Thursday, December 29, 2011

relationships --- day 4 --- opportunities for 2012

Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.

This will be my last post and devotion for 2012 (guess, I should make it a good one).  It will also be the last one of the “opportunities for 2012” series I have shared this week.  Let me dig down real deep and share a piece of my heart and something that continues to be a struggle for me.

Ok.  One of our core values at The Community Fellowship and something that has continued to help us grow and encourage people is our value of being transparent and honest about our failures and pain.  God never wastes a hurt.  God uses our pain.  He works in our weakness by giving us His strength.

Our most valuable resource is people.  I already said that this week, and the way we deal with people is through relationships.  God intends for us to connect with Him and to connect with the people around us and beyond.  But relationships are one of the most difficult things we deal with.  How we deal with people says a lot about us.

We often chose to push people away because of difficult relationships.  I’ve done that.  We may cut people off and devalue them, maybe not out loud, because of our prior experience with them.  Some of us will bury ourselves in work or projects so we don’t have to connect with people.  Yet when we chose not to have relationships, cultivate and work on relationships, we miss much that God wants us to experience.

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

My relationship with God is the most vital.
God created us with relationships in mind.  That begins with Him.  Go back to the Garden of Eden and note that God desired to spend time with the people He made.  His desire has not changed.  He connects with us in many ways, but the fact is this, we need to connect with God.

My relationship with my wife is a work in progress.
At one point I thought I’d never be married.  Yet God provided Julie in an incredible and sweet way.  For 18 years we’ve been together, and it has not always been easy (plus, I’m not perfect), but we are working to make our relationship and our marriage stronger.  We have to focus on each other in a selfless way.  Look at Ephesians 5:20 and the following verses to see how husbands are to love their wives.  Challenging but right.

My relationship with my kids is something I want to be stronger.
I have caught myself at times avoiding my children because of strife or being busy.  I have also regretted that in big ways.  We have 3 awesome kids.  Connecting with them is something I choose, and I have to shut off the things that distract me.  My kids need a dad who loves God and their mom.  They need a dad who is willing to show them what the love of God is like.

My relationship with my co-workers, church family and volunteers is one I appreciate and want to be great quality.
I do love the people I work with, but I’ve got to be honest with you.  There are some people that rub me the wrong way and that I don’t always agree with.  It is tempting to cut those people off or avoid them.  Plus, I hate conflict, yet we are weak when we don’t work together.  Relationships take work.  By connecting with people we are stronger, and it helps us all be better.

My relationship with new people is something I work on.
You may think I am outgoing and never intimidated in crowds or around new people.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  There are times when I have to make myself be friendly or to reach out to others.  Too many people never reach out, don’t have friends and rarely speak to people they aren’t often around.  As Jesus chose to interact with people, we must do the same.

Connecting with people means we give away what God has given us … encouragement, strength, love and more.  Do you struggle with relationships as I have?  Be honest.  I have done lots of things wrong, and I have found by the grace of God these relationships have survived, gotten stronger and helped others grow stronger.

Yes, my wife and I have had our struggles.  But we’ve come a long way.  My kids have got on my nerves, and I’ve lost my temper.  You’ve got to know that there have been issues between me and the people I serve with.  There are people who have made me mad, and I have responded wrong.

That’s the truth, yet in each of those situations I’ve found victory in Jesus because relationships are an opportunity that God blesses us with.  In 2012 we will have numerous opportunities to connect with God and to connect with people.  Will we take those opportunities?  Will we allow God to work through us so that we will help others and ourselves get closer to God?

Opportunity awaits.  People are important.  May God bless us as we plan to make 2012 a year of success and blessing with relationships!

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

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