Is the Good News still good?

Current events lately have caused me to take a step back and look at the current state of Christianity in our society. Sadly what I see concerns me. We are bombarded with messages that read along the lines of “gay people are gonna burn in hell” or “terrorism is God reacting to our sin” or we even see instances of church leadership abusing small children. It seems to me that the Good News that Christ died to promote is no longer good in our society. America desperately needs more messages of redemption, grace, and mercy and less fear, anger, and dogma. We as Christians need to reclaim the title of the hands and feet of Jesus and keep it from becoming a cliche any longer. Christians are many times the major path that some people have to Christ and sadly we often turn people away from Christ rather than to Him because we don’t make the Good News seem good anymore. So today I challenge you. Will you be Good News to someone who needs it?

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11 Signs Your Relationship is in Trouble

We’ve all seen or been in bad relationships. If you haven’t been in one just watch an episode of Jersey Shore and you will run into numerous unhealthy relationships. Sadly after these kind of relationships end we recollect the negative things more vividly than anything else that happened in the relationship. We can minimize these unhealthy relationships if we know what to look for, but the problem is most people don’t know what to look for. In this post I will give my take on some warning signs for unhealthy relationships. Here they are:

1)  If you’re looking for your girlfriend/boyfriend or wife/husband to fill a void in your life. We all have inadequacies, its an inescapable fact. Where we look to compensate for these inadequacies is a key determinate in how healthy our relationships will function. If we look to others to “complete” us or to cancel out our flaws we will always be let down in every relationship at some point. People are flawed as a result of sin entering the world so if we look to a flawed person to be made whole we will get a flawed reaction by them which then will lead to trouble. The only way we will be made complete is through a personal relationship with God.

2)  If you only communicate when conflict arises. Communication is a crucial part to the foundation for all healthy relationships. If in your relationship communication happens only because there is conflict then you’re either heading for or already in trouble. Couples need to communicate during the good, great, bad, and the ugly about anything and everything. Your relationship is in trouble if you or your significant other has to guess what the other is thinking or feeling. These thoughts and feelings need to be brought out on the table and sorted through together and not just in the context of conflict. It is crucial that both people in the relationship know the others deepest secrets so that neither person is caught off guard. Open and honest communication often helps to avoid conflict before it even turns into conflict.

3)  If your relationship causes you to cut ties with previous friendships. I’ve seen this a lot and it bothers me every time. Healthy relationships don’t cause you to lose the friends you had before you met your significant other. Healthy relationships do cause you to restructure other relationships and set new boundaries. But if your significant other becomes insecure about your other friendships or pushes you to cut ties with anyone that is a big red flag in my opinion. People need other relationships with people their significant other may not know well and both people in said relationship need mutual friendships with people they both know.

4)  If you don’t set boundaries early on. This is one area of relationships that people I have observed have had the most problem with. Boundaries are very important in any healthy relationship but in todays society boundaries are extremely neglected. Like I was talking about earlier, if boundaries are not set early in the relationship then each person is left to assume what the expectations in the relationship are and the door for trouble to enter the relationship is swung wide open.

5)  If you can’t compromise. Relationships never should be completely give or completely take. If the relationship is one where one person always gives and one always takes eventually the giver will ask for something that the taker may not be willing to do. Think of relationships not as give and take or win/lose but rather win/win. Ideally this situation would be where one person in the relationship gets a part of what they want and the other person gets a part of what they want.

6)  If you revert to sexual things too early on. This is rampant in our society for many reasons of which I don’t understand. Relationships have been reduced to a meaningless physical act that is short lived with no emotions involved. This is not by any means the way relationships were intended to be and I refuse to let this pattern continue. People revert to sexual things because they have initial interest in a person but soon after getting to know that person they realize they have nothing in common but physical attraction. But just because you have a mutual physical attraction does not mean you should act on it if the other foundations of a healthy relationship are not there. If you act on these physical urges you are opening yourself up to be taken advantage of which will lead to deep hurt. On that same note, some people use sexual relationships to mask their deep emotional hurts from the past. These people will do nothing but hurt themselves further and hurt you in the process if you engage in a physical relationship with them. If this is you I encourage you to seek counseling to move past your wounds in hopes of being in a healthy stable relationship in the future.

7)  If you have more separate interests than common ones. This one seems pretty obvious to me. If there are few or no common interests then the foundation for a healthy relationship is not there. If this is the case then you open yourself up to the physical downfall mentioned in #6. You would do well to remain just friends if you are able to overcome the sexual urges or acquaintances who have minimal contact if neither can resist the sexual urges.

8)  If you have unresolved issues from past relationships.  This one is huge. Everyone has baggage from previous relationships. But not everyone handles such baggage the same way. If you or your significant other has something from their past that is carrying over into your current relationship and effecting it in a negative way then it needs to be addressed by a counselor as soon as possible. You can help your significant other work through their past by encouraging them and actively listening to them when need be. However, I caution you to minimize the advice you give unless you are a licensed counselor who is trained to help someone navigate such things that have happened in the past. I have seen people do much more harm than good when they try to play the role of a counselor and they have not been trained to do so. Please don’t be that person.

9)  If you have no positive frame of reference to base your relational knowledge on. We all are influenced by many things. Family, friends, coworkers and even media can influence how we navigate through life. It is crucial that we have a person or group of people who we can look up to as a positive relationship model. Social learning theory, a theory used widely in the field of Sociology and Family Studies, states that our behavior is influenced by what those around us are doing. So if we surround ourselves with people who model positive relationships in our lives then we are more likely to engage in healthy relationships ourselves. On the flip side of that, though, if we surround ourself with negative influences who have little or no background in stable, healthy relationships then we ourselves are likely to fall in the trap of unhealthy relationships too.

10) If you don’t spend as much time together as before. Relationships need time. The people who have the best relationships I know never stop pursuing their significant other. We need to spend quality time with our significant other to grow the relationship. It is through this foundation of quality time spent together that things such as trust and communication are built. Without time relationships will die and one or both people involved will be hurt deeply. Spend time with your significant other in leisure and also in time working to deepen your relationship. Failure to do so could be catastrophic in your relationship.

11) There is little or no aspect of spirituality in your relationship. Relationships in which both people seek God before anything else are the healthiest in my opinion. It’s through God and the Bible that our eyes are opened to what constitutes love, selflessness, communication, and many other things that make a relationship work. Passages such as Psalms 37:4 and Matthew 6:33 assure us that if we seek God first he will make our relationships the best we could ever possibly ask for. But on the flip side of that, if we don’t acknowledge God in our relationships then we are setting ourself up to get into relationships that will become stagnant and be relatively meaningless and ultimately we will be hurt by such a relationship. I speak from personal experience on that.

 

I hope this helps you in your relationships. Always keep in mind that people aren’t perfect and to treat everyone with the grace and mercy you want and that we all get from God.

Relationships 101: Accountability

Accountability is something our society, and sadly even a growing population of Christians, has lost. Marriages fall apart, people lose their jobs, and reputations are ruined all because people fail to take responsibility for their own actions. Several questions and ideas have flooded my mind about this, and I’ve found that I have more questions than answers. Feel free to leave your input in the comments below. I can use them.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.~ Colossians 3:16

If you have grown up in a Christian home I bet you have heard this passage many times. We often use this passage to emphasize singing in a worship setting, but I’d like to focus on one single word we often overlook. Admonish is not a word we use in everyday language but in this passage it has a profound effect on how Christians should live their lives. This word can mean one of two things according to Websters disctionary:

1. Warn or reprimand someone firmly.
2. Advise or urge (someone) earnestly.

This single word is one of the most unapplied words to our society, which is sad. We as Christians should hold all people accountable for their actions, because in the end all people will be accountable to God, no exclusions. We owe it to ourselves, to others, and to God to raise the standards when it comes to people being accountable. God without a doubt expects certain things from His children, the least we can do is help each other get there.

Relationships 101: Asking Questions

For several months I have been pondering the idea of asking questions, and seeing how this idea fits into relationships. My conclusion is that asking questions can and should be part of the foundation of healthy relationships. Questions allow us to deepen relationships by knowing more about the other person in the relationship than we previously did and also can sometimes diffuse an arguement when the right questions are asked in the right way. Far too often many people would say that the cause of an arguement is miscommunication. This can easily be remedied by one person asking the other a question of clarification if the instructions or expectations given to them are unclear.

I strongly believe my generation has lost, or atleast started to lose, the ability to ask important questions in relationships. Both parties in a dating relationship should know eachother well enough that there are few surprises later in life if these two individuals get serious about the relationship and decide to make their bond a life-long committment. Questions aid in this process by allowing both parties to engage in open communication and are a good gauge as to how the other person’s brain functions.

Anyone with young children can testify that small children understand the concept of asking questions. Even at a young age human beings are interested in how or why something happens and I feel it is a shame that our society, as each person gets older, has seemingly lost this interest when it comes to relationships. Society tells us to be tolerant of everyone, and while that is a good idea that should be followed, we should not let our tolerance turn into fear of offending someone and cause us to refrain from asking questions to better the situation we might be in. The right question conveyed in the right way should not offend the person being asked.

Also, questions can show someone you care for them. Most businesses you go to these days greet you with something along the lines of “Hello, how can I help you today?”. Sadly our society has become so self-centered that in my opinion you are more likely to hear that phrase from a business who is looking to get money from you rather than from a friend, family member, or coworker who has said to have your best interest in mind. There are several people in my life who demonstrate their love and concern for me, and for that I am grateful. This world needs many more people like them who show genuine care and concern for others and who arent just living in their own isolated bubble world. Questions are a great way to reach out to someone to show the love of Christ from you to them. Relationships can and are built from them, trust can be gained from them, and God’s Kingdom can be better because of them.

My question to you is: Are you asking questions enough? What questions are you asking? Are the questions you are asking making your relationships (both earthly and spiritual) better or worse?

Think about these things as you go about your daily activities.

In Him

~Bryan

Relationships 101:Boundaries

Lately the subject of boundaries has been put on my heart. God has taught me more about boundaries in the past six months than He has in the previous years of my entire life, and it has been a great journey.

I have found with many people boundaries are either solid stone like the one in the above picture or more like a chain-link fence. Both are boundaries, but one is less protective than the other. This I feel has to do with the severity of a persons past. I myself have experienced some traumatic losses in my life, and for awhile I set up some pretty unhealthy boundaries. One of which was me striving to always please everyone I came across. Sadly many people feel so overwhelmed by life that they put up any and every boundary they can in order to take control of an out-of-control situation. What many people do not realize is that we, meaning all humans, were never meant to be in complete control. Psalms 24:1, 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, and many other passages show us that God alone posesses and controls everything that has been made. God did not design us to fight every battle for ourselves, far too many times we try to do that. Now, put all of this back in the context of boundaries. In my honest opinion if any given person would lay down their pride and any other emotion which gives them a selfish “I don’t need anyone to pull me from this mess” attitude and would realize that God is capable of anything andq then would earnestly seek to please God and only God then healthy boundaries will fall into place. When God is the center of a persons life it causes them to look outwardly and seek the best interests of others rather than skidishly approaching relationships with a predetermined amount of fear already in their mind. It also allows them to offer everything they physically, emotionally, and spiritually can offer to The Kingdom of God.

After reading this post I want you to ask yourself this: What boundaries do you have in life and are they helping or hurting your impact on God’s Kingdom?

In Him
~Bryan

Relationships 101: The Communication Dilemma Part 2

Here is the second part of the previous blog I wrote in relation to communication in relationships:

6) Do not let the fear of someone’s reaction to what you say or do dictate your actions. Many people I have encountered who are experiencing problems with their relationships show that it stems from internal fear of the reaction they might get. I will be the first to tell you that relationships involve risks. But many times with the risks that relationships require comes a reward that is often greater than the risk itself. Often confidence is gained from a risk taken, wich is both healthy and important for an individual involved in any kind of relationship. But taking risks can also be unhealthy if done carelessly.

7) Frame what you say before you say it. Many times have I seen people get in fights with their friend or boyfriend/girlfriend over something that was said between the two people or what one person said to a third party about the other in the relationship. All of this can and is destructive in a relationship, but I feel it can be avoided. Many times if one or both people in the relationship took a mental step back and evaluated the situation (i.e. the fight) more often than not they would be able to take the time to rationally gather their thoughts and communicate them in a non-threatening way. I equate this to something along the lines of public speaking. Very few people can effectively “wing” a speech in front of a large group of people and not lose the meaning of what they have to say. This applys to personal relationships in a lot of ways also. Much like a public speaker prepares their thoughts before they give a presentation, so should an individual prepare their thoughts before they speak to someone they have emotional ties to. This will reduce the instances of individuals acting from off the cuff and allow for the diffusion of the situation rather than the escalation.

8) Do not delay what you know you should say or do today. I have seen many relationships get weakened because one or both people in the relationship swallow their feelings and ignore what is going on when problems arise. I have also seen the effects on an individual when the person they are in a relationship with will not communicate when pleaded with to do so. Both instances are harmful if the behavior is ongoing. I have also seen relationships strengthened when both parties openly communicate their points in a loving way during a disagreement. One way to put aside our own fears and pride is to pray that God give you a way out of the situation you are in and for things to be reconciled in your relationship. Leaning on our Lord during troublesome times can be the best remedy to any disagreement. Many people do not see the light at the end of the tunnel during an arguement, especially if deep emotional investments have been made in the relationship. God has always promised a way out of the pain we might be experiencing, but He never said it wouldnt take work on our part to get out of it.

9) Be open to others ideas. We live in a society today where people are itching to tell you their opinion on things and where selfish ego’s are rampant. Many people will fight you over petty things trying to force on you why you are wrong and why they’re right. What ever happened to agreeing to disagree? Relationships never are perfect and never will be. People are always going to have differing views on any given issue, and that is alright. But when someone becomes so closed minded as to not even hear someone else’s views then the person trying to express themselves becomes shut off to communication with the other person, thus making a relationship between the two people difficult. Many people feel disrespected in relationships because of differing views, which is completly contradictary to what Christ taught. Christ did indeed disagree with the people he associated with, but He always spoke His truth in love and never beat people over the head with His words or degraded them because of the stance they took. This I feel is a key component to having successful relationships no matter the kind of relationship it is.

10) Ask questions. We sometimes spend a large part of our life trying to figure people out, when in reality a question or series of questions is all that is needed. I know of several people who were or are in relationships in which a lot of unknowns are present. But for various reasons the individuals hesitate to find out the answers to those unknowns by asking questions and rather choose to figure things out in a round-about way. From my experience the direct approach has always been the most successful for me. For one it saves time and can diffuse tense situations faster. Also, it can bring about feelings of comfort and peace for the person who seeks the answers they look for in a direct way. On the other hand it can bring about pain when painful questions are asked, but if both parties seek God and communicate the truth that is based on love for the other person then that is when the damage is minimized and situations are easier to overcome.

11) Seek wise council. I have been blessed over my life to have several friends and family members in my life who love me and who have much more experience than I do. I have been given the opportunity to gain wisdom and insight from them and it has helped me immensly in my relationships with others. There are times when I have been in situations new to me and I would go to any one of these people whom I admire and look up to and simply ask them if one thing or another sounded right or reasonable when I am engaged in dialogue with someone. Nothing but the power and wisdom of God has helped me more than the advice I have gotten from the few people who have counselled me over the years as I grow to be the man of God I am going to be. There is just something about not feeling alone on my journey of life I am on that calms me during my mental storms, and I am convinced it is the hand of God that brought these people into my life. The more people realize that they don’t have to face life alone, and werent meant to face life alone, then the stronger they will become and even simple tasks such as communicating with someone else will not seem quite as daunting.

Blessings!

~Bryan

Relationships 101: The Communication Dilemma Part 1

My life continues to change and its amazing. God continues to teach me things and I am happy to say I’m His sponge. God is showing me some things about a few people that hurts but doesn’t harm me. Meaning yes things are painful but not to the extent that the pain lasts. I can feel God molding me and changing me where He needs me to change, and preparing me for the things in my future as I grow as a man living my life for God as best I can. Something God has put on my heart lately is communication and how crucial it is in relationships. I see many people encounter trouble in their relationships, and from what I can see it stems from the lack of communication, or communicating the right message in the wrong way. Personally I have a few different responses to the commnication dilema:

1) Do not wait for someone elses approach to you before you communicate what you feel. Take initiative. This involves risk and making yourself vulnerable but the right words said in the right way stand a good chance of making the situation better before it gets worse.

2) Let God be your Guide. Too many people, myself included, Try to navigate relationships on their own. When people are left to their own knowledge and personalities to navigate relationships with other people they sometimes fail. They’re human, it happens. But when we seek guidance from The One who created us and knows us and who knows the people we associate with life becomes easier because we arent left trying to figure everything out.

3) Pray earnestly for people. When I find myself at a place in life where I pray constantly for the well being of those around me it gives me a compassionate and caring mentality and gives me the urge to be more proactive in my relationship with them. Repetition is the key here. Do not stop asking in prayer for God to be active in your relationships with others.

4) Check in with people. This goes along the same lines with #1. People want to know they are cared for. This will impact your relationships greatly if you reach out to someone and are interested in what they are going through because it builds confidence in the person you approach. They then (usually) relaize that you are a trustworthy and caring person and a person who they can count on to confide in and be uplifted by. This doesn’t have to be someone you are close with. It can be a classmate, coworker, person you see at a Worship assembly, or simply someone you pass on the street. I encourage you to stop and take time out of your busy life and to check in on people you would not normally think to ask about. God will bless your actions in ways you may not be able to see until you take action.

5) Break through boundaries with people. Jesus was a master at this, and I feel we could learn countless lessons from Christ when it comes to the lack of boundaries He had. Unfortunately people get hurt, and when people become hurt they put up a boundary to keep that from happening again. But if we look to the Author and Finisher of our faith as a guide we will see that Jesus took risks to benefit others and made Himself vulnerable to attacks on His character and to being disappointed by the outcome of situations. But that never stopped Him from reaching out to people. In my opinion we should focus on the ways Jesus took difficult situations and made them into beneficial treasures for the people He encountered, and apply such things to our lives. In doing so we will see that God will bless our actions that come from a sincere heart.

I encourage you to take these things to heart, but more importantly seek God’s Wisdom first while you navigate through your relationships with people. I hope and pray that your relationships reach their full potential and that you play a role in helping someone become stronger in their faith in God today.

Blessings

~Bryan