Building a Trellis (Rule of Life) – Week 3: Relationships
This past week’s message unpacked the third bucket in our Rule of Life: Relationships. We need a trellis, a plan for relationships for two reasons:
- They don’t just happen (even though that would be easier)
- Our life with God is inextricably linked to the flesh & blood relationships around us
This week’s blog aims to help you think through how to be intentional about the relationships in your life, building a plan or structure that will allow them to grow. Over the week we will look at the relationships in your life through two lenses: (1) people who bring the love of God near to you, and (2) people who you are called to love
Day 1 – Real Community
We anchored the idea of intentional relationships in the book of Acts’ description of the early Jesus-following community, in Acts 2:42-47. Take time to read this passage slowly.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved
Now read it again, circling or making note of the various descriptions of how they related to each other.
Which descriptions resonate most with you? Why?
Which descriptions are most difficult for you to understand or perhaps make you slightly fearful or hesitant?
Is there anything specific you sense Jesus might be calling you to do in response to this passage?
Take a few moments to pray:
- For your own life in community. Is there something you want to ask for? Is there something you need to confess? Is there hurt you need to ask Jesus to heal?
- For our community at The Well. What does our church most need in these days? Where have you been blessed by this church (thank God for it!). What things do you long to see us become?
- Prayer for perseverance (to be devoted) for you and for our church – to patiently “stay with”, “persist at”, “Be loyal to” as we seek to become a community like this.
Day 2 – I want what you have
When it comes to receiving the love of God, we need people in our lives whose friendship and presence makes us want to know Jesus more. When we are around them, we find a life and character which makes us feel like we are in the presence of Jesus. It’s not that they are perfect or sickly sweet, rather they have a way of living and being, talking and thinking, that makes you want the relationship they have with Jesus. This is a good thing to covet! The apostle Paul says it simply and clearly: Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Cor 11:1, NIV). We need people to follow who are themselves following Christ.
Take 2 minutes to be silent in the presence of God. If it helps you to focus your mind, you can quietly pray “Jesus, I want to follow you” as you slow down your breathing. Remember that Jesus is with you, through His Spirit, right where you are; in the same space.
As you reflect on the last few months or even year, who in your life has the above effect on you?
If someone specific comes to mind, reflect on when and how that relationship has impacted you.
What is a step you could take to be more intentional with this relationship? It may be reconnecting once (as a start). It may be asking to see them regularly. If there are a few people, ask Jesus to help you focus on one or two in particular.
If no one specific comes to mind, ask Jesus to bring someone into your life, or bring a name to mind of someone who might be able to become like this for you.
Now list all the people who have had this kind of effect on you. Even though they all likely can’t be intentional on-going relationships for you, take a moment to thank God for all of them and the things in your life that have resulted from knowing them.
Close your time in 2 minutes of silence, sitting in the presence of God, knowing that He can and will help you with this.
Day 3 – It’s not one or the other
One of the descriptions of life-giving relationships in Acts 2 is in v.46: They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
This short description rescues us from two extremes that we can fall into when it comes to our relationships.
On the one hand, some of us may have people in our lives with whom we love to share meals, experiences, bike rides, cottage weekends, sports and general downtime. This is good – it’s described above (eating together with joy). But if these relationships are only about sharing experiences and don’t include “praising God”, they will not truly change us. We need these relationships to include “Sharing God” – who God is, what He is doing, how we are experiencing his love. Some of us need to write down specific steps we need to take in order to be more intentional about the kinds of conversations we have with the people we love to hang out with. More than just prayer before a meal, maybe it looks like including new kinds of questions in your dinner discussion or bike ride:
Where do you see God at work in your life?
Where are you struggling to see God at work in your life?
Can I tell you something I’ve been praying about lately?
How can I pray for you?
Maybe it means asking someone to read a book that you’re reading, or to have a meal after weekly worship to talk about it together. Or it might mean challenging your Home Group to be more honest with each other about what’s really going in our lives, where we need prayer, where we are seeing God (or needing to see Him more).
The other extreme is that we see relationships in our faith community only in terms of bible study, prayer or spiritual conversation, but we miss out on sharing life together – meals, laughter, experiences. These are things we perhaps reserve only for family. This is incomplete as well. Christian community involves both. It actually rescues our spirituality from being internal, non-material or merely philosophical. If that’s true in some way of your relationships, what specific steps can you take to break the false barrier between these two aspects of your life (sharing God, sharing life)?
It may include a meal, taking a short vacation with another family or friend, meeting with individuals in your HG for more than just HG night.
Day 4 – Who am I called to love?
Acts 2:44-45: All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need
One of the key questions to shape the relationships bucket in your Rule of Life is this: Who am I called to love?
The description of Jesus-centered community in Acts 2 includes a radical kind of sharing. It was a perspective which understood that “whatever I have is meant to be shared”. The primary way people are going to experience the love of God is through the love of real people – God with skin on, as someone once said.
As we said in the message, if you are married and/or have children, these are the first priority in your relationship bucket. The New Testament letters repeatedly call husbands and wives, mothers and fathers (and children) to love and serve each other. If you happen to be in a season where any of these relationships are strained or suffering, these names need to occupy a good portion of your relationship bucket.
Beyond your immediate family, who else – neighbor, friend, teammate, co-worker – might God be calling you to love and serve? Again, this can’t be a list of 10-20 people; more like 5.
As you think about these two groups of people, as names begin to come to the forefront of your mind, ask yourself: What specific things can I do to intentionally grow these relationships?
If you’re married, perhaps the marriage course (click here for more info) could be the perfect next step. Talk about intentional!
If there’s a name of a neighbor or friend:
- Are you aware of a financial or relational need they currently have?
- What is something you have “more than you need” of right now (time? Money? A big home or backyard?) How can you share that with them?
When it comes to your marriage, youth group, Home Group, neighborhood or church community:
- Pray for God’s love to fill your heart, so you have an even greater desire to serve them
- Pray for the needs in their lives that you are aware of
- Pray for couples taking the marriage course – that God will help them break through to a deeper, Jesus-fueled love for each other
Day 5 – The death of a dream
I wrote out a benediction for the church which I read out on Sunday – ICYMI:
In the midst of this disruption – this uncertainty and interruption – there is a chance for something new.
So hear this benediction: As a good word – From our good God – ‘cause Lord knows we need it
God who created the whole world – out of darkness, emptiness and chaos – where certainty and stability are all but lost – Can fill the empty buckets of your life – Through the flesh and blood of real people – who keep it real and make God real
May Jesus – through his flesh and blood body the church, Show you how loved you are – and just how far – you need to go to love like that.
And let the Holy Spirit – the presence of God in the present tense, Fill you with joy and hope – so that the watching world struggling just to cope – Takes a second look – at you – at Him
And where our dreams of community have to die, b/c they were too lofty, too high – so philosophied and idealized they could never be realized – Lord, let us down gently
And give us instead – A reality of life with you through the ordinary, sinful, beautiful but broken community – Not dabbling but devoted to unity
Where love flows in to us – And love flows out through us – Let the church say AMEN to that
We talked a bit about the fact that we have a tendency to idealize community; to have a dream about what it could be or should be or might be. While this is natural, it’s deadly. It may lead us to put unrealistic expectations on the people in our lives (family, friends, church), or be crushed with disappointment (and eventually bitterness and fear) when they inevitably fall short of what they are supposed to be. What is the solution? To be cynical, guarded and just lower our expectations? There’s a better way I think…
- Acknowledge and grieve the losses you’ve had in community – the things people have said and done, the things they haven’t said or didn’t do. It’s OK and appropriate to put words to your hurts that have come from others (especially those who were “supposed” to show you the love of Christ).
- Ask Jesus to heal those hurts (consider contacting a pastor or friend in our church community for prayer if you need help to heal).
- Confess: Start by acknowledging that our expectations of people are sometimes unrealistic; or at the very least acknowledge that we don’t live up to the expectations of others either. Recognize that we are all sinners, trying to work out community together. Confess any bitterness, cynicism, anger, hatred or despair that you have allowed to fester because of past hurts.
- Ask Jesus to lead you further into loving community; to help you identify the ones who fill you with the love of Christ, and the ones you have been called to love.
- Recommit yourself to persevering, staying with, being loyal to, the flesh & blood real community that’s in front of you (rather than dreaming about the way you wish it could or should be).