Relationship Revelation

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30

Have you ever had a bad roommate? What if you were stuck with them forever? Imagine endless years of dishes in the sink, laundry on the floor and unwanted guests. How long would you contend with their selfish existence before throwing them out? Do they have any idea what a strain they are on your life? Does anyone else exist in their universe? I would never treat someone like that.

In stark contrast, the best roommate on the planet is the Holy Spirit. When you confess that you can’t do this life alone and ask Jesus to forgive you of all your sins past, present and future, you receive a new best friend. Your life is sealed with the Holy Spirit of God. He takes up residency in your life and never leaves (John 14:16). When you die, he is your ticket into Heaven, and faithful Counselor of Truth until you get there. (2Cr 1:21-22)

The first time you meet, you know life will never be the same. You spend time with your new roommate and embrace the spiritual gifts (1 Cr 12), then life rolls on. The time-sensitive demands of life press in, and you revert back to old patterns. At first there may be remorse and reconciliation, but over time, taking time to consult with the “Counselor” fades. Before you know it, dirty towels are heaped over him, quenching the very source of light that rescued you from your former existence (1Th 5:19).

This is my story. I became the bad roommate and still wince at how I grieved the Spirit of my Holy God, over and over again. Why didn’t He leave me? I would have thrown me out.

Consider this Relationship Revelation: When I grieve the Holy Spirit, His grief is for me.

I thought that grieving the Holy Spirit meant that I hurt his feelings and He experienced pain and offense like I do. Instead, because He is One with our Heavenly Father, the Spirit’s remorse occurs when his children make poor choices and miss the great things he had in store (Heb 11:6). His pain is over what could have been.

When I realized that the very person I grieved the most, grieved not for His pain but for mine, I learned something about forgiveness. If I allow God to change my focus from my pain to the source of my offender’s pain, then I can forgive just like Christ forgave me. Remembering that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” reminds me that I can forgive others even if they are unaware of their offenses (Rom 5:8).

Who has hurt you the most?

What could be hurting them?

Ask the faithful roommate in your heart to reveal offenses hidden there, and transfer your focus from the pain in your heart to the pain in theirs.

What healing words could you offer?

Brandi

Picture Relationships

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“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Romans 12:9-10

7 Reasons Why You Need Relationships

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.” 1 John 4:18, (NLT)

I often find myself unsure of what to do when people hurt me. After the initial shock, I hang the “unavailable” sign over my heart for a while and I pull away. In the midst of my hurt and fear, I convince myself that I need space and healing. The path of solidarity looks promising for a bit, so I take a step back and close myself off from everyone.

The fear of confrontation loves to confuse me. It spins my mind into a frenzy and instead of letting God come into the picture of brokenness, I point fingers. The hurt within me soon evolves into anger. I talk to God, but it’s mostly about the other person. Then I wrestle with the question of whether I really need people in my life and I let God know, “I’m good with just You and me.”

Yet, I’m wrong—wrong to think that I don’t need people in my life. Here’s why:

  1. Relationships will always keep you on your knees. You will always need to run to God because without Him, you can’t love.
  2. Relationships provide God’s comfort. Only people can encourage you, care for you and support you. You need others to build you up and help you when life gets difficult. And whether you like it or not, God made you to have relationships with others.
  3. Relationships is in God’s plan. It’s how God made us—hardwired to need each other. God created all of us to be loved by Him and by other people.
  4. Relationships help us grow spiritually. Our feelings will always want to trick us into wanting the pleasurable and easy as opposed to the friction and the hard. Through the difficulties in our relationships, God works in our hearts, builds our character and blesses our lives through people.
  5. Relationships remind us we need the gospel every day! I forget that I have a God who loves to save and likes to heal the hurts within me. His business is in restoration, especially in relationships.
  6. Relationships make us strong and courageous. Because of our deep need to be loved, we do everything for protection against those who shows signs of not loving us. Through relationships we conquer those fears. We grow stronger and courageous both in how we love and how we let others love us.
  7. Relationships expand the Kingdom of God. Through them, we reach unbelievers and the unchurched. We get to show them God’s love.

Taking a step back to avoid relationships will only lead to bitterness especially if the hurt stays bottled up inside. Welcome the wrestling, the questioning and the gentle whispers of God when your relationships get difficult. Hope for the best, pray for reconciliation and listen to God’s Word, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:28, (NIV).

`~ Raquel

When You Never Hear “I’m Sorry”

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Relationships can be painful.  Living in a fallen world where we do not always love perfectly but wound instead is a reality that all of us face.   My husband and I experienced wounds growing up.  I grew up in an emotionally, verbally and physically abusive home. My husband experienced the wound of a father who abandoned his family for another woman. Our families never repented- admitted their wrongs and asked for forgiveness- over the wounds they inflicted. Rather, they responded with justification and manipulation that further deepened the wounds.

I never thought that I would experience peace without my parents repenting.  However, today, by God’s grace we are experiencing peaceful relationships with our families. To get to this place of peace, we had to walk through the process of forgiveness which seemed daunting at times – especially when there is no repentance from the wounder.  So what does forgiveness look like towards an unrepentant wounder?

1. Acknowledge the wound in your heart. Forgiveness does not ignore the sin that was committed against you.  Psalmists were  honest with God over the pain they experienced.  (Ps. 3, 4, 5, 7, 9-10)
2. Give your anger over to God. God sees and knows the sin that was committed against you.  God is a just God (2 Thess. 1:6).  He will deal with the sinner.  Resist taking vengeance into your own hands.
3. Pray for your enemies. I know.  This is a hard one.  But it is what is commanded of us and though our flesh may war against this, obedience to God will bring freedom.  This also takes mega spirit-filled humility.  Our ability to pray for our enemies comes from remembering that God has forgiven us of our sins.  Therefore, we are “to forgive each other just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”  (Eph. 4:32)  It is through prayer that God will begin to soften your heart and you will begin to experience freedom.
4. Pursue reconciliation ‘so far as it depends on you’. This step can be difficult and requires discernment from the Spirit and godly counsel.  Romans 12:18 states, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  We are called to take every step possible to make matters right with our enemies and to be at peace with them.  However, when a person who wronged us does not repent with contrition, confession and change, he cuts off the full work of forgiveness. We can desire good for them and we can hand over our anger to God but full reconciliation or intimacy may not be restored.  In short, pursue reconciliation, but you may have to live with the pain if it does not succeed.  In other words, you are not responsible to make reconciliation happen.
5. Be at peace with God.  As my husband and I sought the Lord over our response to our family, we asked ourselves repeatedly, “What will bless the Lord?  How can we respond in the light of the Gospel?”  We felt convicted to pursue reconciliation with our family while letting go of any expectations of repentance.  We do grieve over the compromised intimacy in our relationships with them due to their lack of repentance but we feel ‘as far as it depends on us’ we have pursued peace with them.

I understand that this can be a sensitive subject and your circumstance and response may be different from mine.  God will enter into your deepest wound and bring peace in your heart if you let Him.  Is there someone you would like to forgive?

Reminders about Relating to People

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.” Colossians 4:18

It’s a new year. A new chapter for our stories. A renewed opportunity to be with and enjoy people. I recently studied the book of Colossians. At the end of the letter,  the apostle Paul signs off by giving personal messages to multiple people he encountered throughout his ministry. Normally I blow by this part of a letter because I tend to think it doesn’t relate as much since the people are no longer alive. Not to mention the names are a tongue twister!

As I gathered information about the people Paul mentions, I realized his concluding thoughts reveal a ton of insight about relationships. Sister, digest these reminders.

People are a primary source of encouragement. Paul, who was imprisoned at the time, ends his letter by speaking of a beloved brother named Tychicus who is bringing word to the Colossians to encourage their hearts.  Tychicus sacrificed time and personal comfort to bring a word of encouragement.

Be willing to learn from and serve those who are in positions of authority. Obviously, Tychicus has spent time with Paul who considered him teachable and reliable as a messenger.

Remember that it’s never too late for a person to change. Paul refers to Onesimus as a faithful and beloved brother. Upon researching, I found out that Onesimus served as a slave who stole from his Christian master and ran away. He became a believer through Paul’s preaching and began a new life.

Extend forgiveness when offended and help restore those who are genuinely willing to change. Paul mentions Mark as among those with him in Rome. In the book of Acts, Paul disagreed with Barnabas about Mark’s previous failure and parted ways with Barnabas. Paul’s gesture provides evidence the friendship was restored.

Seek out and appreciate those whose backgrounds are similar to yours. Paul shares the names of a couple of brothers in Christ who are from a Jewish upbringing as great encouragement because he is also a Jewish believer. Whether similarities in family dynamics, addiction, religious upbringing, or other connections, it’s important to know some people who can relate.

Ask God to give confidence to fellow believers of His will so that they may follow it fully. In verse 12, Paul explains that Epaphras is praying this request for them.

Don’t be surprised by disappointment. Paul sends greetings from a brother in Christ named Demas. Later in his ministry, Paul shared that Demas deserted him. Because of sin,  there will be people in our lives who  disappoint us. We will also disappoint ourselves and others. As a side note,  I am really touched by Jordan’s story where she shares walking through a family member’s betrayal.

Look for people who can help you discover and use your gifts for the kingdom.  At the end of his letter, Paul challenges Archippus to fulfill the ministry he has received.  We need people to come alongside us and vice versa.

Express your needs. Upon closing his letter, Paul asks the Colossians to remember his imprisonment. We can’t expect people to read our minds so it’s necessary to let them know what’s important to us.

Sister, I’m eager to hear how these reminders make a difference in your relationships.   Laura

 

 

 

 

 

Not Martha Stewart

“Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13)

 When I think of hospitality, the first image that comes to mind is Martha Stewart, clothes and hair perfectly in place, setting a table with beautiful crafts and food that are too eloquent to touch or eat. If Martha Stewart is my model, the closest I will ever come to this style of hospitality is looking through her magazines while envying the beautiful crafts and foods.

Growing up, the model of hospitality that I had is quite the contrary of Ms. Stewart. My parents are immigrants of China, and they lived simple lives. Our home looked like it belonged in the ‘60’s. For the holidays, our table was marked by dollar store decorations and disposable china.  Chinese family members and friends would arrive with simple clothes and someone would manage to burp loudly throughout the dinner making us children snicker uncontrollably. Loud slurps and chatter filled the room as guests voraciously ate their food and talked over each other.  Unrefined and chaotic with every table manner broken describe my family gatherings.

Therefore, growing up in both the American and Chinese culture, hospitality was confusing for me. On one hand I had an image of total perfection and on the other hand I had an image of total imperfection. To add to the confusion, my Christian culture taught me that hospitality was a spiritual gift that only some had. I would never score high on the gift of hospitality so I just assumed that hospitality was not for me.

One season, I was challenged by a book called Table Life by Joanna Thompson. In it she writes, “Our tendency is to categorize hospitality into two groups of people, those who naturally love to entertain and those who say, ‘That’s not my thing’. Both perspectives may be devoid of faith.”  She continues to write, “Sharing your table isn’t fueled by faith in your magnificent entertaining skills or gregarious personality. It’s believing that God will satisfy hearts as well as appetites when you share your table in Jesus name.”  (Thompson, p. 10)

I discovered that numerous scriptures in the Bible call all believers to hospitality (Lev. 19:34, Heb. 13:2, I Peter 4:9, Titus 1:8). We are called to be a lover of strangers, embracing into your family someone who does not know or share your identity, life and values. We are to be persistent in our pursuit of inviting people into our lives and our home with glad welcome expecting nothing in return. Why do we do this?  Because God in His infinite love lavishly welcomed us sinners into His eternal home. We are no longer strangers or sojourners. Everyone who trusts in Jesus finds a home in God.

Understanding biblical hospitality has freed me to pursue hospitality. I am learning that it is not about having a perfect home, decorations or food. Looking back at my family’s hospitality, I cannot deny the spirit of generosity, love and selflessness behind the chaos. I am learning hospitality is not about me. It is about joyfully and selflessly drawing people into a deep experience of God’s hospitality by the use of my home or church home. How is God calling you to pursue hospitality? ~ Edna

Picture Hospitality

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“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
1 Peter 4:9-11

Hospitality Queen or Heavenly Host?

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Cor. 1:21-22 NIV

‘Tis the season to host many visitors.  Most of them planned, and some are unplanned.  The perfect hostess is prepared for everything.  She can muster up hospitality under any circumstance.  Guestroom linens are pressed, meals are prepared and gifts are beautifully wrapped under the tree.

Are you feeling the pressure?

If the gift of hospitality is at the top of your Christmas list, there is one person that can deliver like no other, the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, the third person of the triune God, coequal, coeternal with the Father and the Son.  In creation he was the very presence of God that accomplished every command spoken by God.  He is present everywhere.  He is sovereign and he is the very breath of life for all creation. He is the “holiday spirit” that the world seeks to invite into their homes this time of year.

When Jesus said “The Father will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever” (John 14:16), he did not send the Holy Spirit as a temporary visitor.  He sent him to take up residency in your life and empower you for life beyond your own strength.  “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit” says the LORD Almighty.

Even at your hospitable best, hosting through the holidays in your own strength will leave you exhausted.  If you lean on the Holy Spirit to empower you to welcome and comfort your guests, you will also enJOY them.  He will surprise you with special moments you would have otherwise hosted right through.

Do visitors to your home know where your laundry room is?  Probably not, but a resident does. If you want to experience the full power of God’s strength in your life, invite him into every room in your heart. If you are a believer in Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit is already a resident in your heart. So, let him do some laundry.

First, ask the Holy Spirit to prepare your heart in advance to love your guests as God loves them. Then, in the middle of all the action, ask him what is on his heart.  He might nudge you to hug the person that is silently grieving from a loss, or equip you to ask a question that unlocks treasures. This special assistance will transform you from hospitality queen to heavenly host.

Which doors of your heart do you need to open to God this Christmas?

How will you host differently this year?

~ Brandi

Love of Strangers

“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Rom. 12:13

We’ve heard it before.  Seek to be Mary, not Martha. Don’t worry about “entertaining,” instead have people over and eat pizza on paper plates in the middle of a messy house. Don’t worry about all the details. Just open your home, love and feed people.

As I have researched the topic of hospitality this week, like Laura, I discovered the biblical definition to be the “love of strangers.”  This surprises me because it has little to do with what comes to mind when I think about hospitality. Maybe it is time to broaden our definition and think less about who we need to have over for dinner and more about how to practice loving those we come in contact with on a daily basis.

A few years ago my husband and I decided to go out to breakfast on a Saturday morning. It was in the middle of winter and we were experiencing rare record-breaking cold temperatures. We pulled up to the restaurant and both noticed a homeless man shivering outside the entrance. My husband and I approached the restaurant and looked at him and we both knew. We needed to invite him in to eat with us. There is no telling how long it had been since he had eaten or showered or slept.

He accepted our invitation and we sat down. My husband and I really didn’t know how to approach the situation except to ask him what he would like to eat. He mumbled something we didn’t understand so we decided to order him a big breakfast. We tried to interact with him but he didn’t seem to understand our questions. It appeared that he perhaps had mental illness or just had not been engaged in a long time. We spent the rest of the time eating in silence wondering about his story.

I want to be clear. We didn’t do anything special that day. The Lord put that man right in front of us and there wasn’t a question about what we needed to do. A couple of things happened also that had a profound effect on my husband and me. While the homeless man was in the bathroom a gentleman came over to our table and told us that his wife had not stopped weeping since she saw us invite the man into eat with us. He thanked us for our act of kindness and then he walked away. Also, when we went to pay, the waitress told us that a patron at the restaurant had already paid our bill. What a blessing to see the far-reaching impact of just a few moments with a stranger! We were also able to go home and come back to meet the man at the restaurant to pass on a few items of clothing he desperately needed. We gave him bus fare to take to the homeless shelter downtown and as we drove away, we saw him waiting at the bus stop.

Who is the “stranger” God has placed right in front of you to love? Maybe it is the sweet lady at the dry cleaner you found out lost her son to suicide recently (that happened to me not long ago). Maybe it is your widowed neighbor you don’t know very well. Or maybe it is the person sitting next to you at the oil change place who seems distressed. Loving strangers may help us to practice hospitality in a different kind of way.  ~ Courtney

Choose Hospitality

   On November 6, 2010 I tweeted the Most Regrettable Tweet of my mediocre social media career. In anticipation of the holiday season, I decided to weigh in on hospitality. The tweet was a flawless blend of selective memory and self-righteousness, designed to heap condemnation on the heads of my followers under the guise of offering wise counsel. It was a verbal “selfie” snapped from my best angle, positioned to make me look very, very good. Let’s have a look at it, shall we?
 “Moms: keeping an orderly house frees you to exercise hospitality at will. Both the order and the hospitality are examples to your children.”
   Note the double-whammy: if your house isn’t orderly on a daily basis, you will withhold hospitality from others and set a bad example for your children. Moms everywhere, be encouraged!
   Three years later, I still cringe remembering that tweet, mainly because I have failed to live up to it repeatedly ever since. I presume my house was clean on November 6, 2010, but it has rarely been so in recent months. Even as I type, I am looking out across a disordered landscape of scattered laundry, schoolbooks, dusty baseboards and chipped paint. That tweet neglected to mention what my house looked like when my children were small, how I would hide clutter in the dryer when guests came, how hard I found it just to get dinner on the table for my own family, much less for someone else’s. So I regret that I proposed to moms a standard to which I could not hold myself.
   But more importantly, I regret that tweet because I have come to recognize that the standard it proposed is flawed. It revealed my own lack of understanding about the nature and purpose of hospitality. In my self-righteous desire to offer advice, I had confused hospitality with its evil twin, entertaining. The two ideas could not be more different.
entertaining versus hospitality: what’s the difference?
   Entertaining involves setting the perfect tablescape after an exhaustive search on Pinterest. It chooses a menu that will impress, and then frets its way through each stage of preparation. It requires every throw pillow to be in place, every cobweb to be eradicated, every child to be neat and orderly. It plans extra time to don the perfect outfit before the first guest touches the doorbell on the seasonally decorated doorstep. And should any element of the plan fall short, entertaining perceives the entire evening to have been tainted. Entertaining focuses attention on self.
   Hospitality involves setting a table that makes everyone feel comfortable. It chooses a menu that allows face time with guests instead of being chained to the cook top. It picks up the house to make things pleasant, but doesn’t feel the need to conceal evidences of everyday life. It sometimes sits down to dinner with flour in its hair. It allows the gathering to be shaped by the quality of the conversation rather than the cuisine. Hospitality shows interest in the thoughts, feelings, pursuits and preferences of its guests. It is good at asking questions and listening intently to answers. Hospitality focuses attention on others.
  • Entertaining is always thinking about the next course. Hospitality burns the rolls because it was listening to a story.
  • Entertaining obsesses over what went wrong. Hospitality savors what was shared.
  • Entertaining, exhausted, says “It was nothing, really!” Hospitality thinks it was nothing. Really.
  • Entertaining seeks to impress. Hospitality seeks to bless.
   But the two practices can look so similar. Two people can set the same beautiful tablescape and serve the same gourmet meal, one with a motive to impress, the other with a motive to bless. How can we know the difference? Only the second of the two would invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind to pull up a chair and sip from the stemware. Our motives are revealed not just in how we set our tables, but in who we invite to join us at the feast. Entertaining invites those whom it will enjoy. Hospitality takes all comers.
why be hospitable?
   Hospitality is about many things, but it is not about keeping a perpetually orderly home. So, forgive me, Twitterverse, for my deplorable tweet. I could not have been more wrong. And may I have a do-over?
 “Moms: Exercise hospitality freely, clean house or not, to any and all. Willingness and generosity are the hallmarks of a hospitable home.”
   Orderly house or not, hospitality throws wide the doors. It offers itself expecting nothing in return. It keeps no record of its service, counts no cost, craves no thanks. It is nothing less than the joyous, habitual offering of those who recall a gracious table set before them in the presence of their enemies, of those who look forward to a glorious table yet to come.
   It is a means by which we imitate our infinitely hospitable God.
   So, three years later, here is my advice to myself as the holiday season begins: Forgo the empty pleasure of entertaining. Serve instead the high-heaped feast of hospitality, even as it has been served to you.
Sacred Story is honored to have Jen Wilkin as a guest contributor in December. She is a wife, mother of four, and advocate for women to love God with their minds through the faithful study of His word. Jen writes, speaks, and teaches women from the Bible.  Visit Jen’s blog.