Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Contract of Friendship

I've been musing over I Corinthians 13. What would life look like if as believers, we signed "Friendship Contracts" before entering into a relationship? Perhaps the contract would look something like this. And what would the church look like if we actually tried, by God's grace, to follow it?

A Contract of Friendship, from I Corinthians 13

Love is Patient. I will be patient. I know that you are not perfect. We are all sinners, works in progress, and I will be patient when you do things that irritate me, when you don’t act how I would, and when you don’t live up to my expectations. I will not react quickly in anger, but patiently bear all things that are just different from me.

Love is Kind. I will be kind. I will speak to you with gentleness and with the tone of voice that is fitting for a son or daughter of God. I will treat you with respect. I will not put you down or sarcastically demean you.

Love does not envy. I will rejoice with you when you rejoice, not envying you or the work God is doing in your life. I will not question your motives and agendas in a distrustful way. I will look for ways to encourage you in your moments of joy.

Love does not boast. I will not boast in front of you blatantly in order to get attention. When I do talk excitedly about an event in my life, please see that I’m trying to share my joy. I will be tactful in areas that I know might be more difficult for you to hear.

Love is not proud. I will not proudly think I am always right and that I always know the best way. I’ll humbly listen to your ideas and thoughts and dreams. When you share your struggles, I will not lord them over you and think of how much better I am than you.

Love does not dishonor others. I will not dishonor you by talking badly about you to others. What you share with me in confidence, I will not talk about to others. I will not talk rudely to you about people or circumstances either.

Love is not self-seeking. I will not be self-seeking, looking for you to fill all my needs. That is setting you up for failure, for the only One who can fill my needs is Christ. I will appreciate your friendship simply for all that it is. I know that there will be times when you will not be for me everything I’d like you to be, but I’ll not expect you to fill this – I will be thankful for all that you are.

Love is not easily angered. I will not be easily angered when offended. I won’t jump to the worst conclusions or fly off the handle.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. I know you will not be perfect either, and I will not keep a record of how you’ve wronged me. When you ask for my forgiveness, and I grant it, I will not bring it up to you again or hold it against you.

Love does not delight in evil. I will not delight in evil, but will seek to live in the light. If I see you tangled in sin, it will be kind of me to mention it to you in a gentle, healing way, coming along side and praying for the right words at the right time. If I’m just annoyed over something, however, I will love you patiently.

Love rejoices in the truth. I will not lie to you. I will not hide my faults or pretend I am something that I’m not. I will speak truth in love.

Love always protects. I will protect you and our friendship. I will protect what you’ve said in confidence. I will defend you to others. I will reconcile if life gets hard between us.

Love always trusts. I will trust what you say, and not doubt or second guess. I will trust you enough to share my life and desires and hopes and dreams and struggles with you. I will trust that you will do your best to love me in return.

Love always hopes. I hope that our friendship will continue to grow, so that we can experience unity in Christ as Jesus taught. I have a solid hope that one day, we’ll live together in eternity, and all walls and barriers to friendships will be gone, and we will finally experience what love truly is.

Love always perseveres. I will persevere in this friendship. I will seek reconciliation. I will humble myself and ask forgiveness when times get hard. I will ask God to fill me with love for you beyond my own abilities, because love comes from Him.

I know that you won’t be able to fulfill this perfectly, and I’m absolutely certain I won’t be able to either. But together, trusting in Christ, we can persevere in this, because His grace is greater than all our sins.


I'm so thankful for the friendships in my life. I truly see them as a blessing and a gift from God! I pray my friends would forgive me when I haven't fulfilled my end of the "contract," and I'm looking ahead for absolutely unity that we've never known in the age to come!

Friday, March 16, 2012


I love lists and charts. I’ve been known to add things to my to-do list just so I could check them off. I know I’m not alone, and if you’re like me, than a study in Ephesians is right up your alley! However, I’ve already made lists on here of Ephesians 1-3, and for the sake of this summary, I’m going to attempt to just write it in paragraph form and avoid my temptation to simply list out all that Paul says.

(For review, I’m going through Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, writing my own summaries, so that I can more easily remember what is in each book. They’re a tangled mess of great passages right now in my mind.)

Before Christ…
we were dead in our sins. We acted disobediently like everyone else in the world, following after Satan, the prince of the power of the air. We made choices based on the lusts of our flesh and indulged in whatever our darkened minds and hardened hearts desired. We did what seemed best to us in our impurity and greed. Because of this, we were children of wrath, separated from Christ, and excluded from the blessings of Israel, God’s chosen people. We were strangers and aliens to this promise that God gave to Abraham and His descendants so many years ago. We didn’t have any hope, being so far away, and we were without the One true God.

But God…
Gave us a wonderful gift! Through the blood of Christ, though we were dead, he made us alive, like Christ’s own resurrection, by raising us up with Him and saving us by His grace. Then, He seated us with Him in the heavenly places. We have been made to be His special workmanship, and He has prepared good works for us to do. We are no longer living far away, but instead he has brought us close, becoming our peace.

Now, In Christ…
We have grace and peace with God, as well as every Spiritual blessing that is in the heavenly places. By God’s will, we were chosen before the world was even created, predestined to be adopted into His family, and redeemed through His blood. Now, our sins are forgiven by His kindness, His grace is freely lavished on us, and we have an inheritance – a rich and glorious hope! We’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise and have been given a surpassingly great power that was able to raise Christ from the dead.

Because of His great love with which he loves us! In this, He was able to show the surpassing riches of His grace in His kindness toward us. He came to make us holy and blameless before Him, to the praise of His glorious grace, so that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known through the church and the heavenly places. It all points to the fullness of time, when all will be summed up and gathered in Christ, when His own possession is redeemed, for the praise of His glory. We were originally created for good works that he prepared beforehand for us to do, but because all is from God, we cannot boast in our own greatness, but only in the saving grace of Jesus.

Paul calls us to be united together in love. God took two groups – the Israelites and the Gentiles – and made them one man, establishing peace between them. We are all fellow Citizens of God’s household, and we all have access to One Spirit through the cross. To live now in unity, we must practice humility, gentleness, and patience, tolerating each other in love. We are to diligently seek peace, remembering that we all have one body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, and one God and Father who is over all of us and through all. This body is being fit together by Him, so we are to build each other up in love, which each person doing his own part. God is building us up into the church in the Spirit, with Christ being the very Cornerstone.

He did not create clones, but instead gave grace as gifts to each of us. Everything we have – all that we are – is a gift from God, so we should not be boastful about it. Instead, we should be serving each other in love. He specifically gave us apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Their role is to speak the truth in love in order to equip the saints – the rest of us – for the works of service we’ve been called to do. Through this, the body will be built up in unity in our faith and our knowledge of the Son of God. We’ll be mature, grounded in truth. This means that when new doctrines and crafty, deceitful men rise up, we won’t be led astray.

Consider the above – 
all that God has done for us. 
Oh, how He loves us! 
Therefore, in light of all of that, 
how are we to respond?

Our Response
A Christian who’s been made alive by Christ no longer walks in darkness, in the way of his old self with its corrupted lusts and desires. Instead, he’s been made new, created to be in the likeness of God, walking in righteousness and truth. He chooses to speak the truth instead of lying. His life is full of hard work and a habit of sharing, rather than stealing. He is not known for his unwholesome talk, filthy stories, course joking, and slander. Instead, he seeks to edify others, building them up, and giving them grace. His life is marked by thankfulness instead of complaining.

He is not bitter, angry, and wrathful, seeking to harm others. Rather, because of the great forgiveness he’s experienced from God, he offers that forgiveness to others, in a kind, tender-hearted way. In place of his past behavior of living foolishly, he diligently seeks to understand God’s will. He is repulsed by drunkenness, immorality, impurity, greed, covetousness, and other dark deeds, being drawn instead to living a life that imitates God, walking in love and righteousness as a child of the light. This is evident to all by his Spirit-filled life, which longs to sing a variety of songs to the Lord (audibly or in his heart), giving Him thanks for all He’s done.

As a husband, he loves his wife and gives himself up for her, just as Christ gave Himself up for the church. He nourishes her, cherishes her, and loves her as he loves his own body. He also cares for his children, not stirring them up to anger, but raises them up to know and obey the truth of the Lord. As a wife, she is subject and respectful of her husband, just as the church is subject to Christ. As a child, she honors her parents, knowing that this pleases the Lord. As a worker, he obeys his employer with sincerity, knowing that he’s working for the Lord. And as an employer, he does good to his employees, knowing that God has no partiality between the two.

The Warning
Paul warns us against living by our flesh and walking in the ways of the darkness, even though we’ve been made alive and created to be children of the light, and he reminds us that we have a real enemy! Our struggle is not with mankind, but with the spiritual forces of wickedness, depravity, and evil in the heavenly places. It is possible to give the devil a foothold in our lives, causing our hearts to become calloused. He reminds us that though the wicked seem to prosper, the sinful have no inheritance waiting for them, and the wrath of God is indeed coming to the sons of disobedience.

So how do we stand against our enemy? We rely on the strength of God so that we can stand firm against the devil and his schemes. We are to be protected by truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, and salvation. Our weapons against him are our faith, the Word of God which is our sword, and prayer. He encourages us to pray for everyone, so that we’d all have boldness to preach the gospel.

In the end, remember the love of God. Through Him, we can be filled with his peace, grace, and love.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Waiting - a review

I'm glad I blog. When I first started five years ago, I commented that I had piles and piles of old journals. Things I'd written that no one would ever see. At least with blogging, something might, at one point, be read and help someone else. But in the end, it's a way for me to share thoughts and ideas.

And, it's a way for me to remember. It's a lot easier to search for an old blog in two clicks than to dig out a big box from the attic and leaf through pages.

That's what I did today. I went back and re-read 4 old posts I'd written five years ago about waiting. They were just as impactful for me today as they were back then in my thought process. It was good to hear me "preach to myself" again! :)

So I figured I'd share the links. Since they're from 2007, they're buried in the deep see of blog-land, but for a moment, here, they're going to resurface and take a breath.

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you and
wait in expectation.
Psalm 5:3

Thursday, March 1, 2012


The excellent verses found in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians are a bit of a blur for me. It's like a slurry of goodness, but I can never get my hands on the passage that I want, when I want it. So for a few weeks, I'm going to try and quickly get a handle on the overall message of each book and then summarize them into my own words, hopefully concreting some of the main points and the locations of them in my mind.

And if I'm going through this effort, I might as well share it!

These are just my summaries. I find that rewording something is helpful while studying. So this is a book report, of sorts, on Paul's letter to the Galatians.


Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia is a beautiful picture of the Gospel. It begins with the true story of our hero, Jesus, who dramatically swooped down into the evil mire, and at the cost of His own life, rescued us, bringing us into the Kingdom of the King. (1:4). This was all in God’s plan, of course, who deserves all the glory for – well – forever!

The church in Galatia had deserted the gospel of grace for a system of laws and legalities that they believed would bring them closer to God’s Kingdom. What is the Gospel of Grace? It has been explained as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Grace is available at salvation, but it also enables and empowers us to do the will of God on a daily basis.

So the Galatians were doing these things to win the approval of men, but Paul says that we are servants of Christ – He rescued us because He loves us so much! Who else’s approval do we need to seek? Only that of the Hero who saved us. In His great love, God chose us. He called us for His purpose, even from our mother’s womb, so that we may live for Him, and not others.

The church was struggling with questions around circumcision, what foods to eat, who to associate with – old laws that were ingrained in their minds and culture. But Paul reminds them that the Gospel is not based on our works – what we can and can’t do – but on the cross alone.  If our righteousness came from works, then why did Christ die? It is based on His perfect life and death and resurrection alone. That’s the Gospel of Grace.

Now, as believers in Him, when we choose to follow Him, we symbolically crucify the strongholds of sin and are not to rebuild them again.

Paul then explains how the law worked both before and after Christ. It is a tool that shows us our sins and need of a Savior. He uses the example of Abraham, who believed by faith in the promise of a deliverer who was to come. His faith in what was to come, and not his works, saved Him, just as we look backward on the finished work of Christ and look ahead in expectation of his return – by faith. The law was meant to lead us to Christ, a tutor, if you will, that teaches us of our need for Him, so that by our faith in Him, we may be justified.

Before Christ came, the law was a guardian of sorts to the people of God. They were His children, but as young children, they did not have full-claim to all that was theirs. They were under the guardianship of another, until they would grow and receive their inheritance in full. As it were, they were like slaves to this guardian (or tutor or trustee), having to do what he said and follow his rules. This guardian was the law in their lives. But this changed when Christ came. We grew up into heirs, if you will.

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” (4:4-7).

Just as Abraham had two sons, one of the flesh and one of the promise, we now must live under the promise – the Work of Jesus by the will of God and His Spirit– and not by the flesh, with its laws and regulations. Christ came to set us free! And as free men, it is ridiculous for us to once again put ourselves back into slavery. Instead, we are to live in freedom, and wait for the hope of righteousness that is to come!

What does it mean to be a child of the King, filled with His Spirit? It means that our faith in Him shows itself to others by our love for them. The law is summed up by this, “To love your neighbor as yourself.” Therefore, in love, we are to serve each other. It only makes sense that those who have received so much love would be joyously looking for ways to shower love on others.

When we are acting in opposition to love, living in the flesh, living as slaves once again, it shows up in these ways, to name a few: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. (Note that the idea of "love" doesn't give us a blank card - it's love on God's terms, and these are not on God's terms.)

In the flesh, when we’re living “well” by our own standards and strength, we become boastful, which is wrong. And when we’re caught in legalism, we challenge others. “Why aren’t they living this way or doing this and that, like I am?” That’s pride talking! And when we’re tangled up in our own sin, and not calling out to God in repentance, we envy others. “Why don’t they have the same problems I do?” All of these actions are clues to us that we are living a life contrary to the freedom we can have in Christ.

By God’s will, we were saved by Jesus and given His Spirit, and when we walk with Him, full of thankfulness for all He has done, we are then gracious to others. Our life is marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

What then, do we do, when we see others in sin? If the fruit of the Spirit is evident in our lives, then we are free to restore them with gentleness. The word “restore” has an element of mending to it. Think of a kind mother tenderly mending the wound of her child, or a vet carefully mending the broken wing of a bird. Gently.

In this restoration process, we are to bear each other’s burdens. We don’t sit on the sidelines and point fingers in judgment. We come alongside, carrying the weight ourselves, until our brother or sister is strong enough and takes it to the cross.

At the end of the day, walking with the Spirit is something that can’t be measured and weighed and exacted out. We mustn’t find out how we’re doing by comparing ourselves to others.

Instead, we are to keep on sowing the good seeds of righteousness! It is hard. We will not be perfect human beings on this side of eternity. But if we keep sowing the good seeds of the Spirit, repenting when we sin, and humbly ask for His help, we will receive His grace to faithfully follow Him.

Keep going! Sow to the Spirit! Serve others out of love, and don’t lose heart!

Sin might tempt us to think living contrary to God’s will brings joy. It deceives us into believing that a life of fearful rules gives peace. But it is a lie.

Instead, there is grace and peace to those who follow God’s plan. To those who are full of joy for all God has done for them and choose to walk in love by His Spirit, there is grace and mercy.

“And to those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them.”