Grace in Relationships

graceLove the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second command is this: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” There are no commands more important than these. (Mark 12:30-31)

Ponder It.

  • With what relationship(s) do you currently struggle?
  • How do you need to extend God’s grace in a relationship?
  • How do you need to experience God’s grace in your relationship with him?

Receive It. God’s grace can be the foundation of our relationships. But our relationships are messy, because we’re messy. We don’t rely on God’s grace, because we’ve been hurt, and we struggle to extend grace to others. We’ve been offended, and we don’t trust God’s abundant grace to cover offenses. We say we trust God’s grace. We want to live it out. We want to reflect God’s grace, but do we really? Is there gossip, unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, or anger in your relationships? God’s grace can change that. God’s grace doesn’t just cover up those things. God’s grace removes it. God yanks up the deep roots of anything that gets in the way of grace. He tosses it all aside in a compost pile, because the very junk of our lives becomes the fertilizer that enriches our lives of today and tomorrow. God doesn’t let anything go to waste. We can’t pull it up ourselves and use our junk as fertilizer. We don’t have the insights to know how to accurately weed through everything. God does. He guides the process with his grace. His way is good. Our way is imperfect. God knows we’re limited. He created us. Our relationships require his grace. They won’t be productive without God’s grace. They will be destructive. Oh, they might look good. We might even impact each other in great ways, but if we don’t build relationships in God’s name, we are not as blessed as God desires. He wants us to live in abundant grace, including our relationships. That means we trust him to live abundant grace through us. Because of grace, we will forgive others and heal, we will notice people and sacrificially serve, and we will see all kinds of needs and generously give—not just of the time, energy, and resources that God gives us but of the grace only he can provide.

Live It. Extend grace today. The person who irritates and frustrates you? Ask God how he wants you to respond, then do it!

Grace Where You Are

graceI say it is better to be content with what little you have. Otherwise, you will always be struggling for more, and that is like chasing the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:6)

Ponder It.

  • What does contentment mean to you?
  • In what areas are you most discontent?
  • How are you growing in contentment?

Receive It. Consider the acronym is PUSH or “Pray Until Something Happens.” While we might like the concept, it’s not biblical. We like to think our persistence pays off, and yes, God wants us to constantly seek him, but our relationship with God isn’t about a push; it’s about a pursuit. Pursuing God’s will isn’t about praying until something happens. Something is happening: God is present when you go to him in prayer, seeking and trusting him. God is listening, and he will not let you down. The “something” that happens in prayer might not be what you had in mind. From God’s perspective, the best “something” for you might be the process of waiting or struggling and growing closer to God during that time. Even though you might question when and how he’s going to answer, he’s answering and he’s pursuing you. As you find rest in the process of pursuing God, you’ll find contentment.

Contentment isn’t a static status; it’s a process. We don’t arrive at a place of contentment and camp under it. We move ahead in obedience, and we trust God to guide and provide. As we trust, we find contentment. Suffering on earth is inevitable, but we can experience contentment even in our suffering. We may not understand what’s going on in our lives, but we can be content to know that God understands each and every moment. God doesn’t waste a single opportunity to teach us a lesson; it’s just that sometimes we’re not listening.

Live It. God will not waste the opportunity to teach you about contentment today. Anticipate it. Acknowledge it. Live it out loud in your relationships and circumstances.

Grace from God

graceTo choose life is to love the Lord your God, obey him, and stay close to him. He is your life. (Deuteronomy 30:20a)

Ponder It.

  • How close do you feel to God right now?
  • What do you long for in your relationship with God?
  • How has the experience of these devotions affected your intimacy with God?

Receive It and Live It. A relationship with God won’t automatically grow. No relationship will automatically grow. Any relationship will default to atrophy. Without intentionality, we’ll become distant. We’ll question the importance of the relationship. We’ll wonder why we were in the relationship in the first place and might even begin to reframe it in negative ways, justifying why we’re no longer in it.

Faith takes nurturing. If ignored, it will cease to grow at all or grow in unhealthy ways. We have to pay attention. We have to invest. And we have to remember the relationship is not just about us. Our relationship is with God, which means he has significant input. We have to listen to him. We have to become familiar with him. We have to respect him. He is God and doesn’t need to prove his trustworthiness and sovereignty, but his consistency proves it in time as we interact with and rely upon him. We pray, not just sharing requests but praising God and allowing him to pour his encouragement and admonishment into us. We study, not just for head knowledge but for heart knowledge, placing intimacy with God far above familiarity for trivia. We worship, not just during a weekend service but as a lifestyle, striving to praise and honor him in everything we do.

Live It. How is God challenging you to become more intimate with him today, pouring life-sustaining water into you? Don’t wait. Respond today. Small steps are fine. Inactivity is not.

This Can’t Be Right

14657310_1460833877264039_930398364757535582_n-300x149Then they said to Him, “John’s disciples fast often and say prayers, and those of the Pharisees do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” (Luke 5:13)

We often question out of our expectations and experiences, as if certain things can’t change. We see differences and proclaim, “Well, this can’t be right, because it’s not what I know to be true or normal.” But what if our ideas and expectations need to be tweaked?

They often do.

Just because someone or something doesn’t fit our cookie cutter molds doesn’t mean we should reject them. We can listen, learn, and when appropriate, change. Sometimes we accommodate what we learn into our existing ideas and practices, and the two meld together. Other times, we set aside what we encounter but not before learning from and wrestling with it. But when we simply reject things without filtering, either quickly or over time, it through truth, we miss out. Just because we don’t like something or it makes us uncomfortable is not a good reason to toss it aside.

Instead, we can search for truth among what we encounter, what we experience, and what we expect. And we can let that truth change us into who God wants us to become…instead of changing ourselves into what we most want.

The Best Approach

the-best-angle-from-which-to-approach-any-problem-is-the-try-angle-5I like puzzles, and I like to hand-quilt.

They’re similar in that they both put pieces together.

But they’re also very different. With puzzles, the corners are found and placed first. They provide direction and structure. With quilts, the corners are quilted last. Quilting starts in the middle and works outward to make sure all the wrinkles in the fabric are smoothed to the outside every step of the way.

We cannot take the exact same approach to everything we do. We must be willing to change as we look at the situation and discern what’s best. We can’t always insist on the easy way, the preferred way, the convenient way, or fastest way, or the most affirming way, although sometimes approaches will overlap as byproducts.

The best approach is always…the best approach.

I’m not just talking about puzzles and quilts. I’m talking about life. Knowing the best requires being willing the humbly look for and listen for the best. It means being willing to try things that are unfamiliar and even uncomfortable at times, listen to people we don’t know well or know well but disagree with, and take one step at a time, knowing that step might take us somewhere productive or might end up being a mistake from which we can learn and grow.

You might not know all the details of the best approach just yet, but you can take one simple step right now. An approach requires movement. Refuse to get stuck. Insist on growing. Take a step.

Approach life well.

You’re A Hoarder

bf9dbf97ea8051bc052f2ea2d6268d3eI’m a hoarder. You’re a hoarder. He’s a hoarder. She’s a hoarder. Wouldn’t you like to  be a hoarder, too?

Remember the Dr. Pepper commercial from the 70s? It invited us all to come together in our commonality of drinking Dr. Pepper…although I never cared for it much.

We might have more in common, even in ways we don’t want to admit. Like hoarding.

Anyone who knows me will immediately argue, “You? A hoarder? No way!” I don’t have piles in my house. I go through the mail as soon as it comes in the house and immediately toss anything not essential. I don’t have a dozen (or any) storage units. But I’m still a hoarder.

We all hoard something. Sometimes it’s junk that piles up and becomes a tripping hazard, either physically or emotionally. Other times, it piles up and helps build a firm foundation.

Maybe you hoard friendships. That could be good, if you treasure and care for them, but it could also be bad, if you get territorial and overlook other important areas of your life.

Maybe you hoard memories. That could be good, if you appreciate what you’ve had and learn from the not-so-great moments. But it could also be bad, if you get stuck in the past and refuse to grow forward.

Maybe you hoard status and accomplishments. The influence you have on others along the way could be positive…or negative.

Look around (and inside yourself). What do you hoard? Are you building a solid foundation and continuing forward, or are you constructing a confusing obstacle course?

 

Get to the Root

imagesIf my step has turned from the way, my heart has followed my eyes, or impurity has stained my hands, let someone else eat what I have sown, and let my crops be uprooted. (Job 31:7-8)

Do you see uprooting as more negative or positive?

How have you experienced it in your life?

What do you feel is being uprooted or needs to be uprooted right now?

The planting and harvest process is a constant one, and we often have an overlap of seasons. We might have things we plant at the same time that we need to prune something else and uproot something else. If we try to categorize everything in our lives into nice, tidy rows, we might be surprised to find out we’ve missed some things. If our lives fit into a spreadsheet, we’re missing something. Because life is messy. It has overlaps and overflows.

When we uproot something, we need to get to the base of it. And it’s not just things that we know are unhealthy and negative. Transplanting something so that it remains healthy and can continue to grow requires uprooting, too. If you don’t get the roots, the transplant won’t be successful. We all experience transitions on a regular basis. How healthily we deal with the transitions makes a big difference. Do we leave a big section of our roots behind, or are we willing to uproot and move on? Sure, we might struggle for a bit. Transplants often do. There’s a period of adjustment, and it can be long and difficult. But we only make it more difficult when we’re not willing do the hard work and sacrifice required.

Sometimes we need to get to the root of something in order to check its health. We need to know what’s going on deep within. Maybe the root system is solid, but maybe it’s not. Sometimes, we build root systems out of assumptions and tradition, and we need to question its stability. We need to make sure we’re getting the best flow of the best nutrients into our lives.

Reach out to someone who has helped you establish strong spiritual roots and share your gratitude with him or her. Reach out to someone today and help strengthen his or her spiritual root system with encouragement and truth.