Do You Want to Be Justified or Reconciled?

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This has been a particularly difficult week for us. There were a few situations/relationships that had gone…how do I put it?…sideways, and Steve and I needed to step carefully as we navigated our way through them.

Justification

I remember years ago, when situations similar to these would occur I would be motivated to find justification rather than resolution. I couldn’t see it at the time, but that’s what I was doing, and that was wrong.

You may be asking, why would that be wrong? Don’t we want justice and answers when things go sideways?

I recently heard some great council on this that I want to share.

Outside vs. Inside

As we learn and grow to walk with Jesus and be closer to Him, we have to ask the question that was popular many years ago—what would Jesus do? The answer lies with Him. Jesus was always about, what I like to call, the “outside” issues. (i.e.- “How are you? Can I pray for you? How can I serve/love you? etc…)

Our internal voice, and the enemies voice as well, is always about inside, “self” focused things. Words such as, “I”, “me”, “mine” make things all about ourselves and that’s where the need for justification is rooted. We think, “How can I make this person hurt for hurting me?” “How can I control this person?” “When do I get what I want?”

But what if the answer when things go sideways with loved ones was different than justification?

Resolution and Restoration

Just remember Jesus and the woman who was about to be stoned in John 8 (Verses 1 – 11) and the woman at the well in John 4 (4 – 26), are just two examples. Notice His motivation was always about by showing them the way to resolving their issues and restoration back into the kingdom (“Go and sin no more.”).

  • When there is tension in the air and listening has gone out the window, is your goal justification (making it all about you and what you want?) or finding resolution and restoring the relationship?
  • Are you speaking with and from the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?
  • Do you have a hope and a faith for real resolution and restoration?

Jesus Did

In fact, let’s consider Good Friday and what we’ll celebrate in three days.

Instead of justification, and there’s no one more justified to be against us than Him, God chose to offer complete resolution and restoration through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son. And His Son was obedient to the same purpose.

Our goal is to be like Him. We are to strive to be “Christ-like”.

Whether you’re a parent to a child, (or the other way around), or in a marriage, or a sibling—the question is; are we living with a Christ-like manner and do we try to work things out in a Christ-like manner? Do we strive to possess all of the fruits of the Spirit, or do we just want to be right?

I never said this was easy for us. But if we are wanting intimacy with Christ and we search Him out for this, we will discover through the many examples in the bible, that this was His way. This is what the Father’s true heart is for us and that is why He sent His Son to take on our sins and die for us! He wants to bring us resolution because His ultimate goal is for our restoration back into the kingdom.

He loves us so much!

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Pursuing Intimacy with God

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People sometimes ask, “How do I get closer to God?” They desire to be more intimate with Him. You do?? Good! That should be the desire of all our hearts, to be closer with God. It will be a life long journey—one that will transform you into His image.

What Not To Do

But first, I would suggest we stop doing something. And that something is to spend less time analyzing God and more time obeying Him. James reminds us “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22 That’s the first thing we do and yes, it’s that simple. We have so much information available to us these days that we rely now more on man’s wisdom than God’s wisdom and doing that just messes things up for us. Learn to admit to God that you just don’t know. You don’t know why he/she had cancer. You don’t know why they died suddenly in their prime. You don’t know… But God does. And that starts with trusting Him and His perfect will for our lives. Surrender your philosophical self to Him. He is all knowing, not you.

What Has To Be Done

Secondly, if we desire to hear from Him, confess our sins to Him. He knows all of the sins we’ve committed, even the secret ones. Psalm 90:8 says, “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” Clear the pathway for God to hear you. Another scripture that brings this point home for us is Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from God—your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear you.” Personally, I want God to hear me! So this is very important that we do not take advantage of not going to God and confessing our wrongdoings. Surrender your sins.

Be Eager To Learn

Thirdly, get to know Him, get to know His Holy Word. That only comes by reading and spending time there. The Old Testament stories are full of wonderful story after story of His great love for His people and how He is preparing the way for His Son Jesus Christ to come. The New Testament is full of Jesus’ teachings and the apostle’s teachings on everything we need to know about how to live our lives here on earth. Surrender your time to get to know Him.

It’s All A Matter Of Trust

And last and foremost, trust Him. Trust that He is Creator. He is Loving Savior, and He is Merciful Judge! He is the One who is unfathomable. He is the One who is unsearchable! He is God Almighty and He wants to have an intimate relationship with you. Surrender your heart to Him.

When these things happen there is immense peace that comes into our lives. You can actually relax and feel free of stress when you surrender to Him. Honestly, it is helpful to remind ourselves about this. So clear the way to Him, change your attitude toward Him and trust- that He is at the helm, wanting and waiting for you to come to Him and have a close, personal, and intimate relationship with Him. So won’t you?

It’s ALWAYS the Small Stuff

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The following is a slightly tweaked edit of an old post because it is worth repeating: our #1 piece of advice for couples and anyone in a relationship of any kind: speak up!

Quiet Shock

We once had conversation with a divorced man. He had been married a long time before the divorce and someone asked him what happened.

He started his story by telling us about a short conversation from his honeymoon. The details don’t matter, but here’s the gist:

  • Him: “Honey, how ’bout we…..?” And no, it was not an intimate request.
  • Her: “No, I don’t want to.”
  • Him: quietly shocked and bewildered at her response.

He said that this was the beginning of realizing that they were mismatched and it never really got better.

What If?

What if he had spoken up? What if he had asked, “why not honey?”

And what if she had said:

  • “Not now, how ’bout later?” or,
  • “I’m just tired.” or,
  • “I’m sorry honey, I didn’t know it meant that much to you.” or,
  • “Why are so upset?” or,
  • “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this. I’d prefer if we…” or, or, or…

What if they had communicated that first time? That first time they were “not on the same page” or, “missing each other”?

What if they had discussed what ultimately became a HUGE division between them when it was small – maybe even nonexistent?

It’s the Small Stuff

We have seen this time and time and again. And we have also experienced it first hand in our own marriage: The big stuff that tears couples apart starts with small stuff kept inside. The kind of small stuff that we think is not worth discussing.

WRONG!

If you want to survive for the long term, speak up about the small stuff.

Great marriages are built on mutual respect that encourages – maybe even demands:

  • “I was hurt by what you said at the party”
  • “Can we be more careful when we talk about…?”
  • “I may have misunderstood, but did you mean…?”
  • “How can I help you believe I mean…when I say…?”
  • “Can we talk?”
  • Etc., etc., etc., etc…

EVERY TIME we’ve done this we’ve caught something potentially big and damaging while it was small and easily discussed.

So again, our #1 piece of advice: speak up! Always. Often. And ESPECIALLY when it seems like a small stuff.

SPEAK UP!

Dating and Marriage and Dating, Oh My!

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In our last post, The Purpose of Dating – Part 1, we shared some effective tips on what we called “early dating” for young adults. But what about older adults, those that are 20-ish and up?

Glad you asked, but first:

Marriage Conference

Our heartfelt thanks to Mike & Doris Courtney, Robert and Joan Collier, Springhouse Worship and Arts Center, Nathan Owen (lights), Jonathan Beaty (sound), Jim Caldwell (photos) and ALL the attendees for making this past weekend’s, “I Still Do!” marriage conference a HUGE success. Thank you, thank you!

Now, back to…

Dating

We ended the last post with these two statements:

  1. The primary purpose for early dating (and each household must decide what “early” means…) should be to get to know many, many people of the opposite sex.
  2. It is NOT to find the “love of your life” or “the one”, that will come later.

It should come as no surprise then, that our suggestion for later dating IS to find the “love of your life” or “the one” (as long as you recognize the myths of finding “the perfect one”).

Here are a few tips with this in mind:

  • Date as many people as it takes. We’re not suggesting sneaking around behind people’s backs; we’re suggesting dating lots of people. Which also means:
  • Don’t fall deeply in love and break up over and over again. Yes, even as older adults you should avoid the training cycle of divorce skills mentioned in our last post.
  • Once you DO find the possible “one”, date them a LOT and ask lots of questions. The pastor on this video recommends 1,000.

Dating and Marriage

But note two things about these 1,000 questions:

  • You will NEVER learn everything about the other person. It’s just not possible because you both – hopefully – will continually change and grow and mature for the rest of your lives.
  • You will also NEVER learn that you are now “in love” enough to sustain a lifelong of marriage. It’s just not possible because you both – hopefully – will continually change and grow and mature for the rest of your lives.

The purpose of dating and asking 1,000 questions is to find the person you never want to stop dating.

Marriage and Dating

This is not a post to remind married couples to go on romantic dates periodically. It is a post about having a healthy, life-long marriage by:

  • Resting in your choice of a spouse once and for all. A healthy marriage is built on the one time decision of ’til death do us part’.
  • Spending your lives getting to know each other as you continually change and grow and mature for the rest of your lives.

And btw, a great way to spend your lives getting to know each other is to periodically going on romantic dates together. 😉

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Cold Little Kitty

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During the first ice storm we had a few weeks back, a cat come to our back door and meowed very loudly to help him. Everything was ice and he was cold and seemed to have nowhere to go.

“Meow, feed me! Help me!” he cried! So I/we did.

And we also created a kitty bed to protect him from the cold. Hey remember, it was the week of below zero and sub-freezing weather!

Since Then

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, we have a new friend. The cat is very skittish and not trustful. He is not a domesticated cat, just a wayward one. They call them feral cats. At first, he would only eat outside and he would run if there was any movement within 10 feet – even if we were behind our patio door.

I started to try to get close to him and at first he would have none of it. “Meow, just feed me!” and he would hurry off and run from us when his belly was full.

As each day passed, he would try to trust us just a little more. We’ve moved the food inside and he is coming in to eat. But he quickly scampers out once he’s full or if there’s any sudden sound or movement.

He’s curious and seems to want to want to know us, but he’s just not sure.

About a week ago, he came further inside to look around a bit and to familiarize himself with more of who we are and what we’re all about. I gently closed the door while he was in the other room. He didn’t freak out, but he was increasingly concerned he wasn’t in control anymore. I opened the door back up to see if he’d dart out immediately, but he didn’t.

He sat in the open door—inside the house looking out and meowing.

I said, “you have a choice little one.” It’s baby steps, and the choice will be his to love us and except us or not.

He has free will, just like our Father gives us.

Just Like Us

I began thinking of our Heavenly Father and His relationship to us as I compared our relationship to this wayward cat. All we want to do is give this cat food, shelter, protection and love. Just like our Heavenly Father desires for us.

The cat eats our food, but then hurries away when it’s belly is full.

Are we like that? Do we go to our Sunday church service, and feed on His Word (that was prepared and given to us) and then hurry home and forget about Him until the next Sunday or the next crisis when we go looking for Him?

And what about trust? Are we wayward in heart, not sure whether to trust Him with our lives and ultimately our hearts? Do we fear a loss of control?

You see, our Heavenly Father wants, desires to feed us, love us, and take care of us. His door is always open to us, it never shuts. It’s us that don’t come in. Instead, we just put up with the dire circumstances we find ourselves in.

The choice is ours. The choice is always left to us.

He Desires Relationship

We need to familiarize ourselves with Him. Snoop around in the Word. That is how we’ll get to know Him. Really know Him. What does He say in His Word to us? What are His promises? One of them is, He promises “…to never to leave us or forsake us.” — Deut. 31:6

He is always there, always standing at the door – waiting for us to come in from the cold. Wanting us to come in… “Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live…” — Deut. 30:18

The Lord God loves you. He knows you and He’ll meet you where you are. Ask Him. Seek Him, and I promise, you’ll find Him.

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” —  Luke 11: 9 (NLT)

Trust Him with your heart. Come in from the cold. He’s there waiting to love you.

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