Tag Archives: relationship

The Way Back to Relationship

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.  Luke 15:11-12

There are three main characters in Jesus’ story of the prodigal in Luke 15: the father, the younger son and the older son.  Each of them represent a different perspective on common human behavior, and I suspect each of us can relate best to each of them at different times of our lives.  Sometimes we are the one betrayed (like the father), sometimes we are the rebellious one (the younger son) and sometimes we are the one crying out for justice (the older son).  But in every case, Jesus told the story to demonstrate one simple truth: the way back to a right relationship.  And that, it seems to me, can be the most confusing path of all.  I am so glad for what Jesus’ story shows us about how to return to a right relationship, once we have determined to do so.

Seasons of Rebellion. We all have some connection to the prodigal himself, because we have all made decisions which we knew (even at the time we made them) were disobedient to God.  We knew His desire for us and we simply went in a different direction.  It was (and is) rebellion, plain and simple.  Sometimes it is a short season followed by an immediate “what was I thinking?” head-slap.  But sometimes it is a prolonged season when we withhold from His Lordship some particular slice of our life which we just are not willing to submit to Him.  Either way, it is rebellion.  And the way back from any rebellion is, quite simply, confession.  You will not find a more perfect confession in …

Intensely Personal and Critically Communal

“You shall have no other gods before me…”  Exodus 20:3

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17

God’s plan for growing a people dedicated to Him and blessed by Him has been consistent from the beginning. He created us for relationship with Him, but also for relationship with one another. This is even evident in His bedrock principles, the Ten Commandments. But it may be less evident to those of us whose first language is English than for most others.

10 CommandmentsEnglish is a bit odd in many ways, with all it’s “rules” for grammar and then the thousands of exceptions to each of those rules. It makes it  a difficult language to learn. One of those oddities is that our word, “you” is both singular and plural (The New York version of “Yous” and the Southern version of “Y’all” notwithstanding). So, when we read the Ten Commandments in our English bibles and we see “You shall…”, and we read the context of God speaking from a mountain to some 600,000 Hebrew men (and lots more women and children), it is easy for us to read it as a plural “you”. If there were a Texas version of the Bible, we might be inclined to translate it, “Y’all will have no other gods before me.” But that would be an incorrect translation.

You see, we English speakers are accustomed to living with this ambiguity between the plural you and the singular you…we’re accustomed to just kind of figuring it out in context, leaving much accuracy to be desired. But most other languages (including the original Hebrew language of the Old Testament) treat …

Relationship Do-Overs

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.  Jeremiah 18:1-4

potterAs I write this post, I am enjoying some vacation time with the younger of my two adult daughters.  Just a couple of days into the vacation, I had already observed at least a half dozen things she used to like which are no longer important to her. She has changed. She is an adult now. But my mind is flooded with memories of her as a child. The truth is, we both have changed…and our relationship has changed as well.  It has become an adult friendship. Oh, I will always be her Dad. But still, it is a very different relationship today than it was 20 years ago, and that is a  good thing. Our relationship is in a whole new chapter, and it should look different.

Relationships are like that. Sometimes a particular season of a relationship runs its course and it is time for a whole new chapter.   Parent/child relationships are like that. Moreover, sometimes a particular relationship can be so toxic, so unhealthy, it needs to be radically changed, almost like starting all over again. Some co-dependent relationships are like that. And still other relationships in our life can be so damaging to us that they just need to be scratched entirely. Like a potter with his clay, something entirely different is needed.

The point is, not every relationship is a good …

The Sins of Community

Tuesday Re-mix –

“Go to Bethel and sin;
go to Gilgal and sin yet more.
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
your tithes every three years.
Burn leavened bread as a thank offering
and brag about your freewill offerings—
boast about them, you Israelites,
for this is what you love to do,”
declares the Sovereign LORD.  
Amos 4:4-5

In the category of “there’s nothing new under the sun”, many of the problems we see today in the church have been with God’s people a long, long time.  Near the top of that list of problems is that people with hardened hearts which are cold toward God are still showing up at all the traditional times and in all the conventional ways for “church”.  It has been this way for a long, long time…God’s people are often pretty different on the inside than they are on the outside.  We are capable of going through the motions of spiritual things even while our hearts are not turned toward God.  Furthermore, even knowing this about ourselves, we continue to foster a form of “church” which quite intentionally avoids any system or structure that might actually fix this problem. Sadly, we do not really want the kind of genuine community to which scripture calls us, because that would mean accountability and intimacy and giving over some level of control in our lives to the community at large…or, worse, to God.

What I am saying is this: if hypocrisy and lack of integrity are our problems, then genuine Spirit-filled Christian community is the solution.  But it is a solution we are not altogether sure we want…and we have structured most of our gathered church experiences so as to downplay the importance of that very type of community.

Don’t we tend to wrap our “church” experience all …

The Friendship Dare

Tuesday Re-mix – 

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”  Matthew 28:19a

I can remember pretty vividly how I felt at the births of both my daughters.  Those feelings will no doubt stay in my memory long after the details of the events have left me.  In both cases, God made us wait until long after we thought we were ready.  So when they came, I was overjoyed and thrilled and excited and so very ready to be a daddy!  With Elizabeth, my older, I can still remember taking her little hand for the very first time in Seton Hospital in Austin.  I remember thinking, “What a huge responsibility this will be…I can’t wait to get started!”  I had an attitude of extreme gratitude for the opportunity God had given me and of sober responsibility for how much work nurturing this child would be.

What if we in the church had a similar attitude about new friendships? What if we saw each new friendship in our lives as a God-ordained friendship and treated it as if God had given us a responsibility for it?  What if we prayed expectantly for God to “birth” such new friendships in our lives and then jumped into them with both feet when He answered that prayer?  Oh, how that would change the church!

We in the evangelical world often talk about “just sharing the gospel” and leaving the results up to God.  I do think that is an important perspective.  There is our part in that process and there is God’s part, and it agree that it is important not to confuse the two.  But I also think that “just sharing and leaving the results up to God” lets us off the hook of the Great Commission.  Jesus did not say, “Therefore go …

How You Can Prepare for the Coming Conflict

Tuesday Re-mix –

I have mostly tried to forget my early teenage years (from about age 12-14…the dreaded middle school years…every boy’s misery).  But aside from the many nightmares I have surely forgotten, there are still a handful which I remember as if they were yesterday: being spit on by Jimmy E. (7th grader) on the first day of 6th grade; being beaten up by Andy W. in the boys locker room; getting sick on the tilt-a-whirl on my very first “date” (so very sorry, Glenanne); and my illustration for this blog…trying to run the 440 yd. high-hurdles my 7th grade year.  Nightmare!

I was a low-hurdler.  Not the fastest in the world, but pretty well-trained and pretty well-equipped for my particular race.  My race was a quick 100 yards, with just a few hurdles to clear and then the race was over.  I liked it that way.  So when Brian W. had to pull out of the 440-yd. high hurdle race at one of our track meets, and the coach just needed a warm body to run the race (something to do with team points), I got picked…out of nowhere.  I won’t take you through the parade of horribles which ensued.  Let’s just say that, after not clearing the first hurdle and after basically running around the rest of them and then not being able to finish because of the unexpectedly long distance…well…it was a nightmare.  I was not ready for ANY of the obstacles that race held for me.  I had not trained for it, I had not studied it, I was completely unprepared for it.  I had not been given even the most basic, fundamental skills for running that race. I learned some things that day about preparation.

The more I work with conflicted congregations and the …