A Lesson From My Relationship

I have resisted writing about my relationship with Katie, my girlfriend, partly because she sometimes reads my posts and I don’t want to embarrass her, but also because the relationship is new and I’m still learning a lot. However, I have learned so much from dating her I can’t pass up an opportunity for content to write here 😉

Being in a relationship is like having a giant magnifying glass looking at my character. Before I met Katie, I thought I was a great Christian guy because I diligently went to church to serve, read my bible, and prayed often. However, when I started going out with her, I quickly started to see gaps in my character that needed immediate attention. The list is too long to cover here, but the first area I observed needing improvement was my relationship with my family. I saw how Katie loved and cared for her family, even though they let her down at times. Seeing this forgiveness and love challenged me. After being hurt by my family, I isolated myself and was living away from them with minimal interaction. I preferred to not talk about them, and when asked, would generally bring up the bad things that happened. I understand that no one has a perfect family, but my attitude toward my family was not right. Seeing how forgiveness brought healing and restored relationships in Katie’s family challenged me to forgive my family too and invite them back into my life. I started organising times to see them and enjoy each other’s company.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says ‘If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

As it turns out, there is a lot more to being a “good Christian guy” then simply going to church and reading the Bible. Without showing love, I had nothing. When I did change my tune, I was amazed at how fast relationships were strengthened and renewed. Have you had difficulty in family relationships? What have you done to restore those relationships? Let me know by commenting below 🙂

Moving Past Doubts

A little while ago, I was upset with someone. They didn’t treat me the way I wanted to be treated, and I felt hurt. When I was alone in my bedroom feeling sorry for myself, I had a thought to read my journal. I found the document on my MacBook and started reading. My journal is short – only a handful of pages. However, in those few pages I had written thoughts about the same people in my life. The funny part? My anxious thoughts about them a few months ago were the same ones I was experiencing now. I started laughing because I knew what happened after I wrote in the journal. Without saying anything, they had made it all right again. It was all just a misunderstanding on my part.

1 Corinthians 13:7 says ‘Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.‘ This verse affirms the need to never give up and endure through every circumstance. In my mind, I had the right to be upset, but if I had followed the Bible, I would have assumed the best instead and saved myself the pain.

Have you had doubts about someone? Have you been let down by someone you love? Write down your thoughts and feelings in a few sentences every-so-often (once per week is ideal). When you worry later, you may find that reading your past thoughts and feelings show you how to proceed.

I want to give another example. I get very annoyed when I arrange a time to catch up with someone and they cancel last-minute or say they can’t make it without giving me a time that works. I feel like I’m stabbing in the dark simply trying to see them. When this happened to me a few months ago, I was quite upset. A few days ago it happened again with the same person, and the identical feelings came to me. After reading my journal I realized this person was not upset with me or avoiding seeing me. This friend was busy, nothing more.

Big problems become small ones when brought into perspective. I recommend journalling if you sometimes have doubts. It is simple to do and very effective at clearing your mind.

The Pursuit of Acceptance, or the Pursuit of God?

Today I have been challenged by the scripture found in Isaiah 53:1-6 ‘Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Jesus spent His time on earth not for Himself, but sinners. He was despised and hated during His ministry. What hit me hard was how the Son of God came to earth and was misunderstood. If God’s own Son wasn’t liked and didn’t care to be liked, why am I so concerned with what other people think of me?

If I am to live for God and not myself, I will need to re-focus myself on Him. It seems so easy to get caught up in what the world defines as success, but to put that aside and look like a fool may be necessary to obey God. How far will you go to pursue God rather than acceptance of other people? This challenges me, because often my motives aren’t right. I love social media because it’s a platform that can be used to get even more acceptance from friends. Does a follower of Christ even need social media? I deleted Instagram because I do not have the self-control to use it in a healthy way. I have kept a Facebook account, but I wonder if I should delete that too. In any case, I will be judging my motives very closely the next few days. I want to be in the pursuit of God, not the pursuit of acceptance from people.

Increase Your Love for Other People

Lately, I have been thinking about the presence of God and His love. When I set aside time alone with God and start praying, I almost always feel peace and a feeling of being at rest. The longer I pray, the greater the feelings get. After an hour or so, I start to feel peace and contentment so strongly that I usually can’t hold back tears. I am not one to cry, but I often do when I pray. I believe that prayer brings me closer to God. The closer I am to God, the more love I have for other people.

I have often heard it said that ‘To love others, you need to learn to love yourself first!’ This statement sounds right, but in my experience, it does the exact opposite. The more I think about myself, the more I feel insecure, afraid and impatient with other people. I believe that God teaches a way of life that goes against the culture you and I live in today. I strongly believe that to love others, you must love God first. How do you love God? Submit to Him in prayer, and He will give you so much love for others that you CANNOT HELP but share it!

Matthew 22:34-40 says ‘But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

So, based on this verse, by loving God first and loving your neighbour second, you should love yourself… last? I believe so. Okay, then where did this idea of self-love come from? I believe it comes from selfishness, not God.

God showed us how to love. Jesus stripped Himself of all power to come to earth in the form of a man, then proceeded to serve others for the duration of His time on earth. In his early Thirties, He died on a cross for sins He did not commit. Are you keen on being sentenced to death for a crime you did not commit… at the age of 32?! I know I’m not. At no point did Jesus teach His disciples to ‘love themselves so they could love others’. He taught them to pray. He even gave them a whole prayer to pray, word for word.

If you want to love others the way Jesus taught, learn to pray. If you already pray, add some more time to your praying each day. God LOVES to hear you and me pray and will come closer to us to listen. I love that about Him.

Have you experienced powerful prayer? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear your story! 🙂

Generosity: Sacrificial Giving

I previously mentioned the story of me as a twelve-year-old boy dreaming about all the things I could buy with one million dollars. The exercise got me thinking of all the different stuff I could buy and all the holidays I could experience if I wanted to. However, after thinking about myself for some time, I decided to think about ways I could spend the money to help others. I considered giving half of it away, but I had second thoughts. Giving half of a million dollars seemed to be such a waste! What if I only gave 10%? What if I gave $100,000 and kept the rest for spending as I saw fit? Surely that was generous enough!

There is nothing wrong with giving 10%, but there is something special about giving more than a sensible amount. Luke 21:1-4 says ‘Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Jesus saw through the dollar amounts straight to the heart of each person. The widow chose not to eat because of her love for God. The wealthy people of that time were indeed generous, but their level of giving did not require much sacrifice.

God does not require sacrifice, as Hosea says at 6:6 ’For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.’ However, when you choose to go beyond God’s expectations and requirements because you love Him that much, He will respond and repay! Matthew 6:19-22 says ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

God is after your heart. If you give Him everything you have, especially to the point where it hurts, He notices! Every gift given need not be sacrificial, but a healthy, generous life will include the occasional sacrificial offering which shows the heart of the giver.

Finding Peace In Every Moment

I find myself living in a broken and hurting world. I often see people in bad situations who, by making many small choices, found themselves there. However, I cannot be discouraged for long. I believe in a God who is able and willing to help every person who reaches out to Him. I understand this from my own experience at the age of sixteen. When I prayed to Him, He responded. Now a Christian, bad things still happen to me the same way, yet they appear less significant. At times I have found myself laughing at situations that would have intimidated me before meeting God.

Matthew 24:4-8 says ‘Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

This scripture talks about some of the negative things that will happen. However, the hope of God and His salvation brings peace that cannot be understood by anyone who has not experienced it first-hand.

John 16:33 says ‘I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Do you experience peace that allows you to laugh in times of distress? God wants you to live in this kind of harmony. If you do not experience this, ask God to give it to you.

Passion For God

Acts 21:1-4, 7-8 tells the story of Paul travelling through various places and encouraging Christians as he went. Just focusing on the travel, it says ‘After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, we sailed straight to the island of Cos. The next day we reached Rhodes and then went to Patara. There we boarded a ship sailing for Phoenicia. We …landed at the harbour of Tyre, in Syria, where the ship was to unload its cargo. We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week…‘ (Skip verses 5 and 6) ‘The next stop after leaving Tyre was Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed for one day. The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food.

This story illustrates the passion Paul had for God and the Church. He travelled the world teaching and encouraging believers wherever he went.

The passion Paul had for God and the Church inspires me. However, when it comes to my life, I can so effortlessly get busy with unimportant tasks. I never intend to put God below other things, but it is so easy to find fun and exciting things to fill my day.

Does your life reflect the passion Paul had? Travelling the world is obviously not required to pursue God passionately. Loving God looks different for everyone, but is there an opportunity to bring your passion to a higher level? Do you find yourself ‘too busy’ to spend a meaningful time alone with God each day?