This concept is in regard to the conversations we have in the communities and organizations we live in.
The gospel is so much more. It screams of a heart that beats for you and one which desires to be engaged and encountered.
When I sit to describe the Jesus I know, can I really say I know Him at all?
Several years ago I quit making resolutions or new years goals. I accepted, then, a challenge to choose only a word for the year. "One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live or what you want to achieve by the end of 2015. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long. It will take hard work, and will require intentionality and commitment. But if you let it, your word will shape you and your year. It will guide your decisions and help you grow.”
This year my word is: PRAYER.
While I would say I am a man of God's Word, I want to be more of a man of prayer. Prayer is not an element of my relationship with God, it IS my relationship with God. I have to realize my relationship is dependent upon communication and time together.
If I wrote my autobiography, someone could read it inside and out, over and over again. They could highlight important parts about my story and things that mater a great deal to me. But that person does not know me. That person and I have no relationship. We have never sat and spoken together.
Much like this, I can study God's Word inside and out, over and over again. I can highlight important parts and dedicate years and whole college degrees to studying things very important to God. But I could do all of this and still not know God. I do not have a relationship. I have not sat and spoken with Him.
I am a man of God's Word and a man after God's heart, but I want to be MORE of a man of prayer than I have been before. I want to be more of a man of prayer at the end of 2015 than I am right now. I want to know Him more intimately. I want to be terribly close to His heart, and that will only come as we sit and speak together with more intentionality and frequency.
As I have been reading through Bryleigh's Bible, it has brought me to the Song of Songs. I have been very interested to see what this time and entanglement will bring for my heart as I address her in writing regarding a book that Jewish boys were not allowed to read until they became men. Today, I read chapter 2 and came across verse 15. The bride says to her lover, "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards while our vineyards are in blossom."
As The Song can be applied to both our relationship as a bride to our bridegroom, Jesus Christ, it can also be applied to the true love relationship we have with our spouse.
These foxes are any of those things which keep us from Jesus and the life He intends for us. Catch the foxes! Remove the foxes! They must be caught and removed from your relationship with God.
But they ALSO must be caught and removed from your relationship with your spouse. This is an address to husbands! Catch the foxes! Remove the foxes. They must be caught and removed. The good marriage relationship will be one in which you both, but especially the man, DOES the work of catching any foxes which hinder your relationship and your marriage.
I wrote this in the margin of Bryleigh's Bible, and it has stuck with me all day: "If your husband is unwilling to do this sort of work, I doubt his love for you."
So many men are willing to work hard to make money for the family. They are willing to protect their wife from physical harm. I have known countless men who are unwilling to do the work of catching the foxes for their marriage and their family when it comes to the actual relationship. This will require work; uncomfortable work. Your hardest day of work may not compare to the hard work you will do in addressing those things which hinder your relationship and harm your wife to a far deeper place than any physical harm would bring to her. But if you truly love your wife and your family, you must catch the foxes! You must remove the foxes.
If you are unwilling to do this, I question your love for your wife.
We do not give things up for the sake of giving things up. We give things up for the sake of being closer to God and obeying Him more fully. The things we give up are of no value to God. What is of value to God is my very life.
We do not give things up because doing so brings us closer to God. We give things up because we finally recognize nothing else is more important than being closer to God. We give them up "for the sake of the only thing worth having". Getting rid of things does not, themselves, bring us closer to God. Getting rid of things loosens our grip on the things which keep us from grasping a stronger relationship with God.
College relationships can be very ridiculous. One of my favorites is when you see a couple get really close without actually dating. Then one or both of these people involved will drop the dumbest crap I have ever heard, and it happens a lot. "I just need to wait on this relationship for a while. I need to figure some stuff out right now. I need to work on my stuff and get my stuff right before I can get into a relationship right now." Absolutely ridiculous!
I love that someone wants to put off a good relationship because they do not want to bring their crap into a relationship. Newsflash! You are going to bring your crap into a relationship no matter what you do. I do not care if you work your crap out and then get into a relationship. There will always be crap in your life, and it will always follow you into your relationship. You cannot allow your crap to affect or taint your view of your relationship.
I may be married, but Tonya and I both have crap we bring into our relationship. Does that mean our marriage is horrible? Of course not! We have a beautiful marriage that continues to show me more and more of my crap I never knew about, and yet our love grows as I trust her in the revelation and healing process of mine and her crap.
A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE MORE AFRAID OF TRUSTING THE OTHER PERSON THAN THEY ARE OF BRINGING CRAP INTO A RELATIONSHIP!
How great an analogy is human relationships to the connection we have with God! How familiar are those situations to the relationship I have with Christ! I am still learning not to approach God like a college relationship. I will too often look at my relationship with God and get frustrated. I often look at my lacking quiet time. I look at how uncompassionate I am to the broken among me, and then I assume my relationship with Christ must be failing because of all this crap.
I cannot keep connecting all these factors to the "success or failure" of my relationship with Christ. I cannot look at my lacking church attendance or missing a week's tithe and saying, "My relationship with God sucks!" My relationship with Christ is still in pursuit, and all those things are not indicators of a failing relationship. I will always have crap. I will always have walls. I will always mess up on my disciplines. I will always have things I am not that great at doing, but I cannot assume that all these things make my relationship with Christ horrible.
It shows that I do not really trust God's grace and love. I bring all my crap, all my inconsistencies, all my past into relationship with God and trust in his grace and his love. Yes I do have crap! Yes I am inconsistent in my discipline. Yes I need to be more compassionate, but my relationship with God is enriched by my need and desire for Him.
Sometimes I think I am more concerned with seeking God's rewards and gifts instead of seeking Him for the relationship's sake. I read Hebrews 11 and begin seeking God for the rewards that are promised to those who seek Him diligently. But then I try to make this practical and wonder if there have ever been times people have done that with me. Has anyone sought me out solely for the benefits I may bring to them? Has anyone ever sought out my friendship because of something I might offer them?
I cannot recall anyone doing that to me (primarily because I do not have a whole lot of rewards to offer), but what if someone DID pursue a friendship with me SO THAT they may get something out of me as a reward? What if nobody pursued friendship with me because the relationship was reward enough? I would feel pretty used. I would feel like the relationship was not sincere or intimate. That relationship would only LOOK LIKE a relationship.
I have to recheck my relationship with God now. Afterall, Hebrews blatantly tells us that God rewards those who seek Him out, but is that WHY I seek Him? Do I seek God so that He will reward me? That is not a relationship; that is a transaction.
My God, I want to remember you. When I look at the way I relate to you, it is simply sad. It is not okay and no excuse is valid. My heart has not pursued you. I have remained faithful to my deeds. I am sure to maintain the tasks which give the appearance of relationship, but you and I both know the reality of the relationship is lacking, stale, and passionless at times (too many times).
I remember when all I wanted was you. I remember when I only desired time alone with you. I remember when you were my closest and only confidant in times of anxiety and trouble. I remember only wanting to speak to you when things were not okay in my life.
I remember walking hand in hand. I remember the exhilaration of your touch.
I remember having friends who only wanted to know how 'you and I' were doing. Friends who were thrilled to see you and I get closer and closer!
I remember the sense of beauty, passion, desire, creativity I could not contain for you. I remember trying to direct all my efforts and energy toward loving you and making sure others knew I loved you. I remember loving you so much I could not contain my desire for other people I care about to know you. To know "us" together!
I remember not being swayed by comments from people who could not believe someone like YOU would be with someone like me.
I remember the willingness to throw all responsibility aside if it meant time to be closer to you.
I remember these things to remind myself.
I remember these things to remember a burning fire, though recently hidden, was never quenched or doused.
I remember these things to remember a love affair which still remains after I dust away the layers of unintentionality.
I remember these things because I love you.
* Ecc. 12:1; Is. 54:5; 62:5; Jer. 3:14; Rev. 19:7-9