is intentional. When I invest in someone’s life I want him or her to know that I am. I intentionally let them know that I want to spend quality time encouraging their relationship with God not because I have it all together, rather together we can begin sharpening iron. Echo the voices of Jesus and Paul, “follow me.” [Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Timothy 1:13]

Discipleship is eternal. I am intentional about discipleship because I feel the weight of my responsibility before God: to reproduce my vertical relationship with others horizontally [John 15:16ff]. I am responsible for the spiritual growth of our teens. That is a heavy burden to bear, but God brings the fruit. My relationships matter to God. My relationships have eternal ramifications. That is huge.

Discipleship is generational. My relationship does not end with someone after a year or 12-class study. They last a lifetime [Matthew 28:19-20]. From one generation to another I must be willing to disciple and be discipled.

Discipleship is personal. When relationship end or the parking brake seems stuck that can be frustrating. Relationships do not come with 90-day money back guarantee. We might get burned and bruised. If you have some one you are investing in that does not want to be around you: give them over to God, keep tabs on them and don’t close the door on them ever. Chose another to invest in and press on. May our motto be, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” [2 Corinthians 12:15]

discipleship: a process, not a program

Discipleship is a wonderful word. It sounds good in church talk. It appears purposeful and biblical on the cover of curriculum and Christian books. One can throw around the word in a conversation and look quite spiritual. Discipleship is a wonderful word, but a difficult to do.

Paul spoke of his commitment to discipling believers as a labor, “We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me,” [Col.1:28-29].

Christ has called us to disciple [Mt.28:19-20]. Paul viewed the value in Christ’s command and was willing to labor until it was complete. If we truly want to be a disciple that is discipling disciples, we must consider the following:

Discipleship is not a program; it is a process. It is a lifetime commitment. It’s not a sleek, red sports car that burns rubber and gets you and one suitcase there in a hurry, but rather, it is a locomotive that slowly leaves the station, containing the strength to transport an unfathomable amount of cargo. Being committed to discipleship means that we cannot become impatient and bail when things aren’t moving at the pace we desire. Time is required to present each of your students as “mature in Christ.

Discipleship is a grueling workout. I do not like to run, but I know it is one of the best cardio workouts. I do not convey a good message if I promote running, but I’m obscenely obese. Exercise personal spiritual disciplines is involved in the process of discipleship. How can we possibly pass on what we do not possess? In order to pass on a deep love for Christ and the tools for building a relationship with Him, we must first possess them ourselves.

Discipleship is intimately acquainted with relationship. Day-to-day, life-on-life experience and instruction helps transform church into life skills. Real church happens in the context of loving and accountable relationships. To be left alone in your faith isolates true discipleship from happening.

There are no “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts” when it comes to the process of discipleship. Creating a program out of discipleship is the easy thing, but frankly not effective or biblical. Jesus must have thought the same things as many turned and walked away from His call to radical discipleship. If a student will test your love for them, they will also test your commitment to the process. When they see your love and understand your resolve, they are more likely to join the journey to spiritual maturity.

agree to disagree & the exploding lawnmower

Last night, I was mowing my lawn. I love to mow the lawn, seriously. While mowing, my lawnmower unexpectedly and ferociously exploded. Metal shrapnel flew from its side. The funny thing is that I did not tuck and roll away, but I just stood there in shock and awe. In actuality, the explosion wasn’t all that powerful, I just like exaggerating the story for dramatic effect.

Gaining a right perspective isn’t always easy. As the old saying goes, “There are always two sides to every story.” There were two blind men were describing the same elephant. One described a short, skinny trunk while the other was certain the tail was long and fat. Truth is, the men were holding opposite ends of the elephant. While their descriptions were accurate, their facts were flawed. Both men were correct in their assessment but wrong in their conclusion. The men were both unwilling to accept the other’s perspective.

How is it possible that two honest people can describe the same experience in categorically opposite ways? Take Solomon for example. He was a real wise guy, and he understood the power of having a right perspective. When two women claimed the same baby as their own, he offered to help by cutting the child in half. One of the mothers decided to save the baby because seeing the baby live became most important. Solomon’s offer was more than a compromise. This was the ultimate test for this mom. For her, having nothing was better than having something. She was willing to give up her baby in order to give it life, and the end she prevailed.

Most disagreements are rooted in selfishness (James 4:1-2). We fail to acknowledge other valid perspectives. Some who disagree are not capable of differentiating between opinion and truth, and often exaggerate their stories to fit their perspectives. We must continually ask ourselves: have I objectively listened to all sides of the story? Am I responding biblically?

Disagreement is an opportunity to gain broader perspectives, important insight and respect for the opinions of others. Disagreements can serve as a way to demonstrate compassion, genuine interest in others as well as build bridges. Though consensus may never come, and compromise may not be accomplished agreeing to disagree may be all that is possible. Nonetheless, I Peter 3:8 serves as an excellent guide when approaching one another with conflicting perspectives. “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.”

Well, I am off to shop for a new lawnmower!!

boundaries

471483304_58772e250b.jpgBoundaries are necessary. Boundaries are practical markers that keep you out or keep you in. A boundary says, “I am not going there. I am not going to step over that line.” During a time of war boundaries are put into place to keep an enemy out or clearly mark the line of defense. Where I live the subdivision has created boundaries between the property lines. This is really only helpful when I am mowing the lawn!? In most all sports there are boundaries to be kept within the rules of the game. Boundaries are necessary.

There are boundaries in other area’s of life. Especially when it comes to relationships. A couple needs to set up boundaries to protect themselves from crossing over into territory that God has not allotted for them until marriage. There are certain boundaries that are not to be crossed: sex before marriage, and immoral touching or talking… these are clear from the Bible. There are other boundaries that are not so clear, but should be decided depending on the temptations and desires of the couple for the purpose of protecting their purity and integrity until that sacred day. So many couples do not even consider boundaries. This is a recipe for disaster. Not only is it not how the relationship is meant to be, but it also spoils the joy of waiting. Boundaries are necessary.