Are Your Relationships Silver or Gold?

The Role of Thankfulness in Relationships

For the most part, my time spent in the Girl Scouts exists in my memory as a huge disaster. I’ll spare you the details and just tell the one positive I remember related to this short song learned in Girl Scouts so many years ago.

Silver & gold

As friendships change and grow with the seasons of life, marking each one with value and purpose helps appreciate the always fluctuating nature of relationships. In recent years, teaching this principle to my boys helps them as they transition into adulthood and see their own relationships impacted accordingly.

Realizing that relationships really reflect the stages of our lives helps understand their role in life’s seasons. But more importantly, our relationships provide the medium through which we express the love within us that grows out from our relationship with Christ as He continually develops our new natures. As we practice Making Allowances, learn to Love Others AS Ourselves, apply Wisdom in Relationships and Dress for Success in Relationships, we reflect the increasing love of our continually renewing relationship with Christ.

This understanding cultivates thankfulness for every relationship, however brief, experienced through the years. And that thankfulness creates a tie that truly does bind.

Tied by Thankfulness

Thankfulness unifies. As we read through Colossians 3, noting where thankfulness is mentioned, it seems clear that thankfulness seems to describe a characteristic of all the “clothing” talked about in this scripture.

Colossians 3:15-17 especially gets at the role of thankfulness in our New Nature Relationships.

Thankful

Every time we’re told to live out our new natures, a call to thankfulness is also issued. This tells us that not only do we need to take off the clothing of our old nature (v. 9) and put on the clothing of our new nature (v. 10), we are to also demonstrate thankfulness while we live lives where the love of Christ flows out from within us into our New Nature Relationships.

DISCUSSION: How can we infuse our New Nature Relationships with thankfulness?

Dress for Success in Relationships

494936_88709934While my13-year-old may not always, hopefully most of us put on clean clothing regularly. Feeling clean and fresh often motivates in a positive direction for the day ahead. In fact, one of the main suggestions for recovery from depression involves showering and putting on clean clothes every day.

Wearing clothing appropriate for the situation is also important. I won’t exercise in a dress, and I don’t wear my exercise clothes to church. Also, consider the fact that students often perform better on tests when they dress up. Appropriateness in what we wear impacts how we feel about ourselves and shows the importance we place on an activity.

Another example involves getting new clothes, which often revives a stale season of life. Most women (along with their husbands) understand that a new piece of clothing can brighten a woman’s day.

While these changes of clothing are temporary, many seek long-term happiness in changing what they wear physically. In reality, though, our physical clothing has limited impact on our long-term reality.

New Nature Clothing

Our spiritual clothing works in similar ways to our physical clothing, but it holds far greater and more long-term impact. In fact, when our internal clothing reflects that of our new nature in Christ, we discover an eternal perspective that transforms our living, growing and connecting.

Consider how, based on Colossians 3, our new nature clothing impacts us not only individually but also in every relationship.

  • New nature clothing represents a growing knowledge of Christ. (v. 10)
  • The right spiritual clothing creates peace that rules the heart. (v. 15)
  • Style and social position don’t matter with new nature clothing. (v. 11)
  • Continued thankfulness renews & refreshes the “outfit.” (vv. 15-17)
  • Love completes the “look,” bringing unity to the whole “outfit.” (v. 14)

We don’t make our own clothing much anymore but instead have to purchase what we want to wear. Our new nature clothing was also purchased and not something we make on our own. Only through Christ do we have this “clothing” to wear. And not only did He purchase this clothing for us, it never wears out… it never needs replaced.

Renewed

Renewal & Relationships

So how does this continued renewal of our new natures by the spiritual clothing we put on impact our relationships? Our new nature clothing affects the atmosphere of the inner self which then creates the pervading mood that others see and that governs our relationships. In other words, how we dress our hearts determines how we live out love through our relationships.

Relationships provide the opportunity to express the love that our relationship with Christ generates. Only when we clothe ourselves in the new nature clothing of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, thankfulness and love that only come through knowing Jesus do we then have a demeanor that serves to positively cultivate New Nature Relationships.

DISCUSSION: How does your new nature clothing impact your relationships?

Wisdom in Relationships

Advice

Relationship Advice

Giving advice comes naturally for me. In fact, I’m so good at it sometimes, that those receiving the advice don’t have to say much at all. What I’ve noticed, though, is a serious lack of following of my advice. Wonder why that is…

Lack of follow happens because my advice too often comes from me and not Christ. Sure, it may contain knowledge, but it lacks a wisdom.

The key to giving advice that truly teaches and counsels others involves first letting Christ’s words dwell within us, making us wise. In other words, an internal work must take place before external works have value. And that internal work happens when Christ’s words don’t simply exist in us but when they instead “dwell” in us.

This word “dwell” means to “have its home” as a master instead of a servant. And, “richly” involves having a master that keeps a good house, with an influence that isn’t just a presence but has a direct and consistent impact on conduct in every part of life.

Christ’s wisdom must rule our own hearts before what we say truly has life. In other words, knowledge must be self applied, guiding our own lives in love lived out in every part of life as we are clothed with a brand new nature (Colossians 3:9-10).

WisdomWise Relationships

I need wisdom dwelling within me in order to have good relationships. Without wisdom, I’m not sure what to say to a friend contemplating divorce or to someone frozen by fear. Without wisdom, I don’t know how to help my boys have good relationships and to choose the best careers.

Without Godly wisdom, my focus falls to my selfish desires because that’s what the world shapes in me. And without His wisdom, my inner atmosphere shuts itself off protectively against hurt, struggle and control.

Wisdom built on Christ, through His words and example, unite me with Him. This wisdom, when it dwells within me as my master instead of my servant, guides and directs the affairs of my heart, how I live out love.

As my life lives in the wisdom of God’s Word, as it dwells within and directs my heart, only then does my advice have eternal value. Only then can words of teaching (the imparting of skill and giving of instruction) and any admonition (words of caution or even scolding) combine with New Nature Relationships to add value to the kingdom of God.

DISCUSSION: How might Christ’s word “dwelling in you richly” impact your relationships?

Refined by Waiting

Christian Powerpoint Religious BulletinFour years ago, I crashed and burned physically, mentally and spiritually, I couldn’t work, and I barely functioned at home. Socially, I ceased to exist. Spiritually, only getting by.

A big part of my crash and burn involved adrenal fatigue. Essentially, healing from adrenal fatigue requires a lot of waiting. My body, mind and spirit needed replenished after years of stress, continual drain and constant overload. Only waiting and resting could make that happen.

Life as a whole involves a lot of waiting, small and big pockets of time spent waiting for what’s next.  All too often, I try ending the waiting on my own by forcing “things” to happen. Never works out all that well.

Who likes to wait, after all? Not me! Yet, so much of our lives require waiting. Lines. Arrivals. Departures. Growth. Maturity.

Since life involves so much waiting, we’re all experts, right? Again, not me. Just put another car in front of me going a bit slower than I want to go to illustrate how easily I get frustrated with waiting, with life moving slower than I think it should. Can you relate?

Focused WaitingGod-Or-My-Agenda

Bob Sorge in The Fire of Delayed Answers calls waiting “the hottest flame” because it reveals the depths of our hearts. He also notes that God “is capable of applying as much heat as it takes to surface the garbage in our hearts.”

Garbage? The arrogance that makes me need to get ahead of others in line. The pride that refuses to admit mistakes. The lack of peace that leads me to force immediate answers rather than waiting for well-thought out responses.

Sometimes, pure selfishness fuels my inability to wait. But equally, and perhaps even more so, I simply give up on the waiting. I give up on God’s way and pursue life on my own terms.

Depth takes time to develop. This is true of one’s character as much as it is of one’s relationships. God wants to develop that depth, and He knows that waiting is often the best tool for making that happen.

A focus on Him in our waiting reveals opportunities from Him to cultivate depth. A focus on Him in our waiting leads us to pray for the mother of four in front of us at the checkout counter and to spend time with Him in prayer and Bible study as we allow our bodies the physical rest needed to recover from stress overload.

But a focus on the waiting itself and how much we dislike it turns our gaze toward pushing ahead and ending the wait, which causes us to miss out on God’s refining of our character. Instead of pushing and forcing and moving to get rid of the waiting, consider what Sorge says about how to wait.

“Run after Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Waiting is aggressive repose. Waiting is a stationary pursuit. Waiting is intense stillness. Waiting is vigilant listening.”

Be someone willing to wait for God, no matter the length of time. Be willing to give Him both your small moments and your seasons of waiting. Be aggressive in your rest, extreme in your stillness and vigilant as you listen for Him.

DISCUSSION: What does waiting for God mean in a practical sense? How do we live life and wait for God at the same time? Also, how does our ability to wait on God impact our relationships?

This post is a part of a weekly book discussion of The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge hosted by Jason Stasyszen of Connecting to Impact and Sarah Salter of Living Between the Lines. Be sure to check out their posts!

Loving Others AS Yourself

Back to the Beginning

While immediately associated with romantic love, Valentine’s Day’s ties to romantic love actually did not take place until Chaucer’s poetry in the 14th Century. Instead, Valentine’s Day originated in commemoration of at least one early Christian saint named Valentinus, martyred between AD 197 and AD 496 for their acts of sacrificial love.

This focus on sacrificial love – of focusing on others over self – ties with what Jesus said that ALL scripture hangs on (is summed up in and depends on):

Valentine 1

Paul amplifies Jesus’ words by connecting them specifically with new life activity in our relationships:

Valentine 2

So, loving God above all and then loving others AS yourself not only provide THE most important principles for our lives, but also THE most important article of clothing for our new natures in Christ.

A long-time struggle for me in living this principle lies with fulfilling the second of these commands, loving others AS yourself.

What if you don’t love yourself?

For me, years of chronic depression involved a great deal of self hate. Outside of that struggle, failures in relationships led to significant self dislike, while comparisons showed even more reason for wishing I was anyone but me. And this selfish focus blocked my ability to love others.

Over time, the impact of Jesus’ sacrificial love changed how I viewed myself. As my focus went from feelings, emotions and comparisons to how He saw me, I began to realize not only the importance of self love but that it must be rooted in God’s view of me and how He exercises His love.

Valentine 3

Focusing on AS

Realizing God’s sacrificial love for me helped bring me to a point of self love that allowed a focus outside of myself, one intent on love God and others AS I am loved.

The commands to love others and to love self are not two separate commands. Rather, they are two parts of one command to live out love for God, a love that consumes the heart, soul and mind.

Love for self does not include selfish pursuits that make us feel good or happy, and self love does not justify fulfilling the flesh’s wants and desires. This selfishness provides only a temporary emotional happiness fix.

Instead, self love involves accepting ourselves – personality, physical appearance, even weaknesses and faults – because our own identity lies grounded in Christ’s unconditional love for us exactly AS we are right now. Out of this flows a love for others that comes through in our attitudes, actions and words as we live in relationship with them.

When our identity exists grounded in Christ, in His love for and acceptance of us, we discover a self love that gives us the capacity to love others AS Jesus exhorted. To help grasp this, think about what’s at the heart of you feeling loved, of your feeling genuine acceptance of who you are AS a person. Gifts and even kind acts mean very little in the absence of genuine acceptance of who you are AS a person.

Something significant happens in how we view ourselves when our our Christian identity involves being accepted by Christ and is not earned by works or moral standing. This creates a love for self that transfers to how we love others; it serves as an example of HOW we are to love others.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day

With the idea of Valentine’s Day’s original intent in mind along with understanding the tie between loving others and loving self, celebrate Valentine’s Day with fresh perspective. Celebrate the sacrificial love that seeks for the greatest good, that accepts how God made you and others. Celebrate a love that sacrifices any focus on self and instead embraces personalities and makes allowances for faults. Live love that comes only through complete focus on God’s love for us.

DISCUSSION: How does loving yourself change how you love others, and, ultimately, how God’s love exists in your life?

Making Allowances

Fault 2While I appreciate the sentiment of this statement, I have one major problem with it: Sometimes it does. Sometimes, poor planning – what many consider a “fault” – by another requires emergency action on my part.

Consider the following “faults,” inserting your own story.

She doesn’t handle last-minute changes well.

He doesn’t keep track of commitments.

She does most of her work last-minute.

He does not listen very well.

In such instances, there was a time when I would verbalize my irritation and either let others flounder in their faults or at the very least be uncomfortable in the wrath of my irritation. But then Colossians 3:13 got into my spirit:

Faults 1

For years, I simply did not want to make allowances. I wanted to correct people. I wanted to be justified in walking away in times of emergency or at least in making my annoyance clear as I bailed them out once again. Unfortunately, those reactions only allowed my emotions to rule and failed to cultivate relationships.

The only way I could begin applying what Paul meant when he instructed the church in Colossae to “make allowances for each other’s faults”  involved admitting that I too am part of the “each other.” In other words, I too have faults that others need to make allowances for regularly. And I want them to, right?

Doesn’t that mean they will, but I can only control my end of the “each other” and no one else’s. This involves realizing that making allowances doesn’t mean saying the faults are okay and don’t need changed; instead, it means that we take the fact that we all have faults into consideration and our New Nature Relationships strengthen as grace flows.

AllowancesHow to Make Allowances

Let’s look at Colossians 3:13 in context (vv. 12-15) for instruction on carrying out this aspect of cultivating relationships as we put on our new nature clothing showing we belong to Christ and are grateful for Him choosing us, making us holy, and loving us. In other words, how we treat others, including how we respond to their faults, reflects our inner ensemble, which includes:

  1. Tenderhearted mercy – Making undeserved allowances in a way that avoids hurting the offender even when justified in doing so.
  2. Kindness – Instead of lashing out because of chronic inconvenience, proceed in a way that preserves and strengthens the relationship.
  3. Humility – Not showing your rightness, but instead covering others weakness. You can either be right or have relationship; humility chooses relationship.
  4. Gentleness – Allowing and even helping the offender maintain and move forward with dignity.
  5. Patience – Allowing the mental space to recognize and correct faults, which are likely a frustrating struggle.

Right after instructions for making allowances, Paul says to complete the outfit of our new selves by forgiving others and by wearing love, which he calls “the most important piece of clothing.” Paul stresses forgiveness because “the Lord forgave you” and love because it binds believers “in perfect harmony.”

Cultivating Relationship

As we look at the details of cultivating New Nature Relationships, we begin to see how the focus must come off self and onto showing love. In our own efforts, impossible. But through the Holy Spirit, we are free to operate wearing the clothing of the new nature.

DISCUSSION: How might your current relationships benefit from “making allowances for each other’s faults”?

New Nature Relationships

Looking Good

My youngest son likes to look good. He likes to wear stylish clothes and for everything to match. He’s also been known to make and wear his own jewelry. My oldest, like his dad, keeps his clothing choices very basic with jeans and a t-shirt being his favorite ensemble. My oldest would never say he’s wearing an “outfit,” while my youngest frequently refers to his clothing that way.

While our physical clothing differs greatly from person to person and reflects the unique aspects of an individual’s personality, every Christian is called to put on the same “outfit,” if you will, based on the new life Christ won for them. In fact, this clothing Paul talks about has tremendous impact on the quality of our relationships.

new life 3Impact of New Life on Relationships

Paul begins Colossians 3 by telling those who have new life in Christ, which he detailed in previous chapters of the book, to focus on the “realities of Heaven.” He follows this exhortation with instructions for cultivating relationships. The rest of the chapter, as well much of the next one, details what we are to take off and what we are to put on as we clothe ourselves in our new lives, and those activities center around getting rid of selfish desires and adding in ones that cultivate Godly relationships.

While Paul provides a list of specific old nature habits (Colossians 3:5-9), the main point involves getting rid of a focus on self. Since the old self died when we gained new life in Christ, the old habits need to go as well. Sure, you could check to see if your personal habits are in the examples Paul gives, but the point really involves getting rid of selfishness and focusing on the habits of our new natures.

While the habits of our old nature produce only evil and decay, the habits of the new nature renew daily as we focus on Christ and not on a set of rules or requirements (Colossians 3:10-4:1). The focus of our new natures is to be on others and on building relationships. This does not mean forgetting yourself completely; after all, Jesus said to love others AS yourself, not INSTEAD of yourself, a point focused on in a future post.

Free to Be New

But sometimes, often actually, old habits just seem too hard, even impossible, to overcome let alone eradicate altogether. And on our own, shedding them truly is impossible. But under the new nature, we are not bound by the flesh and its desires because we are led by the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:9-12). This is why Tongue Taming is possible, and this is why cultivating Godly relationships is also possible.

Plus, if we focus on what we are to put on in our new natures, the old habits won’t have room to even exist let alone operate within us. As we focus on clothing our new natures, we’ll find that we don’t even want that old stuff anymore. Just look at the new nature clothing:

new life 1

Then there’s the activity of the new nature to add on, sort of the outerwear on top of the main outfit.

new life 2

Personally, I could stop here. I could just focus on what we’ve discussed so far and no other part of Scripture and have plenty to develop the rest of my life. So even though Paul continues through the rest of Colossians with more instruction on building and cultivating Godly relationships, we’ll focus on the specifics of Paul’s advice that we’ve listed here as we go into even further into the details of relationships.

DISCUSSION: What stands out the most to you in Colossians 3 regarding the cultivating of Godly relationships?

Balancing Quietness & Confidence

scaleTwo Sided Struggle

There are those who seem to live in constant struggle. They’re confident of the coming victory God has in store for them, so they keep fighting, pushing and struggling toward it. There are others who quietly wait  for God to move. They surrender themselves fully to His will and purpose for their lives, seeming to continually wait in quietness and trust.

As I survey my life, I see both quietness and confidence existing. Usually though, I live in one or the other. But I am realizing that I can both live in confidence of the victory Christ has won and at the same time be journeying to full surrender.

Bob Sorge in The Fire of Delayed Answers expresses this idea as he questions those who seem to exist at both extremes. He explains that there are those who stress that “God is more interested in your character than in your miracle” and at the same time others who say, “He’s my Savior, my healer, my deliverer, my provider, my protector, my supply, my, my, my…. [producing] a self-absorbed focus.”

Instead, Sorge says, both can exist together, that we can “become more Christlike in our attitudes and also experience the power of His resurrection.”

Surviving Times of War

The development and also true test of this balance comes both through the trials we experience as we live out life this side of Heaven and the more severe times of testing through crisis. Sorge expresses the sentiment this way…

Sorge 1

Times of war are the proving ground for faith. In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers deepens this idea of our faith being proven in battle along with truly understanding that our battle is ultimately our own. Chambers says…

Chambers

War and Relationships

Our goal is to live lives that remain true to God’s character no matter what. And since the majority of our struggles and victories involve other people, relationships provide the ultimate proving ground for our faith.

Yes, our quiet confidence comes from our individual relationship with God. And yes, we are responsible for our own activity and not that of anyone else. Yet, at the same time, we struggle together even while we struggle alone. We gain victory together while we gain individual victory.

Because relationship play such an integral role in our faith walk, we’re detailing in on relationships during the month of February. To begin, let’s discuss how finding an individual balance with quietness and confidence help strengthen relationships. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

This post is a part of a weekly book discussion of The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge hosted by Jason Stasyszen of Connecting to Impact and Sarah Salter of Living Between the Lines. Be sure to check out their posts!