One Way that Time with God Impacts our Relationships

Below is one way that the time we spend with God in his Word and in prayer impacts our relationships with others. No doubt there are many connections! This is not exhasutive!

  • Loving people requires forgiving them (and grace)
  • Forgiving others requires receiving forvigeness (and grace)
  • Receiving forvigeness requires confession (and grace)
  • Confession requires conviction (and grace)
  • Conviction requires knowledge of the truth (and grace)
  • Knowledge of the truth requires time in prayer and God’s Word (and grace)

Lp << Fo << Rf << Cf << Cv << KoT << P + GW

Each link in the chain includes grace, because everything we do in the spiritual life is dependent on God’s power. We can’t pray on our own, we need the Holy Spirit. We would not have understanding unless God revealed himself. We may choose to confess our sins, but we can only do so in response to the extravagant grace poured out on the cross.

The point of this reflection isn’t to oversimplify the impact of time with God in our lives! Instead, if we find that our relationships are less than what they should be, perhaps this reflection yields a few things we might try.

 

Different kinds of doubled mindedness

Sometimes a person is double minded because they are deceitful. Their agendas are hidden and their aggression is passive.
Sometimes a person is double minded because they are genuinely conflicted. They feel one way in one moment and another way in the next. The pros and cons are so close that they waver back and forth.

The first kind of double mindedness is dangerous. You can not trust this person.  Call them out (when the time is right), speak the truth in love, but do not expect this relationship to be a safe place.

The second kind of double mindedness isn’t a safe place either, but you can make up the difference with compassionate grace.  Trust them even though it will hurt, the damage they cause may help them become more decisive.
Here is the question: what do the double minded need from the mature?

shooting yourself in the foot

“Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it.” Proverbs 1:19


There will always be people who look for ways to take an unfair advantage over the innocent. We often ambush the ignorant under a deception which weakly justifies our actions. We may say something like:

  • “It’s just business.”
  • “What they don’t know can’t hurt them.”
  • “I technically didn’t lie . . . I just didn’t tell the whole story”
  • “OK, so I lied, but it was a white lie.”

Someone once said to me, “When it benefits all the parties involved, I can see why it’s ok to tell a little lie.” This came from a leader in the church, one with significant authority. We were friends, so I did little to hold back my shock and compassion. (To actually believe such a thing! I wonder what twisted his thinking. . .I wonder where my thinking is twisted.)

Life is not about gain and any cost. When we do this, we hurts ourselves. The Bible actually says it takes away our life when we pursue ill-gotten gain.

When we take advantage of others, the lack of integrity forms a small fracture in our hearts. Left unchecked and unguarded, the crack grows. It becomes easier to do evil. We become blind to fresh inspiration from God and it becomes more difficult to hear his voice. We try to take delight in what we’ve gained, but we come up empty.

On this side of eternity, we have needs, legitimate ones. How we meet those needs is important. For now (who knows what it will be like in eternity), it’s all about the journey—following the course God has set before us.

Avoiding ill-gotten gain is actually selfish, it’s the best thing for our souls. Foolish selfishness takes every unfair advantage. “Spiritual selfishness” lives in obedience to God’s will because he has our best interests at heart.


So then, what is the difference between legitimate opportunity and ill-gotten gain?

Three Dollar Grace

Every morning, I drive my oldest son two miles to his school. I love that time. I look forward to it. I consistently pray about it and ask God to give me the right things to say. Every morning looks a little different—and this is a result of my personality rather than my design. Some mornings, I pray for the entire trip. Most mornings we talk about small things. Sometimes, we don’t talk at all—we both consider the morning to be a bitter enemy.

The other day he asked for some money (which, at this point, is still rare). “How much?” I asked.

“One dollar—it’s for school.” As I reached into my wallet, I had the idea to give him everything I had—a whapping three dollars—to make a point. He accepted it with a smile.

“Do you know why I gave you way more than you asked for?”

“No.” The smile turned into a slight smirk…he was expecting a joke, I think. I joke a lot.

“I want you to remember something. I gave your more than you asked for because God does the same thing—if you ask for what you need, he gives you more than you expect. When you ask for what you don’t need, he doesn’t give it, because he knows it’s not in your best interest. So, our responsibility toward God goes in at least two directions. We ask and we trust. We should ask for what we want and trust God to provide what we need. Growing up means learning what God wants for our lives. If we don’t get what we need, then we have some wrong ideas about our needs. Now, tell me, why did I give you more than you asked?”

Later that night, I pulled up Ephesians (3:20) and said, here’s the principle I was talking about this morning:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”

I don’t get these ideas very often—I’m not creative in this way. The day after this we talked about pro-football and video games. It’s not realistic to “hit a homerun” every morning. My goal is to be intentional: to pray and think so that I might see where God might be leading.

The McGill Family Christmas Pregame

A few years ago, I noticed a pattern developing on Christmas morning. The kids would wake up far earlier than I ever felt necessary … with more energy than I thought possible. After being dragged from my bed, we’d pause long enough for me to get a cup of coffee, and then my kids would descend upon their gifts with wreckless abandon.

Wolves in the dead of winter, at the height of their hunger, chase their prey with less determination when compared to my kids on Christmas morning. Have you seen a hungry wolf chase a rabbit?

In a few hours after the last gift was opened, a terrible transformation would quickly take hold. Their attitudes would sour. They would leave behind joy and excitement and descend into bickering and discontent.

I imagine that some of this is due to natural immaturity and maybe even the natural aftermath in the release of so much anticipation. But too much of it came from a lack of instruction.

My natural response was to say, “You are so ungrateful!” I wanted (but didn’t) to take all the gifts and throw them in the trash. Maybe even start a bonfire (some people would consider me dramatic and reactionary…Maybe I just like to create powerful memories? #LameRationalization).

In this moment, I received a simple insight: I never told them to be thankful. Yikes. What a fatherhood failure. I knew I needed to make a change because I never gave them a pregame that would set them up to win.

Since then, every Christmas morning, before we open the gifts–when the excitement in the family room is nearly visible in the air–we pause while I share a few thoughts on contentment. This year, I took them on the following journey and said the following:

People are more important than things, and God is more important than people. Things never last and people will let you down, but God is dependable-always and forever.

More things will never lead to more happiness. Content is a problem for everyone, for people with lots of stuff and for people with only a little bit of stuff. It’s a myth that more things will make us content and give us peace. In fact, it seems like the people with more stuff have greater struggles with being content.

When we want more, we think getting more will solve the problem. But that’s not the way it works. Instead, our hearts need gratitude, not getting more stuff.

So. The gifts you get today will test your heart. Stuff isn’t bad, but when it keeps us from loving others and loving God, we have a big problem. Let’s choose to be thankful for what we have now, and let’s be thankful when we’ve opened up the gifts and have new stuff.

Let’s not let things keep us from loving people or loving God.

This is the fourth year in a row that I haven’t heard any complaining and disappointment and wanting more — all the things that spring from a divided heart that lacks contentment.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” — Paul (1 Timothy 6:6)

 

 

Why do we irritate others?

“…her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.”(1 Samuel 1:6)

What moves us to provoke others? Even when we are so richly blessed, why do we feel the need to grind others down?

Perhaps it is a lack of thankfulness, we fail to remember and acknowledge God as the provider of everything we need. Our lack of gratitude hardens our heart to the troubles others face.

Perhaps it is a fear of loosing what we have, and and since we lack a sense of control we lash out and exercise our power.

Perhaps it is greed, and we can’t stand the reality that others may possess what we also have. We see God’s blessings as limited and feel if others are blessed, we will somehow miss out on what we may gain.

Perhaps it is a lack of contentment, we refuse to be satisfied with what we have and so we tear down others because we lack peace. If we are not content, why should others be?

Perhaps it is a lack of joy and in our misery we seek to ruin the happiness of others.

Perhaps it is a lack of confidence, and in our insecurity we think that we make ourselves strong when we shine a light on the weaknesses of others.

The human heart is complex, a maze with constantly shifting walls. We act poorly, and because we don’t take the time to examine our motivations, we easily justify and rationalize our terrible deeds.

What a difficult challenge from Jesus: blessed are the peacemakers! It is so much easier to cause discord than sow peace. We ought to help carry the burdens of others, not add to them. When we live in biblical fellowship, we fulfill the law of Christ.

Speak the truth in love

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow…” (Ephesians 4:15)

The self-righteous wield the truth like a weapon of mass destruction, ambivalent to the the devastating consequences. When confronted, the predictable response follows: “WHAT? All I did was tell the truth?” Their fortress of foolishness is unassailable. Mostly.

Speaking the truth without love ignores the greatest truth: we are called to live in love. Ninety nine times out of a hundred, we cannot help someone grow into the likeness of Christ with a hammer.

God’s work in our own lives reveals a gentleness. He progressively reveals more and more of himself and the darkness in our own hearts. Imagine the devastation if on the first day of your new life in Christ God revealed to you all the things that needed to change in your heart.

I teach my children that to love someone is to want the very best things for them. What if our goal was to help others grow to be more like Jesus (this is the very best thing we could want for someone). This would lead to a mouth that tells beneficial truths in a way that they are most likely to be heard.

You should tell more lies

… there is nothing false about [Jesus]. (John 7:18)

I’ve seen people tell lies–“white” ones too–for the following reasons:

  • To ACCOMPLISH their agendas.
  • To AVERT undesirable, yet deserved, consequences for their actions
  • To AVOID conflict with others.

The first group is far too practical, they will say whatever works in the moment in order to get what they want. Justification is easy when the ends justifies the means. Rationalization is even easier when the final goal is good (for example, carrying on the work of the kingdom). An elder of a church I once said, “telling a white lie is ok if it benefits everyone involved.” I chuckled, with as much gentleness as I could muster (which wasn’t much, given the situation), I said, “that simply isn’t true, there is no teaching in scripture that supports this thinking.” These people know what they want and will say anything to get it.

The second group is far too irresponsible and they love their comfort. Rather than own up to their mistakes, they seek to dodge the consequences they deserve. “It’s only cheating if you get caught” is the mentality.

The final group is far too accommodating and they love their “peace” with others too much. The bitterness and resentment in their hearts keeps them from showing actual grace. Instead, a superficial counterfeit is used instead. It’s easy to keep the peace when we get to keep the war alive in the privacy of our minds.

 

What gets in the way of you telling the truth?

What good comes from telling the TRUTH?

[Jesus] is a man of truth. (John 7:18)

Why should we tell the truth, what good comes from it?

When we tell the truth, we follow Jesus’ example. He is our model, the shape our souls ought to take is his. The spiritual life is about becoming more like Jesus. This means fighting off the powerful temptation to bend the truth, even just bend it a “little.”

When we tell the truth, we keep our integrity. All the money in the world cannot buy back a shattered integrity. Telling the truth keeps our conscience clean and our sleep constant.

When we tell the truth, we earn trust from others. Without trust, true community is impossible. Without trust, influence is shallow. We are not called to live isolated, powerless lives. To connect and live with impact, we must live authentically.

When we tell the truth, we deserve trust from others. In our broken world, appearances are powerful. The force of some personalities naturally gain trust from others The triumph of people skills and charisma is this: like-ability gathers false support. Not only should we earn trust from others, we ought to actually deserve their trust.

We we tell the truth, we help others grow. It’s easy to play it safe and it’s common to avoid conflict. I’m not suggesting we look to start up confrontations every chance we get, but how many people are missing out because we lack the courage to say the tough thing?

When we tell the truth, in situations where we are tempted to cover up our errors, we face the true consequences of our actions. In these painful moments, especially when we choose to face them, we learn powerful lessons.

 

Let us commit to telling the truth, in all things, so that we might become more like Jesus and grow into the person God has designed for us to be.