Tag: Relationship

3 Indicators That You May Be Hurting Your Partner

broken heartRecently my wife and I had the opportunity to help a young, pregnant girl who was trapped in a domestic violence situation. My wife first connected with her in a group through which the girl was soliciting help. We were able to provide her a place to stay, food, and other supplies. My wife and I eventually had the opportunity to talk with her.

During our earliest conversations she shared how bad the abuse had been for the last four months. At one point, she was sent to the hospital with injuries so severe that the doctor described them as “the worst” he had seen. After our initial conversations, my wife and I felt it would benefit her to open our home to her. For the safety of all involved, one of the main stipulations would be that her boyfriend could not know where we lived. Initially it seemed she could legitimately commit to this. However, as the conversation progressed over the next few days, it became clear that she was not ready to separate herself from her abuser. Because of that, we were not able to open our home. However, we continue to help her in other ways.

An area I feel most called to is helping guys figure out how to be men. I desire for them to be men that are healed, whole, and fulfilling their roles of follower, leader, husband, and father. This young girl is the product of many guys in her life not being a man.

While I don’t have the opportunity to help this man, at least at this time, the situation reminds me that it takes time to become an abuser. And there are indicators to warn us, that we, as men, are on the wrong path. And so today, I would like to write to the guy that may not be abusive, but is on his way. He is living in a way that will either damage his relationship or progress to more serious abuse.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but here are three indicators that you are hurting your partner.

You Always Justify Your Actions

Whether you yell, slam things, walk out or ignore your partner; you always have a justification for the way you have acted. Your behavior could be identical to hers, but somehow hers is not acceptable and you can justify yours. You often find yourself providing that justification to her, to others, and to yourself. After every encounter you have to convince yourself that you acted appropriately and why it was the “only way to get through to her” or that “she was the irrational one.” And still, regardless of how much you justify it, deep down you know your behavior is not justified.

You Function from a Place of Fear

Fear rules you. It occupies your thoughts and directs your actions. Maybe you are afraid of rejection or being alone. Maybe you are afraid that you will be “found out;” that someone might figure out the “real” you. Perhaps you are afraid that you will have to face yourself. Whatever your fear, it becomes the basis for how you interact with others. Fear causes you to mistrust others’ intentions. It causes you to filter their actions through your lens of anxiety and apprehension. You are constantly worrying that you may do something to insight a negative response from others, so you approach others with caution and never really develop healthy relationships.

You Keep Secrets

There is something, or many things, that you are hiding. You tell yourself that whatever it is, it really is not a big deal. But you still hide it from them. Your secret only perpetuates your need to justify your actions and fear that you’ll be “found out.” Typically, the secret does not start out big, but over time it grows. Eventually you get to the point that you are unable to tell anyone. Because you keep secrets, you are convinced that your partner has secrets. Any appearance of trust you had in your relationship is slowly eroded. Your secrets cause you to approach your partner from a place of constant suspicion and you treat them as such.

I am convinced that abusers do not start out with the intention to hurt their partner. It is a slow road that ends with people getting hurt and broken. Ending it before the damage is done begins with you. It begins with being honest with you. Changing your path will free you from the certainty of broken relationship and make way for a future with your partner that you may not even dare to hope for in this moment. If you see any of these indicators in yourself, find a professional or support group to help you avoid the damage that is most inevitable. But in the end, all the help in the world is just “pain management.” Real freedom from these things comes from Jesus.

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
~ 2 Corinthians 3:16-17 ~

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Have You Been Stained By The World?

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A common roadblock for many of us coming to Jesus is the truth that we are not good enough. And so we have convinced ourselves that once we clean up our mess we will feel “right” in approaching Him. It almost doesn’t matter when someone says something like, “Come as you are.

Recently I read James1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Immediately my mind went to “What if I am hopelessly stained by the world? What if I serve widows and orphans, help the homeless, feed the hungry and seek justice for the oppressed, but still feel stained?”

Maybe you’ve asked the same question. Maybe you feel like you have been angry one too many times. Maybe you have watched porn so many times that even when you desperately want to erase it from your mind it creeps back in. Maybe you have had an affair, or multiple affairs. As much as you want to put it behind you, heal and prove your dedication to your wife, the remnants of that hurt will not release their grip on your conscience. Perhaps it’s a problem where your pride pushed others down for your benefit. Does your habit of lying make it difficult for you to even know your own truth?

Whatever your stain, it doesn’t wash off. And a verse like James 1:27, taken by itself, makes it seem like an impossible task. It is. For you.

No amount of good work or deeds, on your part, will remove your stains. Nothing you do will wash away the stains that are there. So what are you to do?

The most important thing is to understand that James isn’t talking about our relationship with Jesus, well, not directly anyway.

We want to draw a sharp distinction between religion and relational reconciliation. While both are important, the order in which we approach them is more important. Relational reconciliation always leads to religion, but religion does not always lead to reconciliation.

Here is the line that I’m drawing. Relational reconciliation is salvation. It is being introduced to Jesus and deciding to enter into the relationship that He offers. Relational reconciliation is choosing to believe in Jesus so you can be reconciled to and approach the Father unblemished by the world. Relational reconciliation is spending time with God and allowing the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross to wash you clean. It is about allowing the Holy Spirit to transform your heart and character so that the fruit of the Spirit becomes evident to everyone else. Religion is where we display the evidence of that; it is where we have relationship with Jesus.

A religion is nothing more than an institution for expressing belief in a divine power. While Christianity as a title identifies us as followers of Jesus, as a religion it is the venue where we are “energetic in [our] life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God.” The religion that James is talking about comes after our salvation and reconciliation. The religion he is talking about is the product of the work of Jesus in our heart and the power of the Holy Spirit in our life.

I’ve struggled with this more than once. So many times I have felt like I was not working hard enough or that I had not kept myself unstained by the world. Each time I was reminded that I do not have to work hard enough and it isn’t me that keeps me unstained by the world.

Jesus on the cross allows us to start again. It doesn’t always erase the memories in our head, the stuff that gnaws at our conscience, but it does erase the sin stains on our heart that separate us from God. The conscious gnawing does lessen – through time spent in God’s word and acts of confession to God and others.

Regardless of how you feel or how bad you think you are, the redeeming work of Jesus frees you to approach God. Healing is always the result of Jesus’ compassionate heart. Wholeness is always the result of the Holy Spirit’s immense power.

Religion without relationship is just tedious work, often times good work, where many become disillusioned with Christianity. Religion without relationship keeps you from the abundant life that Jesus offers.

Don’t start with religion, start with relationship. The stains come out, I promise.

Why the Relationship v. Religion Debate Matters

Religion RelationshipIt wasn’t until the last few years that I even knew that this was actually a thing. I’ve spent most of my Christian life naively assuming that as long as I was a Christian, I was good for heaven. I figured that if I did my religious duty of going to church and participating in our community service projects then I could claim to know Jesus. Relationship wasn’t something that was talked about outside of the invitation “to know Jesus” at the end of every sermon. Even then, “if you want a personal relationship with Jesus” was just part of the invitation “script.” There was never really anything beyond that which defined what relationship would or should look like. Knowing why they’re different is important and it may just be the difference between hearing Jesus say, “I never knew you; depart from me” or “Well done, good and faithful servant.

On the surface, the recipe for a relationship with God hinges on the same foundation that our other relationships are built on; communication. There are a bunch of other things that build healthy relationships, but in the last few years I’ve learned that communication helps build and solidify those other things necessary for a solid relationship. Trust, passion, dedication, loyalty, commitment, service and even love, are all impacted and built with good communication. If you’re married or dating, you could never justify having a good relationship with your other if you never talked with them. If the last words you said to your spouse was “I do” chances are they aren’t your spouse any more or they won’t be soon. That’s a whole other blog, but if that’s you, start talking with them. Yet, we do that with God. And then we pretend that to “know” Him and worse, that we are actually “following” Him. But if we’re honest, we don’t and we’re not.

The original intent of the Apostles teaching was not to turn following Jesus it into a set of rules. Following rules requires little in the area of commitment to a person and absolute dedication to a system. The very reason that Jesus chastised the religious leaders, during His ministry, was because they had turned relationship with God the Father, into a system of over 600 rules that you had to follow to be “right” with God. That’s a near, if not completely, impossible task for anyone. What God intended for us was a religion that was built purely on relationship. That’s why throughout the Old Testament He said things like, “You will be My people, and I shall be your God.” It was about being connected to each other, not a system of rules.

Traditionally Church has pushed religion as a means of building relationship. On the surface that doesn’t seem like a bad thing. Early in your relationship with Jesus, systems are important. We set disciplined times to read and pray, attend church and fellowship with other Christians. Where we go wrong is when we accept that as Christianity. All of the sudden we’re in a system of rules that alleviate the need to build relationship. It becomes, do this and you’ll be a follower of Jesus. Say this and you’re forgiven. Don’t do this, because you’re Christian now and Christians don’t do that. Go to church. Wish that you prayed and read the bible more. The list of rules goes on and on.

Religion is about you and it coerces you into trying harder so that you can be a better person. The problem with that is you can become so tied up in doing the hard work of being better that you forget why you’re trying to be better. And because there’s always a version of you that can be better, you get caught in a cycle of never being good enough. Eventually you become worn out and quit, or worse, you become disconnected from the original reason that you started, all the while believing that you’re “doing it.”

But relationship is different. If we would view our early systems similar to what we do when we’re beginning a new relationship, then we cultivate authenticity. As we spend time with another person we learn, and even take on, their mannerisms and sayings. We allow our beliefs to be influenced because we want to be inline with that person. The same happens with Jesus. As we spend time in prayer, reading the bible, spending time with other Christians, the Holy Spirit begins to cultivate authentic change in us. It become about character transformation, rather than behavior modification. Relationship says, I won’t do that because it offends or hurts you. I’ll give that up, because you’re more important. I’ll do that because it pleases you and shows that I value you. Then, out of no where, you’re relationship is your religion.

Relationship, on the other hand, is about others and it compels you to cultivate interactions that display love better. As you do the work of building relationships you begin to look for cultivation opportunities. And because there’s always the ability to love better, you become engaged in a cycle that puts you in the position to love more people better.

I don’t want to sound like there isn’t work required in both; there is. But isn’t the work that makes them different, it’s the result of the work that does; one points to you and the one points to others. The nuance here is that one doesn’t need Jesus to do the work and the other starts with Him and can only be achieved through Him.

So, how do you build a relationship with Jesus. Simple, but not easy:

1. Spend time with God. Pray and read the bible, get a devotional, memorize verses, just spend time with Him

2. Spend time with other believers. Eat, celebrate, grieve, worship, pray, sing and be with each other. Iron sharpens iron and that sharpening happens in community with other believers.

3. Spend time with unbelievers. Once you start following Jesus, you’ll start to see things different. The people you saw before, become completely different. You can learn a ton from unbelievers. We get to hear people’s needs, their hopes, and disappointments. I’ve found that people who aren’t followers of Jesus, don’t feel like they have to make it look like everything in life is great; it makes them a little more honest and raw about what their needs are.

Relationship should build your religion until your religion is relationship.

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Jesus said, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” That happens in relationship. Relationship should build your religion until your religion is relationship.

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