Healthy Relationship Essentials!

Not A Good Dating Candidate!

What are the essentials that contribute to healthy relationships? And, what kinds of things are harmful & destructive to our relationships? Early on, in our friendship, my wife Sara saw me playing in a softball game while we were attending college. And, well, softball just wasn’t my sport! I had played baseball growing up; so, I was used to over hand pitching that might hit 80 mph or more! I just lacked the necessary patience to wait on an underhanded, slow-pitched ball. Well, I struck out; and, I was embarrassed & mad at myself! So, I did reacted with great maturity—I slammed the bat on the ground in anger! A really stupid thing to do! Well, Sara would tell you that after observing my college-aged temper tantrum that this guy was NOT a good dating candidate!

-Overcoming 1st Impressions!

But, she didn’t really know me very well at the time. She was someone that I had noticed the 1st time I spotted her on campus. But, I was dating someone else at the time; and, a pattern seemed to develop that either I was dating someone and she was free; or, she was dating someone and I was free. But, when that magical moment happened when I was free from dating someone; and, she was free from dating someone; that, I asked her to go out with me; and, she agreed! But, it would take some time for her to overcome those 1st impressions watching me smash a bat into the ground after striking out. She had to grow to trust me! To trust my heart! To trust that when I got angry I would never physically take it out on her! I might take it out on a baseball bat; but, it wasn’t in my nature to be a brawler with her; or, with other people.

-Trust Is Essential!

Trust is essential to any healthy relationship, isn’t it? If you study up on any relationship advice, for marriage partners; or, for just being a good friend, trust is always listed as a requirement along with honesty & communication. Relationships are healthy where there is respect, transparency & vulnerability. Where there is commitment, empathy & kindness! And, it may surprise you that all of that is also true about your relationship with God. We think we all struggle, at least a little bit, to think of God in those terms because He is Spirit; and, we are flesh, right? So, how do we relate to Him?

Relationship With God!

I think that’s why God, the Son, coming in the flesh is such a big deal! For more reasons than the Gospel, Jesus fleshed out, for us, who God is! We know God better because Jesus walked on the planet He created among the people He created. Our relationship with God does not depend on our faithful ministry to Him; but, on Jesus’ faithful ministry to us on the cross! Over the next few posts, I’d like to invite you to look at the Old Testament book of Isaiah with me; so, that, we might grow together in our understanding of what a relationship with God looks like.

Just A Normal Guy!

From what we know of Isaiah, he was just a normal guy; married with children; and, trying to live out his faith during a tumultuous time in Israel’s history. The nation had rebelled against God’s theocratic rule! The northern half had already been conquered by Assyria; and, Babylon would soon rise to power and sweep away the southern half of the nation. So, God calls Isaiah in the midst of that mess; and, makes him a prophet to the Jewish people. And, the book of Isaiah records the visions & the oracles that God gave to Isaiah to deliver to Israel.  I hope you’ll come back to visit my posts over the next couple weeks! It’s my prayer that you might come to learn more about God’s character; so, that you might  grow in your relationship & your walk with Him! God began revealing Himself to us in Genesis 1— in the beginning— and, He continues to reveal more of Himself in the balance of Scripture; including, the book of Isaiah!

What A Fool Says About God!

-The “Angry Theist”!

Do you know what a fool says about God? A fool says that God doesn’t exist! That’s the claim of the Old Testament book of Proverbs:  “The fool says in his heart, ‘God does not exist” (Proverbs 14:1). He’s a fool because he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know! And, most often, in my experience, I’ve found that the person who claims to be an atheist is just an “angry theist.” In his heart he knows there’s a God; but, he’s mad at Him over something that happened in his life; and, he blames God for it. So, he refuses to yield to God’s Sovereignty.

-Authentic Wisdom!

Authentic wisdom grows as we learn to fear God! So, the fool, who doesn’t believe God exists, can never become a truly wise person! “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but, fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). Let’s talk about the fear of the Lord; because, unfortunately, I’ve found that it confuses some people. Keep in mind our word “fear” is translated from the original Hebrew language that the Old Testament was written in. And, sometimes, in translation work, there just isn’t an adequate word in one language to properly express the meaning in another. That’s the case, here, with the word “fear.” This is not the kind of fear we might have of a snake; or, going to the dentist or doctor; or, of some extreme danger. This “fear” is more of awe or reverence of great respect!

The Fear Of God!

If you play a little basketball, to “fear” LeBron James is to have such awe or respect for who he is & for his incredible abilities that you couldn’t bring yourself to stand beside him on a basketball court.  To “fear” God means you’re awed that He has such power that He could speak the world into existence! To “fear” Him is to honor Him with such respect that you want to know Him! You want to know what He’s said in His word so you can be in proper standing & relationship with Him! When you truly come to understand what it means to fear Him, you’ll no longer fear anything or anyone else! He’s that awesome! The more you humble yourself before Him, the more you’ll desire to learn from Him!  And, in that way, you’ll grow in wisdom according to the book of Proverbs! The authentic wisdom, of God, will expose you, however, if you’re a fool! If you’re an unbeliever! If you deny His existence! Because, remember, that, “…FOOLS despise the wisdom & discipline…” of the Lord, Solomon says (1:7).

2 Kinds Of Wisdom!

There are only 2 kinds of wisdom! There is God’s wisdom; as recorded in the words of Scripture! And, there is the “wisdom” of sinful man which is always contrary to God’s wisdom. If God’s wisdom says, “don’t cheat, steal, lie or sleep with someone you’re not married to”; the world’s “wisdom” says, “Go ahead and cheat, steal & lie… just don’t get caught.” Oh, and, “sleep with anyone you want to! It’s okay as long as you love them.” The absence of God in the so-called “wisdom” of the world is ultimately its fatal flaw! The world’s “wisdom” is always a moving target! It changes with the times & societal more’s. But, the wisdom of God is immutable; like, He is! It never changes because He never changes! He will always be what He’s always been! Wisdom is not just a “way of life”; it’s the way “to life”— to life everlasting with God! In His wisdom; and, His love for us, He speaks His gospel of peace to us:  “Quit your rebellion,” He says, “confess your sin to Me! Quit fighting & waging war against Me! I offer you peace through the blood of Jesus & His work on the cross for you! Don’t be a FOOL any longer! Come to Me! I give you love, mercy & grace!

The Fear Of God!

Are You Thinking Rightly About God?

So, how do we think rightly about God? Where does our thought life, about God, need to begin? Well, the wisest man who ever lived, said that it begins with the fear of God— “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline “ Proverbs 1:7. This is the introduction to the book, of the Bible, which is known for its wisdom! The writer sets up the theme of Proverbs for the entire book with those opening words. And, if you read the book from the 1st page to the last, you’ll uncover that theme of the “fear of the Lord” on multiple occasions; along, with the keywords associated with that theme—wisdom, knowledge, guidance, instruction!

-You’ll Be Wise!

And, the end results of adhering to God’s words of wisdom? You’ll be wise! For rejecting the wisdom of these Scriptures? You’ll be a fool! In my time of ministry, I’ve had the occasion, several times, to encourage individuals, that I was discipling, to read through the book of Proverbs once a month. There are 31 chapters; so, read a chapter a day! You might need to double up a couple of chapters at the end of certain months! But, you’ll be amazed at how God’s wisdom will change you in your person; in your marriage; in the training up of your children; in your work; and, in the entirety of the rest of your life!

Wisdom Has It’s Origin In God!

So, let’s draw some points from this key verse of Scripture, Proverbs 1:7. Notice that the author, King Solomon, begins with a presupposition, that, authentic wisdom has its origin with God! Theologically, we mean that God is omniscient; or, He is all-wise! So, all wisdom comes from Him! All knowledge comes from Him! Think about that! Anything that’s knowable, He knows! There is nothing He does not know! He knows the end from the beginning, Scripture says because He IS the END & the BEGINNING! He is the ALPHA & the OMEGA! God knows all things (1 John 3:20).

God Knows Everything That’s Knowable!

He knows every detail happening in all the world right now! Even when a sparrow falls out of a tree; or, a hair falls from your head, He knows (Matthew 10:29-30). He knows your every thought before you speak it (Psalm 139:4). He saw you when you were in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:1-3). He knows everything that’s on your heart (1 Kings 8:39). Even things you share with no one else, He knows! If you look at Proverbs, chapter 8, beginning with v.22, wisdom is personified & informs us of its origin:  “I, wisdom, was with the Lord when He began His creation, before His works of long ago. I was formed before ancient times, from the beginning, before the earth began” (8:22-23). In Proverbs 3:19, he adds: “The Lord founded the earth by wisdom and established the heavens by understanding.”

-Looking For Wisdom?

So, if you’re looking for wisdom, look no further! Seek God! He created wisdom! Do you want knowledge & understanding? See God in His word! He has it! All of it! So, there’s a 2nd point that builds on the 1st. Authentic wisdom begins with a belief that God exists! If “…the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom & knowledge…”; then, unbelief, in God’s existence, would result in no fear of God & conclude with an absence of wisdom & understanding! Were you tracking with me? In other words, if we view Solomon’s words here as a hypothesis or a proposition, he’s drawing the conclusion that an unbeliever (especially an atheist) is incapable of true wisdom; because true wisdom comes ONLY from the very God he fails to believe exists! He can be a really smart guy! He can be book smart! But, the ultimate wisdom necessary to successfully navigate this world & eternity is only available in God! We’ll pick it up there next week!

Thinking Right About God!

-The Most Important Thing About You?

What comes to your mind if I ask you:  “What is the #1 most important thing about you?” Ponder that a moment! What is the #1 most important thing about you? Here it is:  “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the #1 most important thing about you.” The heaviest question, in front of us, is always about God Himself! And, our current pluralistic, relativistic, narcissistic, politically correct “culture” shows little to no regard for the accuracy & truth of the God impressions we have floating around in our little self-absorbed minds! “You’re OK & I’m OK” as long as you don’t tell me that Jesus is the ONLY WAY to God! “Whatever you believe about God is OK as long as you VALIDATE what I believe about Him.”  “You have your truth & I have mine.” Those are ultimately idolatrous statements, aren’t they? Any belief about God that is twisted or inaccurate is “idolatry”—they’ve made up their own god in their own image!

-God Has Left The Building!

I love what A.W. Tozer said many years ago before the world was even close to being as religiously inclusivist as it is today:  “The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.”  And, listen church, the trickle-down from the cultural idolatry & false thinking, about God, is so pervasive in our civilization that it’s made inroads into the church! In most of our mainline denominations, God has “left the building”; because, “the essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.” A.W. Tozer said that too! That’s the post-modern world that we live in, isn’t it? There are no “absolutes” in the world of 2021; and, it’s sad the depths, of foolishness, an unregenerate & hopelessly lost world will go to silence that inner voice of God’s Holy Spirit.

-God Is Not Silent!

Listen, God is not silent! He has not created this place; and, then went off to some corner of the universe to hide out & see what happens! God is alive & well; and, the rumors of His death have been greatly exaggerated! God’s Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to pen these words, in his letter to the Church of Rome. He says the unbelieving world will suppress the truth, “Because what may be known of God is manifest in them (It’s INNATE), for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God…” Romans 1:19-21.  Scripture insists that everyone knows there’s a God! There is an “internal witness” or evidence! It’s innate! Everyone, in their heart, knows there is a God! They simply suppress the truth! And, there’s also the “external witness”; or, the evidence of creation, Paul says, in this passage from Romans.

Truth Suppressers!

The unbeliever, who refuses to humble himself & admit he can’t know everything there is to know about an eternal God, rejects Him & suppresses the truth about Him! He comes up with all sorts of theories that masquerade as science; but, they’re all lies. So, the answer to the #1 most important thing about you? It’s what comes into your mind when you think about God! And, the consequences, about your thoughts of God, will impact both the quality of your life here & for eternity! Your life will prove to be successful as you pursue the wisdom of God; and, reject the seductive distractions of the world. That requires a leap of faith—not a BLIND leap of faith; because, God has buried evidence of Himself, inside you! The “internal” evidence! And, He’s also left His fingerprints all over the created world & universe! The “external” evidence! So, how do we think rightly about God? Where do we start? We’ll get into that next post!

Don’t Be A Fool!

-Wisdom Waits On God!

The fool is always in a fight! The fool always thinks it his responsibility to make all the wrongs right! Don’t do that, the Old Testament book of Proverbs says! Instead, wisdom waits on God to right all the wrongs! So, don’t be quick to open your mouth and speak! I used to be the one that always had to speak first! It’s still something I have to constantly work on! But, I had a friend many years ago that rebuked me. “Don’t give someone a piece of your mind,” he said, “that you can’t afford to lose.”

-The 3-Second Rule!

Someone also gave me some great advice when they shared, with me, the “3-Second Rule.” Before you speak, wait 3 seconds. You’ll be amazed what you WON’T say if you just wait and think about it for 3 seconds. That one’s kept me from saying a lot of things that would’ve got me in trouble. The best admonition of all comes from God’s word: “Be slow to speak.” Simple and direct! The book of Proverbs includes several verses that echo that refrain. “When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise” (10:19). And, “The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin” (13:3). Wow! Opening your mouth too quickly can mean life or death! “Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent” (17:28). That reminds me of the old saying:  “It’s better to be silent & be thought a fool than to open your mouth & remove all doubt.

-Be Humble & God-Directed!

Rather than being filled with pride & speaking your mind, it’s better to be humble & God-directed. Make no mistake, if you’re full of pride, it will show up in your speech & God says He’s against you! Again, wisdom from Proverbs:  “Everyone with a proud heart is detestable to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished” 16:5; “The Lord destroys the house of the proud” 15:25. Let’s talk about that a minute! Why does God hate pride? Because, ultimately, pride is taking personal credit for something that God gave you! “What do you have,” the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “that you did not receive.” In other words, what do you have that you can personally take credit for?

-Self-Pride & Self-Confidence!

What do you have that you didn’t receive from God? Your looks? Intelligence? Your job & its income? Your talents & gifts? Every one of those things you received from God. Taking pride in yourself & even having self-confidence is part of the wisdom of the world! There is no wisdom in pride or self-confidence! Wisdom is found in those whose confidence is in the Lord:  “I have instructed you today—even you—so that your confidence may be in the Lord” (Proverbs 22:19). When you’re complimented for anything, you need to redirect all praise to God! And, then, the wisdom of Proverbs teaches us to be generous for the same reason it’s wise to be humble! Because all of our finances were also given to us by God.

-Be A Blessing!

And, God wants us to be a blessing to others with those things He blesses us with. “The one who oppresses the poor person insults his Maker, but one who is kind to the needy honors Him” (14:31).   Isn’t that interesting? It’s an insult to God when we’re guilty of oppressing the poor; but, we honor God when we care for the needy! “A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor” (22:9).  This is just one of many ways that God’s word teaches us to encourage others! And, wisdom teaches us to also be an encourager. We live in a day of severe criticism & tearing down everyone that disagrees with us about something. This world is just saturated with anxiety! We need to be difference-makers in this world, church! “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up” (12:25) “The tongue that heals is a tree of life” (15:4). Be wise! Be an encourager! Be that tree of life! Use your God-given gifts to bless others!