Tag Archives: relationships

Who is responsible for restoration and revival? God? Us? Both?

13 Dec

Image result for restoration in progressRestoration and revival might take a lot of work.  I just did a Google image search on the phrase “the hard work of restoration”, and almost all of the pictures are about car restorations.  Some furniture.  Some homes.  There is restoration from natural disaster that can take years.  I suspect only a few of us will get involved in that kind of restoration.  Maybe most of us work on our homes, but rarely do we do full restorations.

But just about all of us work on a different kind of restoration.  Relationship restoration.

My guess is that nearly everyone, at some point in their lives, must work towards restoring a relationship that has become broken.  In this week’s posts we’ve talked about the experience of seeing a new spark of life in a relationship that seemed to have been dead. That new hope is a wonderful thing.  But it carries with it the reality of the mountain of work yet to occur.

As we continue our study of Psalms of Lament this Advent, we have started looking into the four sections of Psalm 85.  You can review the previous sections here (one), God’s blessing in the past, and here (two), a lament for restoration to continue.

In this post, we look at section three, verses 8-9, and what do we see? The promise of present blessing for God’s people is connected to their obedience.  Three times in these two verses the psalmist mentions obedience.  Isn’t that interesting? He is lamenting to God, asking for God to keep the restoration going, to bring revival, but he also knows that he and the people have a part to play.

Do you see the three times he mentions obedience?

In verse 8, he says I will listen to God.  God will be his source of wisdom and truth and knowledge.  He will learn from God how to live.  No more living based on what he thinks is right and good.  Look where that got him and the nation.  Now he places his focus on listening to God.

Second, still in verse 8, he says that God promises peace to his people, but let them not turn to folly.  They wanted the peace.  They wanted peace badly.  After living in captivity for 70 years, and finally being allowed to return to their own land, they want peace.  They don’t want enemies and fighting.  We all want peace.  Enemies and fighting wear us down, gives us stress and generally ruin life. We want peace.  God promises peace, but they must obey.  They must not turn to folly.  Folly is foolish choices.  Behaving badly.  They must follow God.

Third, in verse 9 he says salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in the land.  That’s what they want.  They want God to be with them in the Promised Land, because he is stronger than their enemies.  He can protect and save them.  But again, there is a condition.  They must fear him.  Go back a few weeks and review the sermon Emerald gave on the fear of God from Deuteronomy 6.  Fearing God was vital to the people of Israel being restored and revived.

Put these three statements about obedience together, and what conclusion do we have?  Restoration has begun, and restoration and revival will continue, as long as the people are faithful to God.  There is much work to be done. 

I get that.  I was once one who needed restoration.  When I was 17, I was a very reckless irresponsible driver, and as a result I got into a bad accident.  I unintentionally hit an Amish buggy, and a lady inside died.  If you want to read the whole story, you can do so here.  A couple Sundays ago, my parents and I, and my two youngest kids, visited the Amish family.  It was our annual visit.  For 26 years, every year around the time of the accident, we go visit them for the afternoon.

They had already forgiven me long ago.  In fact, they forgave me the day after the accident.  My fortunes were restored, but there was much work to do for the restoration to continue.  And so every year we go over to their house.  I’ll reveal to you a bit of my feelings about this.  Every year I have anxiety about going.  There is part of me that doesn’t want to go, and I contemplate saying, “My family can’t make it.”  And every year when we pull up to their house, I feel a heaviness, a bit of shame returns, and I have to steel myself, take a deep breath, and say “Let’s do this.”  It’s not overwhelming.  It’s just awkward.

The Amish family do not make it awkward.  It’s all within me.

The Amish family are wonderful actually, and they always have been.  And usually all it takes is a few minutes, after greeting and hugging and shaking hands, and the conversation starts to fly.  This time one of their sons was there too.  He has a tree-trimming business, and was doing a job over at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station. He remarked to us about how huge and impressive the cooling towers are.  Then he looked at my dad and asked, “What is nuclear power anyway?  Is it like a gas?”  And so for the next five minutes we sat there as my dad tried to explain nuclear power to an Amish man!

We were there two hours, and as we left, I thought how important is the ongoing work of restoration.  So important that it is well worth a visit once every year, even if it is for the rest of my life.

Restoration and revival are God’s work, no doubt.  But God invites us to work them out with him.  And lament calls out to God to do just that.

When we participate with God in the work in restoration and revival, a beautiful thing happens, and that is what the psalmist so gorgeously depicts in the final section of his poem, which we look closely at in our next post!

How to rehab a relationship

1 Aug

Do you have relationships that need rehab?  There is help!  Fellowship!

In the very first account of how the earliest Christians interacted with one another, Acts 2:42-47, we read that they devoted themselves to the fellowship?  What is fellowship?

That word “fellowship” in verse 42 is defined by Louw & Nida as “an association involving close mutual relations and involvement.”

This passage describes how these first Christians practiced fellowship.  They clearly had close mutual relations and involvement.  Their relationships went far beyond just seeing people for an hour or so on a Sunday morning at church.  They didn’t have Sunday morning church.  They had no church building. Instead we read that they were together often, meeting in the temple in Jerusalem (presumably for larger group gatherings), and then sharing meals in homes.  Everyday.

When you read the whole description, they were sharing not just meals, but their whole lives.

Jump ahead a few chapters to Acts 4:32-37, and here we see more information about how the first Christians shared life together.  People would sell off property in order to raise cash to help those in need!  They saw none of their possessions as exclusively theirs, but as capital they liquidate if needed to help the suffering.

From Acts 2 to Acts 4 our best estimates are that only a few months have gone by from the very first day of the church.  That means Jesus was still very, very close in their hearts and minds.  And what are these first Christians doing? They are following his teaching.  We’ve seen how they are interacting with one another.  Why did they do this?  Jesus taught them to! What did he teach them?

In the final hours before he was arrested, put on trial and killed, John 13:34-35 tells us about the last teaching that Jesus gave his disciples: “A new command I give you: love one another as I have loved you.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”

Relationships in the church, Jesus taught, should be clearly known by love.  Can it be said of you that you are loving the people in your church?  How do we practice this love?

In Romans 12:9-21 Paul says “weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn.”  We need to walk with people through the difficult aspects life.  We need to be there for them to talk, we need to listen, we need to allow them to face sorrow knowing that people who love them are right by their side.

In that same passage Paul also says “rejoice with those who rejoice.”  Loving relationships include celebration. Lots of celebrations happen for married people (bridal and baby showers, etc). But what about celebrating people and events that would be considered unconventional in our culture?  The church needs to celebrate singles as well, when you get jobs, new houses, or achieve accomplishments.  We also need to spectate at your hobbies, your sports, your extracirriculars.  We churches should throw more parties!

We can also look to deepen relationships.  Like the early church, one excellent way to deepen relationships is to have people over to your homes.  Get to know them.   Start with the people in your Sunday School class.  Invite them to your home!  Maybe then move on to the people in your small group.  Who are you doing life with?  Who are you caring for in ways that push your comfort zone a little bit?  Call them, text them, email them, go out for coffee.  Take the initiative to care for them.  Fellowship has to go beyond the structured programs.

Certainly not all people and all personalities aren’t going to be best of friends.  Some personalities connect more easily with others.  For example, Jesus, though he had hundreds of followers, focused on twelve.  Within that 12, he focused on his inner circle of three: Peter, James and John.  And even within that three, there was one who was called his Beloved, his best friend, John.  But Jesus was certainly focusing on others, doing life with them, sharing meals, talking through real life issues, and he did that for more than 1 or 2 hours a week.

Are you doing life together with people like the early church did, like Jesus did?

In this Growth Process sermon series, I said in the last sermon that Jesus doesn’t just want Sunday morning worshipers, he wants people to worship with their entire lives.  That means moving on to Fellowship.

But Fellowship isn’t just hanging out with people on a Sunday morning for 15 minutes, or even going to the church picnic or Family Night.  The kind of Fellowship that Jesus desires for his followers must be marked by “love one another”.

I’m not saying that you have to be best friends with everyone in your church family.  That’s not possible, even for a congregation that is less than 50 people.  But it is possible to get really close to a smaller group.

So have you moved beyond being a Sunday morning worshiper to becoming a fellowshipper?

How does a disciple of Jesus move beyond just Sunday morning fellowship into “love one another” and “life together”?

Examine your life and your relationships.  Pour your life into one other.  Love and reach out to those who are more difficult for your personality to love.  And to those who you are already in relationship with, seek to go deeper, interact more. Pray for and encourage one another on a new level.

Do you have relationships that need rehab?

28 Jul

Do you have any people in your life that you feel are just hard to get along with?  Think about the people in your family.  Any family members rub you the wrong way?  What about school?  Is there a person that you really struggle with?  Maybe that classmate, when you see that they are in your class, you immediately know that class is going to be a drag?  Maybe they are the know-it-all who raises their hand constantly to answer questions.  Or maybe they raise their hand to ask a million questions, and you think to yourself “just let the teacher teach!”  Or maybe it is the teacher that you don’t like.  Their style, their voice, their mannerisms.  Is it your co-worker or your boss?  Many of those same tendencies that bugged us about students and teachers are the same tendencies that irritate us about our co-workers or our boss.  The group projects where one person is lazy.  The boss or teacher that is demanding.  The classmate or coworker that is loud and boisterous and arrogant.

But thank God we never have these issues in the church.

Ha!

You’re laughing…or you should be…why?  Because we DO have the same problems.  As many pastors joke, the church would be great except for the people.  That’s funny because the church is the people, and the pastor is one of the people too.  I am the pastor, and I might be the one you think is difficult!  I hope not, but I know it can be true because of interactions I’ve had with people in the past.  I’ve been at Faith Church nearly 14 years.  In that time I’ve seen many times that it is impossible to please all the people all the time.

But I want you to be clear that I believe about myself something the great English writer G.K. Chesterton is said to have written in a letter to the editor.  A British newspaper asked for people to write letters answering the question “What’s wrong with the world today?”  Lots of people responded with many ideas, but it was Chesterton’s reply that was the most memorable…and the shortest.  What’s wrong with the world today?  Chesterton answered “Dear Sir, I am.  Yours, G. K. Chesterton.”

So we do have issues in our relationships in the church, all churches do, and I would be remiss if I didn’t see myself as part of it.  I also want to be part of the solution.

You may have heard the comment that if you found the perfect church, don’t join it.  The moment you would join it, it would cease to be perfect.  There is no perfect church.  Because you and I are a part of it.

What is all this suggesting?  That relationships in the church can be hard.  We people can rub each other the wrong way, offend one another, hurt each other.  But relationships in the church can also be wonderful.  This coming Sunday we continue our series called Our Growth Process.  We’re at Step 2 – Fellowship, which is all about relationships in the church.

As you get ready for gathering for worship on Sunday, I want to ask you, who are the people in your church family that you have the hardest time with?  Just visualize them.  And pray that God will speak to you about your relationship with them.

Join us on Sunday at Faith Church to learn more!

One for all the single people

23 May

singleAre you single and loving it?

I’ve heard that some of the young people at Faith Church have been wondering when Relationship Month will be over!  It’s been a lot of talk about marriage, separation, divorce, remarriage, which are topics they are apparently not too concerned about.  I was hoping that at least some of what we talked about would be helpful to them!  Maybe it will as the years go by.

BUT, this coming Sunday will be different.  This will be a sermon specifically for the single people.  Does that mean the married people need not attend?  NO!  Here’s why: if you are married, have you ever given thought to how you treat singles?  Do you disrespect them?  Do you marginalize them and treat them as some kind of special interest group with a problem that needs to be fixed?

Surely not, you say?

But maybe you do that more than you realize.  If you’re married, this is not a sermon for you to check your brains at the door.  Being a married person myself I recognize my inadequacy of speaking to singles.  So I did some digging on singles, and I found out about John Stott, a well-known pastor and theologian who never married and lived into his 90s.  Stott is a man who has clearly thought deeply on the subject. I also found that a number of books about singleness from a Christian perspective have been written.  I contacted one our EC pastors/missionaries, Ken Sears, who is single.  His response was so thoughtful and helpful, filled with angles of thought that I never considered, that I suggested he publish it.  I’ll be sharing some thoughts from these two men.

And most of all we’ll take a look at what Paul says in our ongoing study of 1st Corinthians 7.  A few weeks ago I said that marriage is GOOD.  But what about singleness?  Is it okay if a single person wants to get married?  Is it okay if a single person is not happy being single?  Is it possible that a person can be single and happy?  That they can be single and have a very content relationship with God and others?

Are you single?  Maybe you’ve been wondering about some of these things.  Maybe you’ve been yearning to be married?  Maybe you’ve wondered if you’ll never get married, and if something is wrong with you.  Maybe you’re wondering what God wants for you.

I think you’ll find Paul and the other single people I’ve talked with have a lot to say that could be helpful.  How about joining us Sunday at 9:30am?

When I’m not feeling happy or content in my relationship – 1 Corinthians 7:17-24

22 May

happy vs joyAre you feeling discontent in your relationships? Maybe you’re not feeling happy about a relationship?  But are you feeling joy?  Is there a difference?  And what does it matter?

When we are unhappy or discontent, we are very tempted to RUN!  In our passage from this past Sunday, Paul says “Remain in the situation in which you were called.” Over and over he says this. Remain? What if we don’t like the situation?  As I have said before, if it is an abusive situation, this would not apply.  Get safe!

But what about when a relationship is frustrating?  What about when there is a lot of anger and arguing?  In Relationship Month, we have heard clearly from Paul that we should avoid separation and divorce at all cost.  In this section again he says, “Remain.”  Then he adds in verse 19, “keeping God’s commands in what counts.”

My NIV Study Bible notes summarize it well: “There is nothing wrong with seeking to improve your condition in life, but be content at every stage.” There is a tension between being content and keeping his commands. Sometimes keeping his commands means we need to make a change.

My dad, Harold Kime, has taught Corinthians for many years at Lancaster Bible College, and in his notes he says: “Keeping God’s commandments does have spiritual value and worth. The verb, “keep”, that Paul uses here is not a simple obedience. When he says “Keep his commands” it also includes the idea of guarding or preserving. This is not a mere outward obedience but an obedience that guards and preserves the very thing obeyed. We can infer from this that certain types of social condition require a radical change. Certainly Paul would not say, “Were you called being a prostitute, think nothing of it.”

We could summarize like this: Remain in the life state that you are in, but do not sin.  At the root of all this is a heart that is committed to say that “Lord, your way is the best way.”  Keep his commands requires a heart desire that believes that following God’s way is the best! “Find your satisfaction in the Lord”  Paul is not saying that the believers in the church should stay as they are for eternity. He encourages slaves, if they can, to be free. But the focus is to be content in the Lord where they are at. Things may change, but the focus for now is to grow that passionate, heartfelt relationship with the Lord.
We can be so discontent about life. We can start to grow a bitterness about our station in life. Paul says that the Christians should find their contentment in the Lord. And we can grow that deep inner joy without having our circumstances change one bit.

Contentment is being able to be joyful no matter the circumstance. There is a big difference between inner and outer joy. One way to describe the difference is to look at the difference between happiness and joy. I am bit hesitant to use these two terms because they are basically synonymous. But think about them this way: happiness is that outer expression of emotion based in how we are feeling. We like happiness a lot because it means we feel good. Joy is different from happiness because it is a deeper inner state of heart and mind that is trusting in God no matter how we are feeling, no matter our circumstance, no matter our station in life. This deep inner joy, this contentment is what Paul is saying the Corinthians believers need.

There is much about life that we can be discontent about. Paul would say to the Philippian church in Philippians 4:12 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

What are you discontent about? Your marriage? Your singleness? Your job? Your finances? The state of the world? Paul is saying that we should be a people who avoid rushing to change, but instead remain as you are, be content, find that deep inner joy in obeying Christ, and commit yourself to grow in your relationship with him. Here’s what’s interesting about contentment. It is okay to allow the deep inner joy of contentment to bubble up to the surface of your life and overflow with emotional outward happiness. We should never confuse that outward emotion for the inner real thing. But it is okay to be outwardly happy. I would go so far as to say that when we are content in Christ no matter our situation, we will see that outward happiness, that outward rejoicing on a more regular basis! And it starts with a contentment in our relationship with Christ.

It is not just in the pain that we can experience deep inner joy. We can also celebrate the joy of the Lord in the good times. We can and should be content in the Lord, no matter if life is difficult or abundant. A friend of mine from my youth group is now a professor at LBC. He and his wife were married a few years ago, it took them some time to start a family. They are now just weeks away from the birth of their son. I asked him this week how they are doing, and he said “Excited, things are going great, but they’re also thinking about those many sleep-deprived nights ahead of them.”

I wrote back and said, “You will get through it. I won’t deny that I had a hard time in the middle of the night. But it is a phase that passes. I think what I have been learning with my kids, though, is that I can yearn too much for each phase to pass. I can be way too focused on “getting them out of diapers” and “getting them out of car-seats” and so one. In so doing, I have found that I can miss out on the wonderful aspects of the present phase. I think this is the message of Ecclesiastes: eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die. Enjoy the moment that God has given you. While the moment definitely can have its hardships, it also has great joy. Be content no matter the circumstances. I would encourage you to revel in each and every one of those nights of seemingly endless crying and feedings.”  (Not that I was the model dad in that regard…)

What will it mean for you to grow contentment in the Lord?

Listen to the whole sermon here.

Feeling discontent in your relationships?

17 May

discontent

What would you say has been bothering you?  Anyone been feeling discontented lately?  A change that you are hoping for too long in coming?  A change that you weren’t hoping for came unexpectedly?  Change or die, they say.  Or maybe they say it like this, if something does not change it is dead.  Or, all living things change.  But as much as we claim to embrace change, thrive on change, it can be unsettling, leaving us with that feeling of discontent.  Change too fast, and we feel unprepared, off kilter. Change too slow, and we get impatient, grumpy, disillusioned.

It can be hard to be content.  There is a sense in which discontent can be a very good thing.  There is such a thing as holy discontent, an inner feeling that something is wrong that needs to be righted.  I’m not talking about that kind of discontent. Instead I’m talking about a dissatisfaction with life.

In the church at Corinth, which we have been studying since the beginning of the year at Faith Church, we see a group of people struggling with the realities of change. It is relationship month at Faith Church, as during the month of May we are walking through 1st Corinthians chapter 7, which we have divided up into four sermons about relationships.  We’re covering all sorts of relational ground, and much of it is about changing relationships and the feelings of discontent that we so often have about our relationships.  Perhaps that is the most important question to ask: How do you feel about the most the important relationships in your life?  Could it be said of you that you have feelings of discontent about them?

My guess is that you would be the exceedingly rare exception if you could say that you were perfectly content about the relationships that matter the most to you.  The Christians in Corinth had written Paul a number of relationship questions, as it seems that they were experiencing some discontent.  And so tomorrow at Faith Church we’re going to take a look at what Paul has to say to them about this fundamental issue that affects so many of us.  When we are discontent, what should we do?

There are plenty of ideas out there.  Some say if you are discontent in your marriage, for example, get out.  These people feel that there is nothing worse than being in a sub-par marriage.  Or how about your job?  Are you longing for something more?  Make a change people say.  You deserve better.  Feeling dissatisfied with your church?  Move on, there a plenty of other options.

What do you think Paul would say about that? If you want, check out 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 to get ready for tomorrow’s sermon.

Finding healing for a broken relationship – 1st Corinthians 7:10-16

14 May

broken heart

How many of you have been impacted by divorce?  Separation?  During the sermon on Sunday I interviewed two couples from Faith Church, each of which had one spouse that was previously divorced.  I was so thankful for their courage and vulnerability to stand in front of a roomful of people and talk about the painful past.  There were tears.  And yet, as they shared about the work of God in their lives, there was also joy.  I urge you to listen to the sermon and be encouraged by their stories.  While this was certainly a sermon about the struggles and brokenness that can occur in marriage, it was also a sermon about how God can work his restoration and healing in all of us. It was a sermon that says there is hope, when we put God at the center of our marriages.

It is relationship month at Faith Church, and we’ve been walking through 1st Corinthians 7, learning how Paul answered some questions about relationships, questions that the Christians in the city of Corinth had written him about.

So how would you answer these questions:

  1. Should Christians ever separate from their spouse?  If so, when?
  2. Should Christians ever get a divorce?  Again, if so, when?
  3. If divorced, is it okay to remarry?
  4. Is it okay if Christians marry those who are not Christians?
  5. What does it mean that people are sanctified through their spouses?
  6. How does a Christian parent make their children holy

I introduced those questions last week, and on Sunday we looked at 1st Corinthians 7:10-16 where Paul answers them…kinda.  Those last two are thorny ones, and Paul mentions them, but I feel he could have said a whole lot more to help us understand them!

So our sermon this past Sunday was all about seeing what Paul had to say about these vital questions that have impacted many lives. Feel free to listen to the sermon here.  Then let’s discuss it further in the comment section below!