Tag Archives: relationships

It’s Not A Compliment

designA while back, an individual told me how much he enjoyed my preaching. As I was feeling affirmed, he proceeded to indicate that he liked my preaching more than he liked the preaching of his “regular” preacher. In a split second, his compliment turned into an awkward, manipulative attempt to make a negative statement about his pastor. I was no longer feeling affirmed.

When people behave this way, it is safe to assume a passive/aggressive intention in their communication. Initially, the affirmation sounded good. But the negative intimation that followed negated anything positive that was shared.

When someone tries to make you feel good by speaking negatively of others, you should not feel good – you should feel used. The motives behind these types of “compliments” vary. Some have an ax to grind. Others are trying to control a situation. A few may want to impress or manipulate you. And still others just like to gossip. Regardless of the motive – this type of communication is a bad thing.

If you find yourself in this situation – if someone “compliments” you by tearing down someone else – don’t fall for it. What is it that causes us to feel good about being compared to others, and coming out on top? Insecurity. If you are vulnerable to an inferiority complex or if you need to improve on your self-esteem, speaking in a disparaging way about others or listening to others do so is a terrible way proceed.

Keep this in mind:

If someone speaks negatively about someone else to you, they will speak negatively about you to someone else.

We can do better. If someone does a good job, let them know. But don’t muddy the waters by dragging someone else through the mud. If you have an issue with a person, deal with it appropriately.

Let’s not misuse the beautiful gift of a compliment by using it as a weapon.


Investing in Others: Buy Low and Never Sell

designPlease don’t take financial investing advice from me. My pattern has been, “buy high and sell low.” Actually, to my shame, I don’t even put that much thought into investing money. I tend to ignore it, hoping that magically, my money will increase. Not a productive plan.

When it comes to relationships, especially ministry relationships with younger ministers, I seem to have more of a knack. One of my greatest joys in ministry is to invest myself into the ministry of a younger man. This isn’t something I have to remind myself to do – I tend to gravitate naturally to it. For that, I am grateful.

I feel as though we should find people younger than ourselves – unproven, raw and green – and “buy into them.” And we shouldn’t “sell” on that relationship unless it is absolutely necessary. Perhaps it is because my elders invested so heavily in me. Some never gave up on me, although they had every reason to do so. Maybe I innately grasp the truth that, if I invest wisely, my influence may live on after I’m gone. It is certain that we have heard too many young people say, “no one else believed in me or gave me a chance.”

The Apostle Paul is the standard bearer when it comes to investing in others. Rather than viewing his famous relationship with his spiritual son, Timothy, let’s consider his lesser-known, but equally as efficacious relationship with the Thessalonians. Paul writes to them from his heart: “…Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8 NIV)

Here is a very busy man with a lot of responsibility that is willingly and joyfully investing his life into the lives of others. They didn’t have it all together. He had little or nothing of earthly value to gain from his investments. Yet he saw something in them that motivated him to give of himself to them.

We all need to love someone enough that we give our time and attention to them.

Paul expresses his compassion for his friends:

“…we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children.”1 Thessalonians 2:7b (NLT)

We see tenderness and empathy and patience. In this passage, unlike others, we do not see Paul demanding progress nor censuring them for their failures. Rather, he presents his relationship as a mother – feeding and caring for his friends.

Too many of our relationships are performance and productivity based. I am guilty of running short of patience when a leader is slow to develop or, even worse, unproductive long-term. Perchance this is the case because I have been the one who is unproductive.

The “buying low” part of this equation has to do with recognizing potential. Anyone can spot an Apple stock, once it has developed. In other words, there are plenty of people to jump on the celebrity bandwagon. Once a person becomes successful, everyone wants to be his or her friend. It takes true perceptivity and discernment to be able to identify a diamond in the rough.

But, what do I have to gain from my investments?

While this is a reasonable question and we should not be ashamed to ask it, the point is not about returns – it is about investment. Many of us who impart into others expect and even demand productivity. However, an honest evaluation of our relationships may prove that we have actually become a burden to those in whom we are investing. We consider ourselves as serving but we actually are being served.

Paul says,Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” 1 Thessalonians 2:9 (NIV) He makes it clear that he is the one sacrificing. This is not a pity-party – he is simply pointing out that he has been a giver and not a taker.

   Leaders: If we only take from a relationship, we cannot consider ourselves the investor; we have become the beneficiary.

Relational investments are expensive. When endowing and entrusting others, especially less experienced people, we owe them. We owe them the extremely valuable assets of honestly, integrity and character.

You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers.1 Thessalonians 2:10 (NLT) In the times in my life when I was hesitant to invest in others, perhaps it was because of a lack of these elements in my life. I simply didn’t have enough to share!

     Relational investments are expensive for a reason. The resources we are investing and the return we are expecting are not monetary – they are eternal.  

Buy low and never sell. This is all about promise and potential. It’s about patience and productivity.

So, find a less-experienced person than yourself. Same gender. Less-than-perfect. Build a relationship. Serve them. Pour into them. Care for them. Be patient with them. Invest in them, and watch how you both grow.

 


You’re More Influential Than You Think

design[4].pngMost of us sell ourselves short. We think we’re not making much of a difference. We assume that other people aren’t all that impacted by what we do. Let’s discuss it.

I believe you influence more people than you think and I believe you influence them in a deeper way than you might know.

Think about it:

  • Those whom you don’t know but know you; maybe the two of you never speak. It could be a neighbor or a friend of a friend. It could be the barista or a flight attendant. Just because you don’t know them doesn’t mean that they are unaware of you. They have an opinion about you.
  • Those you know: maybe those with whom you work or play sports or go to church. You impact them. You may think it is no big deal but if you interact with them, you are making some kind of difference in their life.
  • How about those who know you the best? Your spouse, parents, kids, best friends… I’m sure you are aware that you influence them but maybe you don’t know to what level. I can assure you – your impact on their lives is massive.

The purpose of this post is to help us take full advantage of the relationship opportunities we’ve been given.

You see…

Influence can be positive or negative.

Every word you speak, your body language, even the clothes you wear are noticed. If you return the shopping cart to the corral or don’t pick up after your dog, people notice. I realize we can’t live in the bondage of trying to always leave everyone with a positive impression. But how you treat people matters – a lot. They either feel better or worse after interacting with you.

You are an influential person. I encourage you to use that influence for good; make a positive difference. The world and the people in your life really need it.


Jealous Husbands Don’t Scare Me

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There is one reason why I am not concerned about a jealous husband coming after me: I have not been doing things that I shouldn’t be doing. I have not cheated with someone else’s wife nor have I cheated on my wife.  Please don’t take this as bragging and I know better than to get prideful; but there is a deep sense of comfort that comes from knowing that my conscience is clear.  I remember hearing my pastor talk about this topic when I was a kid and I didn’t really understand. He spoke of the freedom of walking down the street with confidence, knowing that no one was gunning for him because he’d been messing around – because he HADN’T been messing around! I understand now and I treasure the fact that God has taught me the value of relationship integrity.

I know too many guys who have been guilty of adultery and I also know many who have been victimized by it. While Hollywood normalizes these activities, the results in real life are always devastating; lives are being destroyed.

Let’s pray for men in general and husbands specifically. Pray for purity and fidelity among us. Pray that we older guys can model for younger guys what it means to be a man of purity. Pray that young men in America will not believe the lies being pushed by our culture that say manhood is determined by sexual activity. Pray for fewer reasons for crimes of passion. Let’s ask God for forgiveness of our sins and that He will help us to overcome our temptations and make us more like Christ.

I Corinthians 16:13 in various translations…

KJV: Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.

MSG: Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute.

Douay-Rhelms: Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, do manfully, and be strengthened. (I love that: “do manfully”!)

Whitter: Keep your guard up, dig deep in Christ, don’t be a weakling, win the war!


Christmas is Flesh and Blood

images-90We should know by now that the holiday is not about the presents we receive. It really is about people. There are people who actually have to buy their own presents because there is no one in their lives. They are missing the greatest joy.

My heart goes out to a friend who lost both her and sister and her mother this week. I lost my mother this year – Christmas will be a little different this year.  Then I think about the military personnel who are separated from loved ones this week. There are college students, widows, orphans, many people without people in their lives.  People who are incarcerated, even people who have to work through the holidays, will struggle to celebrate to the fullest extent. People make Christmas what I is.

Regardless of what marketers tell us, no amount of spending on presents will fulfill the purpose and meaning of Christmas. Christmas is about people: family, friends, and loved ones.

On the birth of Jesus, Athanasius of Alexandria wrote, “He became what we are that he might make us what he is.” Christmas is God coming in the flesh and shedding His blood – so that we might be saved.

It’s not lights, not trees, not Santa. Christmas is flesh and blood. Be sure to share the love with the people in your life.

Merry Christmas, everybody!


the lesser blessing

God has the very best for us but most of us never get there. We settle for blessings like money or security or other things we can acquire. While these things are considered blessings, they should be considered as second-rate blessings. In other words, you can do better.

Let me explain. When most American talk about “being blessed”, they are talking about material things: houses, cars, boats, jobs.  Without doubt, these things are provided by God – and they are blessings. But sometimes the acquisition of these blessings has cost us something of much greater value. While it is not always the case, some lesser blessings cost us greater blessings. We have traded. If financial gain is the best blessing you have, you are not experiencing God’s best. According to Jesus, you can’t serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

Plainly put: if you skip worship to go out for a day of relaxation, your relaxation is a more valued blessing to you than experiencing God’s presence with your church family.

If you make a lot of money on your job but you neglect your family in doing so, your money is a more important blessing than your family.

You have blessings, but they are lesser blessings. You have settled for second-rate.

Life has fooled us. Many of us have been duped into thinking that $ = blessing. Dig a little deeper and you get to real blessings, like: Relationships. Love. Eternal life. The Presence of God. These are first-rate blessings – Greater Blessings!

Jesus asks you a very straightforward question: “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?” (Mark 8:36) I think we know the answer: lesser blessings.

Don’t settle for the lesser blessing. Let God give you His very best!


people are messy

Our Community Group discussed Proverbs 14 last week. One of the verses created quite a bit of conversation:

Proverbs 14:4 Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. (NLT)

No, our group does not have a bovine fascination. This verse isn’t about oxen – it’s about relationships.

In essence, I think the verse is telling us that life is simpler if you don’t get too close to people. It’s quieter, cleaner and less complicated. Your “stable” will stay clean if you are the only one in it.

And that philosophy guides the lives of a lot of folks. Isolationists. Loners. Or maybe just “non-people people”.  For whatever reason: shyness, past hurts/disappointments, or insecurities, some people just prefer to be alone. And some of us think that relationships just aren’t worth all the hassle.

But here is what I think: We were not intended to live life alone. True, it is easier not to bother with people. You can do what you want when you want without the worry of what other people think or do. But we were put on this earth to do life with one another. We are better together than we are apart – even with all of the complications of relationships. Part of the development process is working through the challenges. There are things we learn only be growing through the frustrations of relationships. We must have this skill if we’re going to succeed in life. A mess can actually become a beautiful thing. And by the way, the “harvest” part of this verse describes our purpose. God has given us a job to do and it requires a team. If we intend to get anything done for God, it will involve and include other people. There is no way around that.

If you don’t have close friends and if you don’t like your family – life will be cleaner. But you won’t get anything done in life – especially in regard to relationships. Let’s stop looking for perfection in others. Let’s drop our expectations that life with other people will be easy. Of course there will be conflict. Other people will get on your nerves and let you down and make you mad. Welcome to the human race. But we have to keep running in the race.

If something is causing you to remain distant from the church, from friends, from your family – let’s ask God for healing. By the way, He probably won’t answer your prayer to change the other people around you – but He just may change you!

Let’s learn to deal with the dirty stable so we can produce a larger harvest.

Oxen really smell don’t they?