Monday, December 14, 2009

Your second week continued again...

Part 3

Relationship building.

So, if it’s all about relationship, what are things that build relationships and increase love for one another? Well… what are things in your personal life that can build a relationship or increase your love for others?

Communication is the key! Many marriage counselors have said that most marriages that end in divorce do so, not because of infidelity, not because of money, and not because of sex. They actually end because of communication breakdowns. Maybe one party has stopped listening to the other. Maybe one has given up on trying to communicate their needs or desires. Very often, one or both parties have not experienced healthy ways of communicating. Their family of origin may have had very unhealthy lines of communication.

It is no different with God. There are many ways that God can communicate with us. There are also many ways that we can communicate with God. The two primary ways, though, are through prayer and reading the Bible.

We most often communicate with God through prayer. The Bible says that we have direct access to God through Jesus. That means that at any time and any place that we want to talk to God for any reason, he is available and listening! If we want to thank God for something, if we want to ask God for something, or if we just want to talk to God about our day, he is always available and listening because great relationships are marked by our availability and willingness to listen.

God most directly and clearly communicates to us through the Bible. When we read scripture, God’s will is made known to us. What does God want from us in response to His love? How can we please Him? So much is so clearly communicated through the Bible. Our problems are not so much about understanding God’s Word (though that can be an issue at times.) Our problem is more often listening to what God clearly says and obeying it. God has much to say to us, if we will only read His Word and listen to it.

How can you be sure to keep the lines of communication open and flowing with God?
When would be the best time for you to regularly pray and/or read your Bible?

Giving is another key. We often look at relationships for what we can get out of them. We think or say things like “I love this person because they do this or that for me.” “I want to marry this person because they make me feel this way.” In fact, coming to know Jesus personally may have been more because of what He was offering in new and eternal life than about anything else. However, good, healthy relationships are about giving and receiving.

If we constantly look at God as our cosmic gift giver, it will impact our relationship with Him. If we think that it's all about what we can do to give back to him, that will greatly impact our relationship, as well.

Read Matthew 6:5-15, Psalm 119

What are some things you want God to do for you?
What does God want you to do for Him in response to his love?

Your second week continued...

Part 2

A second aspect to our relationship with God is through Jesus. Jesus is God’s Son. We, as Christians, are His children, but we are also described as Jesus’ bride. The Bible calls all Christians, the church. The church is people. The church is not a building. It is not a program. It is not a service. It is not an organization. The church is people. The Bible also describes these people as the Bride of Christ. We, as the church, are the Bride of Christ.

Marriage is intended to be a permanent thing. In our culture it has become something less permanent. More than 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. That is of the relationships that end up being married. There are many people who live together, experience intimacy that is intended for marriage and yet, never even get married, eventually separate and go their separate ways. This is not God’s intention. When we come to know Jesus, it is intended for life! From that point on, our relationship changes and that change of relationship is one of permanence. The first of the ten commandments is “to have no other gods before Him.” (Read Exodus 20:2-17) That means that God is to come first in our lives. He is first and foremost. He is of utmost importance!

When you get married, you give up all others. You choose your husband/wife and them only. God intends our relationship with Him to be the same.

What things can cause a marriage difficulty?
What things help to keep a marriage on the right track?

Your second week...

It’s all about Relationship.

Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship with God through Jesus. God is our father. We are adopted sons of God through Jesus. Many things changed when we came to know Jesus, but the greatest thing that changed is that we came into a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. Prior to knowing Jesus, we were separated from God. Our relationship was broken, but Jesus brought us back together. He brought us into a new relationship with God, our heavenly Father.

So, what was your relationship like with your father? Was he kind? Was he gentle? Was he mean? Was he hard to please? The answer to these questions unfortunately, can have a direct impact on how you view God as your father. You have to be able to see God as our perfect, heavenly Father who is patient, kind, humble, loving, judging, just, merciful, all-knowing, graceful, all-powerful, and able to help you in your time of need. You have to be able to see God for who He is, not who your father was or wasn’t. The Bible describes God throughout. Use the Bible as your guide to knowing Him as Father, not your experience with your own father (whether it was good or bad.)

What was your relationship with your father like?
How does that compare with what you know about God as Father?
How does it impact you to know that God is our ultimate Father?

Read Matthew 6:25-33

Why do we not need to worry? Who will provide for us?

Your first week continued...

Part 2

Now that you have accepted God’s love, through a relationship with Jesus, there are two things that he would like you to do more than anything. These are the most important aspects of being a Christian.

Love God and love others.

God tells us numerous times throughout the Bible that the most important thing we could do is to love Him in return. He says following all the rules, helping the most people, and giving up everything we ever had is pointless, if we don’t love.

Read 1 Corinthians 13

How do you suppose a person might forget this?

At one point someone asks Jesus, “What is the most important rule?” Jesus replied, “It is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.” But, then He quickly added, “And secondly to love others as yourself.” In fact, he said that you can’t do one without the other. If you don’t love people, you don’t really love Him.

Read Matthew 22:36-40

All of the law and the prophets rest on these two commandments. Here’s what Jesus is saying. Every rule ever created in the Bible and by your spiritual leaders is to provide practical ways to love God and to love others.

Is there anyone right now that comes to mind that you are having a hard time loving?

Don’t forget, God loves you. Even when you fail at loving him or loving others, remember how much he loves you. You cannot earn his love. Even in loving others, you cannot earn his love. If you share your sins with him and tell him you’re sorry, he is more than willing to forgive you and continue to work in your life.

Seriously, think about it. If your little newborn falls on their face or throws their food, it may annoy you, but you are more than ready to forgive before they even ask. Then when they do ask, you are anxiously standing by to offer forgiveness and move forward in your relationship. As a little child, a baby, someone who is new in the faith, God loves you. This is the beginning of a new Life! Learn His kind of love from Him, then return it in appreciation back to Him and share that same kind of love with others.

What are your experiences with children or babies?

What questions are running through your mind right now?

Read John 1-3 and 1 John 1-3

Your first week...

Part 1

God loves you.

God loves you. That is why you are here today. He created you to love you. In the same way, that loving parents create children to love and have a relationship, God created you to love and have a relationship. You didn’t deserve it. Nothing you did or can do deserves his love or his relationship. He freely gives it to us because of his love. It is unearned.

God’s love is unconditional. It is very much like a parent’s love for their newborn child. Nothing the child has done has earned that love. It is freely given by the parent. The parent loves the child no matter if they cry and poop or coo and laugh (and they tend to do both :). In that same way, He loves every single person and wants a relationship with every single person. He even died to attain this relationship with us.

Read John 3:16

Nothing you did, or ever will do, will earn God’s love for you. Don’t forget that. It is the most essential understanding of your relationship with God.

How have you or have you not experienced this type of love from your parents?

How have you experienced God’s love in your life?