Refusing to be halfway in

How many times have you invited someone and never received an invitation back?

It hurts.

This isn’t new to our generation. Maybe connecting with people is complicated by the presence of social media and a disconnection in neighborhoods, but reaching out and not receiving meaningful relationship in return is not new.

Paul addresses this universal human concern directly in Galatians 4:15-20:

 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

Paul has theological concerns that are the purpose of his letter to the Galatians. He wants them to be spiritually free, not burdened by this yoke of circumcision and Levitical law that the Judaizers were trying to deceive them with. But he knew that spiritual freedom didn’t exist in a box. Spiritual freedom impacts every freedom in the Galatians’ lives, and in ours as well.

Paul’s message was that he wanted, and expected, real, genuine, honest, and reciprocal relationship with the Galatians. Is that too much to ask?

To some extent, yes, and Paul knows it. Our relationships will not be perfect. We are all sinful people. Paul speaks about this in his own letter to the Roman church, in Romans 3:9-12:

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”

We are all in this relational reality boat together. I mess up, you mess up. We offer confession and forgiveness and the planet turns and turns.

However, Paul also points out that there is a difference between sin present in our relationships and trading in people we love to impress other people. I can’t deal with masks. I can’t deal with fake, and very many of us cannot deal with that kind of rejection.

Paul, a very real person, had every right to be heartbroken, angry, sad, and bent out of shape about this kind of behavior in a relationship, particularly in the church.

Paul’s message to the Galatians and to us is:

We are all in.

All in.

Paul didn’t shut off his love for them – he wrote and labored for them. He references the pain of his heart and mind, the cost of being tossed aside by his fellow brothers in Galatians 4:19:

…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

This is serious labor, the work of relationship.

Just as children are born and grow over time, so does relationship and Paul is going the distance, not giving of himself half-heartedly. Loving when it’s hard. Caring when it feels like too much work, when it physically hurts.

He also calls some BS. Honesty in relationship, spoken in love and with the foundation of real relationship, breaks open the doors for Christ to shape and grow us. Paul, wraps his challenging statements in love for the Galatians.

 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. (Galatians 4:20)

“I wish I could speak gently to you. I wish this conversation wasn’t so necessary or so painful…” (Heidi’s paraphrase)

However, he calls it like it is. He expects the Galatians to be all in, as well; Nothing less.

Some people include so that the can exclude.

Whether on purpose or because they are unaware of life outside themselves, this is being halfway in a relationship. It’s not ok.

Paul says, All in or no in.

It gives me strength in relationship to know that I can call it like it is in love, have some level of Biblical expectation of people, while letting Christ form each of our imperfect selves. All wrapped up in the grace of a God who does not disappoint, who always includes.

God is completely and utterly all in.

Romans 8:31-32 is one of my favorite Bible passages about our All-in God:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

All things- exactly what we need for freedom in our relationships, exactly what we need for this day, for this difficult person, for being true and real and honest, when life is grand and when it’s tougher than we ever imagined.

Lord, you are an All-In God. Guide us in our steps, our days, and our relationships to love and set boundaries as You would have us, but to never give up hope that You are working, to give when it’s hard labor, and to love when we do not receive. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.


Discussion questions:

What are your relationship pet peeves? When are relationships hard for you? What happens in them to make them hard?

When has God called you to have stronger boundaries, while remaining “all in” in a relationship?

When has someone invited you further into their life in a way that spoke grace into your life?

Mercy Pursues You

I’m not the only one with good ideas. Obviously.

It’s one thing I love about Bible study. When we open the Word, insights come flying of the page, and your insights will probably look different than mine. The same message will apply differently depending on the given day, moment, season, or struggle in life, along with the sure and certain message that transcends time and space – that hits home for the hearer in the First Century and is exactly the same for the hearer 2000+ years later.

I am convinced that one gigantic benefit of the Body of Christ is the gift of connection and insight. When we gather to be vulnerable and share what we hear from the Word for our own lives, we also reach across the table in a way we cannot completely understand to touch the life and offer insight for the person in study with us.

Last Fall, one of the women in our Bible studies at I Love My Shepherd shared with me a simple insight, passed along from her pastor to her years before, to those of us in the Word that day –

Mercy pursues.

Open your Bible to Psalm 23:6 –

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever. (ESV)

The Greek root word for follow here is radaph. It can mean to follow, to pursue, to chase, or even in certain circumstances, to persecute. Context helps translators choose which are most usable in Biblical translation. Look at the character of God, according to the Psalm as a whole:

He shepherds.

He leads.

He disciplines. 

He comforts.

He prepares.

And it is in His nature to pursue, as well as follow.

How many of you have had a situation in life that you can point to and say, “Mercy pursued me? He was after my heart, my mind, my soul, all of me.”

God is patient. He is loving and kind.

He is also jealous for His children. He sent Hosea to chase after Gomer. He sent the spies into Jericho for Rahab, among other things. He handed His mother to John from the cross. He found Saul on the road to Damascus.

He has a plan. He has a great big awesome plan that involves Mercy in your life, with a capital M.

Sometimes He sits and lets us do our thing. Sometimes we wonder what in the world He’s doing, where in the world He is. Sometimes we wonder if He’s even listening, but He has a plan. He is active, when we cannot see Him. He is active when we cannot feel Him.

His plan is for our good, for mercy to come in, for loving-kindness to infiltrate, and He knows just the right time. His plans are always best and oh so worth the wait.

In all of this He is always, always pursuing us; never for a moment are we not on His mind and in His heart.

Some days, friends, I need to know that I’m worthy of pursuit. Because God calls me Child, He also calls me pursued. When I look to other people to seek after me, to honor me, and deem me worthy… I can look around and find His mercy, which was the only thing that ever mattered all along.

So, what do I do with this insight? I shared it with my friend, Melissa, and we created a reminder. This Summer we’ll be coming out with the Mercy Pursues line on the I Love My Shepherd Products with a Message page.

Someone needs to know Mercy pursues them, so let’s tell them.

Here’s a downloadable Facebook Cover, which is also a sneak peek at our new line. Orange suns, grey and white goodness – clean and simple.

Free downloadable Facebook cover

 

Christ Jesus pursues me.

Christ Jesus pursues you.

Today, know that Goodness and Mercy is after you, because you are worth chasing after. Radaph

Mercy pursues.

 

Fattened Hearts and Faithful Lives

In this week’s video lesson we examine James 5:1-6 and dig into what makes for a fattened heart in our relationship with God and one another. We are imperfect believers in an imperfect world, but He is an ever Faithful and Perfect Father with Good Gifts for us! We also bounce around Scripture to discover God’s gift of a wide open heart through our Lord and Savior.

What gifts does He give us for stretching our hearts wide open for Christ Jesus?

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

2 Corinthians 6:11-13


Share this graphic or download the image as a phone wallpaper. Let’s pray this prayer together- Lord, open wide our hearts for You and Your people.

Video notes:

James 5:5 – “You have fattened your hearts…” Greek notes: http://biblehub.com/greek/5142.htm

James 5:6 – “He does not resist you.” Greek notes: http://biblehub.com/greek/498.htm

2 Corinthians 6:11 “our heart is open wide…” Greek notes: http://biblehub.com/greek/4115.htm