The Big Oofs of Friendship (part two) | Sinking Ships 04

SHIP SINKER #3: Navigational Errors

Many of your current friendships exist because of proximity. You grew up with them, or you’re around them every day at school. Because of the time spent together, you discovered similar interests. You will remain friends as long as those interests align and you are traveling in the same direction. These friendships begin to sink as differing interests emerge. Some friends become more interested in sports, while you might be more interested in drama. Naturally, you begin to drift.

One important key when determining who we should allow to become our CLOSE friends is their relationship with Jesus. We know that our friends will influence us with their interests. I’ve seen many young people let their relationship with God fall away because they were more interested in impressing their non-christian friends than impressing God. If the direction you are hoping to go in life is toward a deeper relationship with God, then it is essential that those closest to you are going the same direction.  This doesn’t mean we don’t have friendships with non-Christians, only that we guard who has the greatest influence in our lives.

SHIP SINKER #4: Weather

Storms sink ships. In relationships, I have found the storms most deadly are emotional storms. As we get older our range of emotions increase and intensify. We don’t always know what we’re feeling or how to handle it. We must be careful as we are learning to navigate these new waters. If we are not, in moments of emotional uproar we can say or do things that damage and sometimes even destroy our friendships.

SHIP SINKER #5: Warfare

In video games, there is something incredibly fun about lining ships up with my cannons and aiming to sink the enemy vessel. In relationships, this isn’t as much fun, yet conflict and disagreements are unavoidable. Just so you know, we are not naturally skilled at handling and resolving conflict. It takes time, patience and understanding to work through conflict in a way that doesn’t create more hurt and anger. We will take a deeper look at conflict later in our Sinking Ships series

THINK ABOUT THIS: 

  1. Think about where you want to go in life. Where do you want your relationship with God to be next year? Look at your current friends, do they want the same thing for their lives?
  2. Think about the people you admire the most. Are these people you spend time with? If not, why not?

PRAY: Lord, lead me into friendships that will help me grow closer to you and help me influence my friends in the same way.

SCRIPTURE READING:

Proverbs 13:20 (TPT) If you want to grow in wisdom, spend time with the wise. Walk with the wicked and you’ll eventually become just like them.

Proverbs 18:24 (MSG) Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.

Colossians 1:17 (NLT) Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your[a]life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.[b] You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile,[c] circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized,[d] slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

 

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The Big Oofs of Friendship (part one) | Sinking Ships 03

Today we will begin looking at the big oofs of friendship, the top ten reasons ships sink. And no, icebergs are not among them, although if you are giving someone the cold shoulder it may damage the relationship.

SHIP SINKER #1: POOR DESIGN.

Imagine, you’re trying to go to sleep, you look at your window and your neighbor is just standing in your front yard staring at your house. It’s a little uncomfortable, but not a big deal. You know your neighbor is nice, and not weird, usually. A while later you hear the front door open and someone comes inside. You slowly come downstairs and find your neighbor sitting on your couch, with a plate of your leftovers, watching your television.

Just like a ship will sink if it has some major design flaws, a friendship with a lack of boundaries has an expiration date. In a world of instant (and constant) communication we need to learn to say GOODBYE. Our friends do not require constant access to us. Most of us at one time or another have been in a conversation that just never ended. Then a time comes when we are busy, or not near our phones and we don’t reply. Now our friends are mad at us! We must do a better job of creating boundaries.

It’s easier to create boundaries at the START of a friendship than after boundaries have been crossed, however they are important. You may need to talk to your friend and say something like this. “I love that you’re my friend. I want you to keep being my friend and for that to happen some things need to change.”

SHIP SINKER #2: INSTABILITY

When a ship is experiencing instability, there is a good chance it will reach a tipping point and go down. The same can be said in your life. When we are unstable, we might try to pretend like everything is fine, only things are NOT fine. Eventually, it will spill out into our friendships and create problems. Our friends should be people who are there for us when we are going through stuff, be open with what you are going through, however, don’t expect your friends to solve all your problems. Talk to your family, youth leaders and sometimes we even need the help of professional counselors.

THINK ABOUT THIS: 

  1. How are the boundaries in your relationships?
  2. What do you need to do in order to restore proper boundaries?
  3. Are there areas in your life that you need to ask for help in?  If so, who are you going to ask? (You may feel like you don’t have anyone, but your family and church leaders love you and are not here to judge you. We want to see you healthy and will help in any way we can.)

PRAY: Father, help me to create proper boundaries in my friendship. Show me the people in my life that I can really talk to when I feel unstable.

SCRIPTURE READING:

Proverbs 18:24 (NLT) There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 27:17 (NLT) As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.

Romans 12:16-18 (NLT) Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Proverbs 25:17 (TPT) Don’t wear out your welcome by staying too long at the home of your friends, or they may get fed up with always having you there and wish you hadn’t come.

 

Love Lived Out | Sinking Ships 02

When reading the Bible I am often struck by the strong language it can use. in 1 John 4 it actually says that if I claim to love God, but don’t extend the same love to people that I am a liar! Not by my own intention, but by my actions.

As we receive the love of God, the way we see, speak to and treat other people begins to change. It is when I recognize how little I deserve the love, grace, and the salvation given so freely by Jesus that my world view begins to transform. I could never have earned the love that Jesus gives to me, yet He offers it without reserve. Unfortunately, my natural response when loving people is to hold back until they have proven themselves worthy. Should they do something to offend me, I withdraw my affections away. The more I remember God’s love for me, the more I begin to recognize that is the way I should love people.

I have a responsibility to love people the way that God has loved me. When I fail to do so, I reveal that I am not walking in His love, or rather His love is not changing my natural human nature into His supernatural nature.

I shouldn’t wait for a friend or a family member to do something to make them worthy of my love. They are already so, as they are created by God the same as me. When they say something that hurts my feelings, I shouldn’t make them jump through hoops in order to be forgiven, I should offer them the same kind of love that God gave to me.

The way we treat people matters.

Hebrews 6:11-12 shows that if we fail to love others we can become spiritually dull. Love is what our Christian life looks like lived out. When we receive Jesus, we begin to live our lives out of His love. When we stop demonstrating His love, and instead demonstrate selfishness, jealousy, hurtful words, or unforgiveness, we hurt our own relationships with God.

God created us for relationships. We are at our best when surrounded by healthy, thriving relationships. When our relationships are falling apart, we find ourselves struggling, hurt and in need of healing. Starting Monday we will begin diving deeper into the things that can sink our ships and how to avoid them.

THINK ABOUT THIS: 

  1. In what ways has God forgiven you?
  2. How is the way God loves you affecting how you treat others?
  3. What does the way you treat people (what you say to them and about them as well your actions) say about your relationship with God?

PRAY: Lord, I am so thankful that you didn’t wait for me to make the first move. You offer me forgiveness and You call me son. Help me to love people the way that You love me.

SCRIPTURE READING:

1 John 4:7-21 (NLT) Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first.

20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.

Hebrews 6:11-12 (NLT) Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true.12 Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

John 15:12 (NLT) This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.

Relationships Matter | Sinking Ships 01

When I first became a youth pastor I asked a small group of students how often they had deep conversations with their friends. Conversations that really matter. Conversations about spiritual things. Conversations that dive beneath the surface. They stared back at me as if they never knew such conversations could be had with friends. They had never had such an experience.

When God created the first human, He looked at the lone man and declared, “He’s all alone! This is not good.” So God created the first woman. It is clear in the creation story that we were created for two primary things. First, to have relationship with God. Second, to have relationship with each other.

Relationships matter.

In our world, we see no end of failed friendships, broken relationships, strained families. You don’t have to look very far to see relationships sinking everyday. In your life, you have probably already experienced the loss of a friend or two.

Our world in 2019 is decidedly more connected because of the phones in our pockets, yet so often we feel more isolated and alone than ever. A recent study showed that  58% of people have less than three close friends. 13% have ZERO close friends.

So many of our students in RCC YOUTH have told me that they’ve never heard God’s voice or felt His presence. In a world of full of sinking ships is it any wonder that we struggle to have a strong relationship with God?

In 1 John 4 we read about this incredible connection between our relationship with people and with God. I am fully convinced that as our relationship with God grows we are able to love people better. I also believe that when we build walls between ourselves and other people that we are unintentionally building walls between ourselves and God.

I think it is worth the investment to learn how to have strong relationships. Over the next four weeks, we’re going to look at some of the reasons relationships sink and learn how to have stronger, healthier relationships with our friends, family and with God.

THINK ABOUT THIS: 

  1. Who in my life do I consider “close” friends?
  2. Who do I talk to about spiritual things?
  3. How close do I feel to God?

PRAY: Lord, I know You are here with me today. I pray that you would help me to develop stronger relationships with my friends, my family and with You.

SCRIPTURE READING:

1 John 4:19-21 (TPT) Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us. 20 Anyone can say, “I love God,” yet have hatred toward another believer. This makes him a phony, because if you don’t love a brother or sister, whom you can see, how can you truly love God, whom you can’t see? 21 For he has given us this command: whoever loves God must also demonstrate love to others.

Genesis 2:4-25 (NLT) When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth. For the Lord God had not yet sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil. Instead, springs came up from the ground and watered all the land. Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.

Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

10 A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into four branches. 11 The first branch, called the Pishon, flowed around the entire land of Havilah, where gold is found. 12 The gold of that land is exceptionally pure; aromatic resin and onyx stone are also found there. 13 The second branch, called the Gihon, flowed around the entire land of Cush. 14 The third branch, called the Tigris, flowed east of the land of Asshur. The fourth branch is called the Euphrates.

15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.16 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— 17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 19 So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. 20 He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.

21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.

23 “At last!” the man exclaimed.

“This one is bone from my bone,
    and flesh from my flesh!
She will be called ‘woman,’
    because she was taken from ‘man.’”

24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

 

Discover & Pursue

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Have you ever done something that you knew a friend or a family member wouldn’t want you to do? How did you know they didn’t want you to do it? Perhaps they had told you in the past. Or perhaps you know them well enough to recognize they wouldn’t like it.

In the same way, have you done something in order to make another person happy? How did you know it would make them happy? Perhaps you picked up on some verbal cue they mentioned? Or maybe you’ve just known them long enough to have an idea of what makes them happy?

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NLT) Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

In our last entry, we were discussing this scripture and I wrote that our goal should be to discover and pursue what God wants for our lives. I don’t know about you, but to me saying something like that seems very idealistic. What does it mean? How do we know what God wants? What does really mean to live for Christ?

We tend to over complicate, or over mystify some of these simple spiritual concepts. Learning what pleases God is much the same as learning what pleases any other person. We gain this knowledge through relationship. It is through relationship, spending time talking with them that we learn what someone likes or dislikes, what will make them mad or what will make them smile.

If we want to know what it means to live for God we have to get to know Him. We have to spend time with Him, talking to Him, asking Him questions and letting Him speak into our lives. Honestly, it is pretty incredible that we get to have a relationship with Him at all! We get to pray and come into His presence.

Ephesians 3:12 (NLT) Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

At one time humanity was cut off from the presence of God, and now we have free access to talk to Him anytime we want. We have His Word, this incredible book that tells about Him. Read it! See how GOOD Jesus was and how wonderful God is. See the promises He has for your life. Learn what pleases Him. Learn what displeases Him.

Growing in our relationship with God takes time and intentionality. Meaning we have to do it on purpose. Daily making that decision of pursuit. As we do something within us begins to change. The things that are important to us begin to change. We begin making decisions not on what will bring US pleasure, but what will benefit GOD’S KINGDOM.

The final part of 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.”

Sometimes when reading the scripture a word or two just jump out at you and come alive in your spirit. That’s what happened to me when I read the words “FOR THEM”. Jesus didn’t just die, look around and proclaim, “NOPE, I don’t care for this being dead thing, I think I’ll try resurrection now.” It wasn’t a decision motivated by personal gain. Jesus did it FOR YOU and FOR ME. He wanted to bring US life, to give US the gift of the Holy Spirit!

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT) …Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.

I am fully convinced WE are the joy that was set before Him! He endured the cross for us and now we have to wrestle with the questions, will we live for Him?

I would encourage you today to examine your own heart. Here are some questions to help with that.

How would my life look different if you truly lived every day for Christ rather than myself?

How would the way I talk to people change?

How would the way I talk about people change?

Would the way I approach school or work change?

Would I still spend my free time the same way?

Would I still choose the same entertainment?

Would I still have the same hobbies?

How would my prayer life change if I were really wanting to get to know Jesus?

Do I really live out what I say you believe?

As we are working through questions like these, often God begins to reveal areas for us to work through. As they are revealed we now have the hard choice to make. Do we begin to commit those areas to the Lord, or do we walk away and forget what was revealed?

James 1:22-24 (NLT) But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.

Our Lives Reveal Our Lies

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The book of James describes God’s Word as a mirror, revealing who we really are. When we catch a glimpse we have a choice what to make. Do we begin to make changes or do we walk away and forget what God revealed? When I approach reading the Bible, I try to really evaluate myself through the lens of His Word. Do I really believe what it says? Am I living according to God’s instruction? Often I discover areas where what I claim as my belief and my what my actions reveal don’t actually line up.

Sometimes I don’t believe what I think I believe. I am convinced that we act according to what we believe. really believe. Deep, gut belief.

It’s like the kid who approaches the rotting bridge in the woods. “I believe I can cross that bridge,” he boasts to his friends. As he approaches the decaying wood he hesitates. He wants to cross the bridge, to have victory over the bridge,  but deep down he believes there is a chance he will fall to his death. Or at least get wet, or maybe break a leg. The bridge isn’t that high.

What if I were to boldly tell you that I firmly believe it’s wrong to eat meat, then every time we go out to lunch but I consistently order burgers or the steak and shrimp? Will you continue to think I really I believe it’s wrong to eat meat? No, because my actions reveal otherwise.

So when reading in 2 Corinthians recently and I came across the words, “Since we believe…” I had to stop and ask myself, do I really believe?

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NLT) Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

I like to ask myself questions Do I really believe that Christ died for all? Every person?  Do my actions reveal that belief? Do I really believe I have died to my old life? What was my old life, my life before I really gave it all over to Jesus? Have I really given it all over to Jesus? Does my life belong to myself or to Him? What does it mean to not live for myself? What does it mean to live for Christ?

A part of the growing up process is learning to make our own decisions. We want that independence. We want that day when our parents no longer tell us where to go or what to do. We want to be in complete control of our time, our activities, our friends. We desire the freedom to do what we want. A lot of times that means pursuing what we think will make us happy.

It turns out a lot of the things I expected to make me happy, left me feeling empty. I’m reminded of Solomon’s wisdom.

Ecclesiastes 1:8 (NLT) Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

The things of this world leave us unsatisfied. We were made for eternal things, not worldly things. As a result, I believe we need to shift our perspective on growing up, it shouldn’t about gaining the freedom to chase pursuits that ultimately leave us empty. Rather, our goal should be to discover and pursue what God wants for our lives.

How we manage to do that, however, is the subject of next weeks blog.

What Only God Can Do

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“I can do it by myself!”

There is a joyful moment as we grow when we no longer want help, but to prove we are capable of doing it by ourselves. From potty training to bike riding, being able to do it by myself is such a fulfilling accomplishment. It’s a part of growing up, becoming self-sufficient.

I want to be fully self-sufficient. I want to be strong. I want to prove I’m capable. Of course, as we grow hopefully we learn the value of depending on others. We learn we don’t have all the answers, we may even call our parents and ask for help. We reach out to talk when we can’t sort through our thoughts and feelings. We look. to others to help us keep accountable for our goals.

When it comes to my spiritual life I recognize that the goal is not to be self-sufficient but to be fully surrendered to God.

I’ve been on a journey this year of self-discovery. I’ve learned a lot about myself, how I perceive the world and how I can best connect with God. I do believe in learning ourselves better we can learn to better connect with God. I also believe it is equally important to learn who we are through the lens of how God sees us.

My point is simply this. There is a work within us only God can do. No matter how self-sufficient we may want to be, no matter how much we discover about ourselves, we must come to a place where we are fully surrendered to the Lord.

The work God wants to do in me is something I could never accomplish in my own strength and my own finite knowledge. However, I do have the responsibility to position myself to allow God to work in my life. This means approaching my prayer time with less of my agenda and more just to seek a deeper relationship with my Father. It is in intimacy that God really begins to reveal more.

We live in a fast-paced, instant notification culture and it’s easy to forget that the work of intimacy is not a fast-paced work, but requires an investment of time. Getting to know someone on a deeper level requires lengthy conversations over a long period of time. It is no different in our walk with God. It is a slow work, but such an important work.

Trying to live a surrendered life, without intimacy is drudgery. For one we all struggle to stay surrendered. Our own will constantly tries to take over. Just this week I had a desire to do something that I know would have been a disaster. I knew it wasn’t something God was leading me in, yet for a few days, it seemed like such a great idea! If I had let my great idea lead my life then I would have gone down a path that could have potentially derailed my life.

I want to remind you today that intimacy with God is a daily pursuit. Persist. Don’t give up. Keep creating time each day to spend with Jesus. I know some days it feels lacking, but never judge the whole of the pursuit by one day or even one week. As you are faithful to position yourself to receive from God He is faithful to continue the work He started in you.

Philippians 1:6 (TPT)  I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ!