Tag Archives: forgiveness

Fostering Positive Relationships

If we are at peace with God and ourselves, we have a great foundation for fostering healthy relationships. The principles here apply to every type of relationship, from family dynamics with our spouses and children to lifelong and new friendships, colleagues at work and all other social dynamics.

Before enumerating positive insights, there are three boundaries that will help ensure that sacrificial love does not become self-destructive.

  • One: Serving those that cannot return the favor is the height of agape of love; however, such service must never be at the expense of the dignity and integrity of our God-designed being and purpose. Put another way, biblical self-denial (good when we surrender our selfishness) is not personal self-destruction.
  • Two: We must forgive readily without excusing real transgressions or pretending the traumas did not occur. Forgiveness is powerful because we are desiring the best for another who sinned against God, us and others. We must not keep a “rap sheet” of grievances against others or ourselves.
  • Three: There is no merit in unwise vulnerability that leads to abuse and co-dependence. Psalm 16:6 declares that God puts boundaries in pleasant places. This reference to property lines works for our souls as well. Minor irritations are one thing; constant emotional rejection and subjugation is not something we must willfully engage.

Four positive insights will help guide healthy relationships – and love wisely expressed is the mark of the followers of Jesus.

  • One: Release unhealthy expectations and learn to receive whatever others can give. When we stop our “emotional accounting” and choose the good of others over our own momentary feelings, life becomes richer.
  • If married, enjoy God together and discover the shared mission/purpose of your marriage and your family (when and if children are part of household). If you cultivate a rich inner life and can connect your daily activities with divine callings, then issues of communication, romance and economics are faced and conquered together.
  • In the world of work, decide ahead of time that your advancement will never come at the expense of integrity and fair treatment of others. Diligence, honesty, teamwork and genuine concern for others may cost you occasional promotions, but your opportunities for influence will grow and sleeping at night is a good thing!
  • Self-care is not selfish. Proper diet and exercise, time for solitude, boundaries with hurting and selfish folks (while serving them) and replenishment in the presence of God and his Creation help us serve others. There is no glory in unnecessary burnout.

Integrating the spiritual, emotional and relational dimensions of life requires clarity and focus, some emotional discipline and, above all, love and humility. Adulthood is more about discipline than income and maturity is expressed in the unselfish quality of our interactions more than information acquisition or positional attainment. Let enjoy growing up!

Becoming Emotionally Healthy

In our journey toward flourishing, it is vital that we begin with humility before the Almighty and receive the unconditional love God has for us through Jesus Christ.

The Bible is full of encouragement toward maturity for believers (Ephesians 4; Phil. 3; Heb. 5-6). We discover that spiritual maturity is inseparable from emotional and relational maturity! How we act, feel and think about others and ourselves demonstrates whether we are making progress toward true adulthood. In my almost four decades of pastoral ministry I have met many senior citizens that were adolescents when it came to vital issues of emotional stability and relational integrity. Conversely, it is always encouraging seeing younger women and men display poise and thoughtfulness.

In our fallen world, both nature and nurture, our circumstances and responses to life all impact our development. In 21st century America, we are in a crisis of human identity and development. Over the past century, the transition for child to adult has gone from a few teen years to over a decade, with many 20-somethings commenting how hard “adulting” is! The breakdown of the traditional family and the lessening of religious loyalties has created a vacuum, with uncertainly about expectations. Add to this the gender confusion exacerbated by Western elites and we have a toxic psychosocial elixir paralyzing normal development.

Along with these moral and spiritual issues, people are coping with real emotional traumas. We have also seen an exponential increase in persons struggling with addictions. I am grateful for the insights of the mental health professionals that help us have compassion for others and ourselves. But the downside of our therapeutic society is that many make excuses exempting themselves from normal responsibilities.

Where do we start? Personal wholeness begins with affirming the eternal worth of every person, including ourselves. A positive self-image respects God’s handiwork and appreciates our limitations. We were designed to receive and give love in mutually enriching relationships. Fulfilling this divine plan requires a few focused actions on our part. First, we must learn gratitude and hopefulness. These are not always natural attitudes or activities (especially if we have been seriously rejected and/or victimized), but they please the Lord and foster emotional health. Second, we must ask God’s help and learn forgiveness. God in Christ has forgiven all our sins, yet we hold on to the offenses of others (and even our own mistakes) for years, sometimes decades. Forgiveness is not excusing, but extending the same grace to others that we have received from Christ. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can learn the managing of our negative emotions, avoiding repression of valid feeling and ungodly indulgence.

With these foundations, we can take other strides toward wholeness, including learning how to love deeply and wisely, eschewing toxic relationships and offering ourselves unselfishly for the good of others, respecting the blessings and boundaries of different types of relationships. As we own our mental health, we will get more comfortable seeking help from our friends, counselors, ministers and others God places in our lives. Just as we need humility before the Lord, we need this same virtue so we know when to get personal and professional help. There is no disgrace is asking for assistance, from the prayers of saints to the insights of trusted ministers and therapists.

“Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6) Let’s not delay the decisions we can make toward our wholeness. We will please the Lord, encourage our family and friends and have more capacity for serving our broken world.

An Advent of Hope: Christmas 2015

Into a small village in an obscure province of the first-century the Roman Empire, a baby is born during a census. His parents are part of the artisan class, neither “dirt poor” nor “filthy rich.” His birth sparks some local and regional interest as pious Jews in the Temple and humble shepherds declare the dawn of a Messianic Age. Babylonian and Persian scholars journey for months and honor this toddler with lavish gifts. King Herod, a despotic and paranoid appointee of Rome, reacts to a potential rival with a killing frenzy targeting under two-year-old children. Undoubtedly the census helped his soldiers carry out this inhumane task.

Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical figure and the subject of adoration and disdain, deep loyalty and religious animosity. The Gospel records offer enough tantalizing details without the exhaustive data 21st century folks crave. Jewish and Roman sources affirm his existence and importance, especially as a catalyst for a rift in Judaism. His first followers were devout Jews. Their affirmation of Jesus’ Messianic office and Lordship led to expulsion from synagogues, persecution from Roman leaders and the formation of a new faith that now includes both Jews and Gentiles as equals.

Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ conception and birth. For his followers, it is the dawn of a new hope, the inauguration of a new age of salvation that will reach its fulfillment in Jesus’s crucifixion and bodily resurrection and its consummation with his glorious return in the future. The surprising and transformative news is that there is forgiveness of sins, empowerment for holy love and deep assurance of eternal hope available now, even as final salvation is yet to come.

The audacity of Christian hope is that all who believe enjoy favor with God and deep peace, new fellowship and a sense of divine mission right now. Our eternal security unleashes passions for purity and service. Though final redemption awaits Christ’s return, substantial “providential increases” (John Wesley) are possible today, from personal life-change to social transformations.

Let’s welcome our Lord with awe and humility, wonder and willingness to change. As we allow this real hope to permeate our lives, we join with god in the reconciling of all things.