Session II of Love and Relationships!
(This section is divided up into sub-divisions, or "sessions," each with its own questions. The best way to proceed is without time constants, allowing your group to process this information and the Scriptures at their own pace. Some groups need more time in a particular section than in another. It is best to honor the needs of the group, and go at the best pace for them. As a result, this section may take three to six or more sessions.)
One of the best activities I ever did when I was a Youth Pastor was taking youth to Rest Homes. I would assign to each of them an elderly person to interview. They would find out what was important in that person's life, what they learned, what they would have done differently. Did they have regrets? Did fear keep them from making good decisions? Did they throw away what was important, such as friends, a spouse, or children? Then, we would discuss their findings, and determine what they could learn and apply to their lives. I would ask them to think about what they did not hear the person say that could be important.
During these countless interviews, over a span of twenty years, I never encountered a person who regretted spending too much time with their family, not having enough time for their hobby, or needing more money. In fact, after interviewing congressmen, industrialists, tradesmen, clergymen, businessmen, mothers who had never held a job in society outside the home, and many others from all walks of life, the biggest regret expressed was spending too much time at work to make money. They regretted the distance between them and their children, the lost relationships with friends, the spouse they let go, and they wished they had a better disposition and personality. They all wished they could live their lives over, spending more time with relationships, keeping their friends, and not losing out on what they finally figured out was important in life!
It is my goal that we can carry out our lives with the right mindset of what is really important in life, so we do not end up in loneliness and regret. I wanted to let those youth know while they were still youth that they do not need to wait until they reach the age of seventy or eighty to see life in the right perspective; they can do it now. We do not need to miss out on what God has for us. We do not need to spend all of our energies chasing after what is fleeting while ignoring what is good.
Most young people do not look up to see what is really important; therefore, confusion and dysfunction have taken over their mindsets. Most live in the world of coffee houses, clubs, internet dating, singles clubs, and personal ads. These things have become cultural icons, and are booming in our society. People are dazed and confused on who and what to look for in finding friendships and intimacy. Even the quest to find the love of one's life can be all consuming. This boom has even infiltrated the church, as we can easily see countless ads for Christians seeking Christians, and Christian dating services on the Web, radio, and newspapers. There are even personal ads in church bulletins. As people are so busy in this fast-paced society, there seems to be no time to date or even to make friends. There is no time to look up and see God's plan. Of course, in saving time by not looking up, we just end up spending decades in wrong choices and dysfunction. This mindset translates to all of our relationships, and cheapens them-from the office to the bedroom. Too many of us are seeing the world and love through glasses of the wrong prescription!
Perhaps people have been hurt, and do not want to do as they have done before. Many are fed up with the traditional dating scene, and are searching for an alternative; perhaps this is true for you. If you think your busyness keeps you from finding the right people, once (and if) you do find someone, will you have time for a relationship? Almost certainly not! Something or someone needs to change. That someone is you, and that something is your attitude and outlook on life. No, we do not like to hear those words, do we? But, we do need to hear them. I know I do!
The answer is not in the latest fad, or service, it is in getting our priorities straight, then seeking out relationships! If your call and desire is to have a committed relationship, you will have to make room in your life for one. That means you will need to be willing to prepare yourself, emotionally and mentally, with the right Biblical attitude and mindset. If not, then you will be gambling with the second most important decision and choice you will ever make. And, when it comes to a marriage, your choices and attitudes will have lasting repercussions for many people, and for many generations to come. It will become a crapshoot with much greater and higher odds for the "house" than for you, where the "house" is a regretful and discontented life.
We all desire and seek love and companionship to fill that empty hole we think we have. For some singles, this is the driving force in their life, as it was for me at one time. Yet, as Christians, our primary purpose in life is to grow in our relationship to our Lord. We need to serve and glorify God, and fulfill the call and the destiny that He gives us. This also translates into who we are and how we should be in Christ. This is true in the arena of all relationships, even for finding the "love of your life." Thus, we need to find out what God's plan is for relationships, and then follow it. It seems simple on the surface, and it really is. The problem is that we have clouded God's plan with our superficial culture and desires. We seek that crapshoot rather than the stability of impacting faith and Godly values.Building your Foundation with Right Biblical Mindset from Galatians 2:20-21:
The goal--from finding friendships to finding the "love of your life"--is to live in undivided surrender and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is Lord, meaning that He is in charge of all areas of our lives. He is our first and primary love! That means your life must reflect the glory of God, and serve as an example in a world of temptation and evil. Since He represented us in life and death, and imparts to us His grace, this is our driving force, our number one reason in life and in eternity to come. Because of what He has done for us, we should have the desire to assemble our lives to glorify Him. That means to also strive to the best of your ability to achieve fullness in relationships. We have to be willing to take this to heart: His Will supercedes ours, as His is the best, whereas our will and desires are limited in our understanding and knowledge. By surrendering our Will to His Will, we can build a foundation of trust, reliance, and obedience. These actions become the foundation upon which to build the rest of the house of character, values, and fortitude, where a Christ-centered relationship can live and grow.
You will then be able to make healthy and wise decisions because the Lord, through His Word and the Spirit, is your Guide, as opposed to what the media, friends, your passions, and emotions may dictate. Because you are seeking His truth, you will be able to discern who is right for you. Following these timeless Biblical precepts will help you make the right decisions, and avoid making the wrong ones. If for some reason you decide God's ways are not for you, be fore- warned, as you will lose yourself into the maze realm of wrong decisions and you may never receive what He has and what is best for you. Thus you may face the unpleasant prospect of venturing into a life of misery and strife. So, why do that?
We need to learn four primary attitudes that lay the foundation for building effective relationships. These are like the footers to a skyscraper-massive, concrete platforms where the steal girders that hold up the entire building are placed. Just like the crossbeams that are bolted and welded on those girders, each of these aspects needs to be bolted upon one another. Each one produces the next one and is dependent on the previous one, thus they all work synergistically tighter, and together, to form us into the Person God has called us to be. These lay the groundwork for constructing the character, maturity, and willingness to make right decisions and to continue to assemble those relationships in the right direction. These will be the foundation to understanding God's Will. The remainder of the precepts we investigate will build the skyscraper of relationships.
Read Galatians 2:20-21; Philippians 3:1-16, then discuss this section and answer these questions:
1. What are some of the key words from these two passages, that jump out at you?
2. What roles have surrender, and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ played in your relationships?
3. What role should it play?
4. What would your relationships look like if your life was centered on these Scriptural precepts?
5. What blocks these precepts from working in you?
6. What do you need to learn here?
Two penetrating questions that have pondered humanity since the dawn of time are, "who are you?" and, "what do you want?" These form the foundation of the disciplines of philosophy and religious studies, affecting the humanities, sociology, and, of course, psychology. These questions fuel what directs us, and who motivates us to do what we do and to be who we are. This is the meaning of life stuff. Through understanding Christ and who we are in Him, these two ageless questions come alive to help sustain us and direct us in the right direction. As a result, we will center our motivations and directions on Him, on what is perfect and pleasing, and not what we think. Our answers will only serve to get us lost. However, the key is to understand the answers to these questions that Jesus asks us in His Word. If we get the answers wrong, we get lost in that maze of life; if we get them right, we stay on the right path. Are you thinking, hey, that is not fair, or, is life just a big test? Take this to heart; you have the answer sheet--His Word. He has written the answers in creation, in our hearts, and revealed them in His Word. We have no excuse not to know, but because of our fall, the fog of our Will and desires obscures them from view.
Take comfort in the awareness that God is not hidden, nor, is His Will so mysterious we cannot find it. God's influence, glory and presence are all around us; this is called "mediated revelation". This is not pantheism, which teaches that everything is God, that creation itself is God. Rather, God is all present, "omnipresent", and we have no escape from Him. He reveals His presence to us in countless ways.
These meaning of life questions also mean that we as humans are religious by nature and seek a higher purpose and order. God uses that nature to make Himself known. "Immediate revelation" means that God plants an innate sense of who He is in each of us, even without the Bible or missions (Psalm 19; Isaiah 44:9-20; Acts 14:8-19; 17: 16:34; Romans 1:18-23; 2:14-15; Colossians 3:5, However, remember that missions and evangelism are still a mandate from our Lord!) Coupled to God's revelation in nature and in our hearts, we have "special revelation," which is the Bible that God directly inspired, and is the ultimate source and superintendent of the original manuscripts, without any error. He used humans as the authors, and as a tool, a word processor. Thus, this gives us His Will for our faith, and practice of life, duty, law, grace, His plan, and our purpose (Psalm 119; John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
Why the theology lesson? We have to know from whence our direction in life comes. This is foundational for all aspects of who we are, what we do, and where we are going. What motivates us and creates in us our actions and behaviors will translate in our relationship with God and how we are with those around us. If you do not get this, that God has a plan for you, you will have tremendous issues and obstacles that you may never climb over to become the person that God desires and calls you to be. The best plans and the best adventures and contentment and joys we can ever have in life can easily be missed because we have become stubborn, and refuse to look up at Him.
Here comes some more theology, essential theology to know so you can get yourself on the right path, to know God better, and to receive His direction.
Throughout recorded human history, humanity has gathered for trade and protection, as well as for organizing the gathering of food, for hunting, and for forming relationships within a structure, which translates into control and government. The word Kingdom, in the Kingdom of God or Heaven, means government; it is the need to be organized for purpose and direction. Some people lead, others strive to obey, while others seek to destroy. That is a result of our fallen nature and criminal element. Nevertheless, we need leadership and direction to succeed in building a society, and building relationships. Biblically, we are called to have a civil government and obey it-within the parameters that there is actually only one true government and leader-and that is, God. This means we are to yield to the implementation of our God's "Lordship," that He is our King, hence, the name, "Kingdom of God." He is sovereign; He is the absolute monarch of the universe. His rule is absolute. When we refuse to be governed and controlled, anarchy and chaos will result because of our sinful nature, and will cause harm to others (Romans 1:21). Thus, it is our responsibility to obey God, and the others who have responsibility over us (Romans 13:1-7).
This theme, the Kingdom of God, is found throughout Scripture, and links the two Testaments. It exists now with God's reign of His people, and it will come in the future (Psalm 10:16--18; Daniel 2:44; 4:34; Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 3:1-12; 4:23; 24:14; 28:18-20; Luke 11:20; 16:16; 17:21; 22:16-30; John 18:36; Acts 20:25; 28:23-31; Colossians 1:13; 28-29; Galatians 3:16; 26-29; Ephesians 2:11-18; 3:6-15; Hebrews 1:8-14; Revelation 5:9-10; 7:9; 17:14; 19:16). Yes, a lot of Scriptures, indeed; now you can start to see how important this is!
John the Baptist announced the Kingdom to us, with a sense of urgency, at the inauguration of Jesus' ministry on earth. It is now in its beginning, and will be fulfilled, as Jesus said, in the future. Thus, it is already running, and there is more to come with Christ's second coming. Exactly what, we do not know; we only have a glimpse. What we do know is that it will be consummated.
Jesus preached the Kingdom of Heaven, which is here and is to come (Matthew 3:2; 4:23; 5:3,10,19-20; 6:10; 33; 7:21; 10:7; 13:24-47). The term, the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew, is the same thing as the Kingdom of God in the other three Gospels. They both mean God's rule and sovereignty. They point to our eternal future and the church today. Matthew used the expression, Kingdom of Heaven, almost exclusively, whereas the other gospels use the term Kingdom of God. The distinction lies in who the audience was. The Jews, to whom Matthew wrote, were reluctant to say the name of God because of their high reverence for His name. To the Gentiles and Greeks it did not matter. The Kingdom of Heaven will culminate with our Lord's second coming, bringing in a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13-14; Revelation 21-22).
What does this boil down to? Our task in the church is to proclaim Christ as Lord, and His character, righteousness, peace, and joy, all by the Holy Spirit. This will effectively be the catalyst to build quality, lasting, and effective relationships. The "coming of the Kingdom" in the Old Testament meant that a new stage in God's redemptive plan was coming--CHRIST. For us, it means our personal identification and relationship to our Lord and Savior! Our need is to bow to His Lordship for our betterment and growth! This will keep us going on the right path through that dark, foreboding maze of the pandemonium of life!
Read Matthew 5:3; 6:10-13; 7:21; 13:24-33 then discuss this section and answer these questions:
1. What are some of the points in this section that have gotten your attention, and, why?
2. "Who are you?" and, "what do you want?"
3. What does poor in Spirit mean to you?
(Poor in Spirit: (Psalm 9:18; Romans 9:30-31) may conjure up ideas of physical and social poverty, but it actually means total dependence on God, realizing our sinfulness (Psalm. 40:17; 86:1; 109:22; Jeremiah 22:15-16)! Poor in Spirit means to be humble and surrendered, where we do not look to ourselves, but to God. It is the realization that we are sinners, having no righteousness of our own. We are saved by the grace and mercy of God alone (Isaiah 57: 15; 66:1-2; Luke 18:13; Galatians 2:20-21: Ephesians 2:8-9)! The cure to physical and spiritual poverty is the realization of what really is important, and who we are in Christ!
The opposite of this concept is being prideful and self reliant, to the exclusion of allowing Christ to work in you, or allowing Him to use you to help others. In so doing, you are keeping yourself, and others, in spiritual, and physical poverty, and oppression (Luke 18:9-14; Rev. 3:17-19)!)
4. How can the Lord's Prayer be a focus for your life?
5. Jesus places a premium to do His will! So, what is His will?
Did you know God's Will is not about programs or activities; it is not about jobs, school, or what color socks to buy? It is about our growth and maturity in Him. His will is for us to know Him, make Him known, and grow in Him. Yet, few of us Christians place our efforts there; we focus on careers, power, and various opportunities-all of which are important. However, that is not what He considers premium!
6. What do you consider premium?
7. How does understanding the Kingdom of God translate to how you live your life?
8. The Kingdom of God means our yielding to our God's "Lordship," acknowledging that He is our King. What does this mean to you? What should it mean?
9. What does this section boil down to? How will it be the road to understanding your purpose in life?
10. Why would understanding our life's purpose help us in love, and relationships?
Pray as a group and individually at home about how what we talked about can make you a changed person, so you can apply these precepts to all of your relationships!