Invest in Your Prime Relationships - Part 2

What are your "Prime Relationships"? In the last UPGRADE post, Dawn asked this question and said we can all invest more in our prime relationships. First we invest in our relationship with the Lord, and then we invest in ourselves (so we will be strong and ready to serve God).

There are three other priority relationships, and investments in each of them can make a huge difference in OUR lives - and in THEIRS!

          Investment #3: INVEST in YOUR SPOUSE

If you are married, this is your prime relationship after your relationship with God. 
There are so many ways to invest in a spouse. Here are only a few:

1. Communicate Love and Appreciation.
  • Learn and apply the "love list." There are many aspects to biblical love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Try to apply as many as you can each day!
  • Make regular verbal "deposits." Loving verbal "deposits" will strengthen your spouse and marriage. Tough times will come to every marriage, but a couple who take time to communicate lots of "love investments" will find they have together-strength to weather problems.
2. Develop a Partnership.
  • Don't try to go it alone. You are "heirs of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7). Understand how two can be better together: "Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow ... Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11).
  • Become friendly warriors together in the battle against temptation. Prayer can united you, so pray about various struggles in your marriage and look for that "way of escape" together. (Matthew 6:13; 1 Corinthians 10:13).
  • Seek the Lord together for His purposes in your home.
  • Ask, "How can I help?" What can you do to help your partner become the person God intends them to be? To help them achieve their goals? To help them dream, and step out and take risks?
3. Value Gifts and Skills.
  • Discover your Partner's spiritual gifts. Your partner has special God-given gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-9; Romans 12:6-8). Seek ways to help your partner use those gifts at home, church and in your community.
  • Notice your partner's skills. They can not only be used to bless your marriage, but also to serve the Lord in many ways.
  • Help cultivate these gifts. Use your time and resources to help them develop. 
  • Appreciate and value your partner. Praise their accomplishments in public.
4. Fulfill Your Role.
  • Study the Blueprint. The biblical pattern is found in Ephesians 6:21-33. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but there are practical ways "roles" might be exhibited in the home.
  • Husbands can:
  1. Protect, provide for, lead with love and wisdom.
  2. Watch for problems they might help their wives solve and assist her in ways she desires to bless the home.
  3. Respond in gentle, loving, kind and respectful ways to honor their wives (1 Peter 3:7)
  4. Share appropriate public praise or recognition of their accomplishments.
  5. Study their wives and help them become the women God purposed them to be.
Wives can:
  1. Support and encourage the husband's leadership in the home.
  2. Appreciate their need for work outside the home.
  3. Use wisdom and skills inside and outside the home. Manage their home well.
  4. Show her husband respect (Ephesians 5:33b)—and when this is difficult because of bad behavior choices, she can still focus on good qualities, and give kind, supportive input. (She can pray for and allow the Lord to change her husband, patient and trusting Him with her highest hopes for her man.)
  5. Understand and appreciate her husband's God-given sexual needs.
          Investment #4: INVEST in YOUR CHILDREN

After your spouse, your children are the next priority investment—not the other way around.

1. Love Them Unconditionally.
  • Don't expect perfection. Your kids are going to mess up. They're kids! (Some days, be glad if they do one awesome thing!) Regardless, love them without any conditions; let them know you will love them no matter what.
  • Express your love privately and publicly. Speak well of your children to others; that's what people will remember. So will your kids!
  • Help them see the value of "family." Do all you can to strengthen bonds of love between family members to give them a loving heritage.
2. Teach Them to Seek the Lord.
  • Help them see their need for the Lord. Do not be harsh, but use teachable moments to show them how they are sinners in need of a Savior.
  • Don't give answers too quickly. Challenge your child (and teach them how) to search the scriptures for the tough questions ( You want to prepare them for life!)
  • Teach them how to pray. Teach them to talk to the Lord as a loving Heavenly Father and friend, but also as the Sovereign God of the universe! Encourage prayer times that worship more than whine, and praise more than petition.
  • Promote a godly legacy. Make sure your children understand how the Lord has worked and blessed in your family (Psalm 78:4; Deuteronomy 6:5-7; Isaiah 38:19).
3. Discipline Wisely.
  • Distinguish between immaturity and defiance. Defiance is one thing, childishness is another. As one pastor wrote, life shouldn't feel like a "perpetual spanking" to a child. Major on the majors; don't get hung up with petty things.
  • Discipline quickly and wisely. Don't stay angry; deal with willful sin and usher the child into a place of repentance. Don't provoke your children (Ephesians 6:4), but pursue a biblical balance of dealing with sinful, rebellious behavior in a spirit of love and mercy. Follow your Father's example (Psalm 103:13) There is no room for verbal or physical abuse to vent anger, but there is a place for discipline too (Proverbs 3:12; 13:24; Hebrews 12:10).
  • Encourage proper respect. Teach your child to fear (reverence/respect) the Lord (Proverbs 1:7) but also your authority (Ephesians 6:1-3; Hebrews 12:9).
  • Encourage growth and change. Train them in "the way they should go" (Proverbs 22:6). Help them learn how do deal with temptation. Always remind them of the grace of God.
4. Model Good Character.
  • Model behavior you want repeated. Children are always watching. They are looking for the fruit of the "sermons" you speak to them.
  • Reward good behavior. Catch the doing good and praise it. Don't always dwell on what they're doing wrong. Help them grow in godliness (Hebrews 12:10).
  • Train them to be responsible. Focus on skills they'll need as functioning adults.
  • Help them cultivate godly friendships. Peer influence will grow in their pre-teen and teen years; encourage wisdom in choosing friendship (show them examples of godliness) and help them be good, godly and loyal friends themselves (Proverbs 12:26; 13:20; 17:17; 1 Corinthians 15:33. Model positive friendship in your own relationships.
5. Encourage Creative Growth.
  • Don't overschedule their lives. Children respond to routines and schedules—but don't forget to schedule in plenty of blocks of free time.
  • Encourage their creativity. When they're young, play with them. Play "pretend" to give them opportunities to "try on" different ideas, skills, etc.
  • Help them stretch. As they grow, help them take reasonable risks to stretch outside their comfort zones. Let them make messes (and teach them how to clean up afterward).
  • Give them space to pursue their dreams.
          Investment #5: INVEST in YOUR FRIENDSHIPS

Good friends don't just happen. Friendship requires intentional investment.

1. Practice Committed Encouragement.
  • Be intentional. Hit-and-miss doesn't work in friendship building (although I do believe friends can pick up where they left off).
  • Practice loyalty. Aim for comitment and consistency. Be persistent to find ways to encourage your friend with love, especially in times they struggle (Proverbs 17:17).
  • Be generous. Share your time and resources.
  • Build into their lives. Make it your goal to "bless" your friend in as many ways as you can.
2. Listen More and Better.
  • Listen to their heart. To invest in a friend's life, first stop talking about yourself! Listen carefully to what they say, but also to how they share what's on their heart.
  • Listen with compassion. Squash judgemental thoughts.
  • Ask questions. Seek to understand so you can encourage. It will a breath fresh life into the relationship and "sharpen" your friend (Proverbs 27:17).
3. Challenge Greater Growth.
  • Go deeper, with purpose. If youi've developed the kind of friendship that can bear the weight of accountability, ask deeper questions that challenge your friend to greater growth (Proverbs 12:26; 27:5-6). Share scriptures that will build strength and faith.
  • Come alongside. Help your friends move outside their comfort zones ... and be willing to go there with them, if you can. A friend that comes alongside is valuable indeed!
  • Pray for your friend regularly. Ask for specific requests, pray, and check up later!
Can you apply any of these strategies to your own prime relationships? Which one would make the biggest difference today?

Note: There was a lot of territory covered in these two posts, and by all means, it does not cover everything that will encourage wise investments in your relationships. I encourage you to discover more as you "read the manual" for all relationships: the Word of God.


Invest in Your Prime Relationships - Part 1

What are your "Prime Relationships"? We can make intentional  "investments" in these relationships that reap powerful results—so it's important to know what they are.

Investments are not only about money. Investments are akin to watering what you want to grow! We can invest in relationships!

When we invest in someone's life, it likely to cost us something. But investing is wise!

  • Someone invested invested in my life this year with her time, helping me with a project.
  • Another someone invested in my life using her financial resources.
  • And another invested encouragement, motivating me to see the big picture when I was so focused on one failing day.
I want to invest in others' lives too, with time, talents, finances, prayers, words, truth ... and so much more. I'm asking the Lord to help me see needs so I can "invest" wisely. How about you?
In this two-part post, I want to share some practical ways we can wisely and faithfully "invest."
These are the first two "investments."

          Investment #1. INVEST in YOUR LORD

Don't forget: this is your prime relationship! 
Jesus said, "...what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36). 
We can store up treasures and yet not be "rich toward God" (Luke 12:21).

Steven Cole, pastor of Flagstaff Christian Fellowship, wrote, "To invest your life successfully, deposit it with Christ and guard His deposit with you." (See 2 Timothy 1:12-14.) So how do you invest in your relationship with the Lord?

1. Know the Lord.
2. Deposit Your Life with the Lord.
  • Trust His character. God is good, faithful and trustworthy (Psalm 100:5; 2 Timothy 1:12b).
  • Appreciate His love. You could not want a more caring friend than His Son who died for you (John 3:16; 1 John 4:19)
  • Celebrate your security. You are totally secure in Christ (John 10:27-28). You can safely surrender to His love and control.
3. Seek to Please the Father.
4. Cherish His Word.
5. Rely on the Holy Spirit.
          Investment #2. INVEST in YOURSELF.

Viewed correctly and biblically this isn't selfishness.
If you don't invest in your own health and well-being, how will you find the strength to invest in others?
I learned this the hard way. Because I failed to care for my health, I lost many opportunities to serve the Lord and help people.
Loving others as yourself assumes you've learned how to love yourself biblically (Mark 12:30-31). 

1. Take Care of Yourself!
  • Nurture your body; treat it as a well-oiled machine. Use high quality fuel, healthy food choices. Try eating only foods God created. Eat good protein for energy. Choose carbs wisely. Cut back on (or eliminate) sugar and salt. (Christians, the Bible says our bodies are the "temple" for His indwelling (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). That should mean something to us!)
  • Move your body. Choose exercise you love and can stick with consistently. Aim to "train" your body for strength and service (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).
  • Relax. Stress can slow down your "machine," so learn to identify when you're on overload. Rest is biblical (Matthew 11:28-30).
  • Get some sleep ... as much as you need to think clearly and manage your emotions well. God gives His beloved ones sleep (Psalm 127:2).
2. "Paint the Barn."
  • Maintain the Temple. You don't have to overdo with makeup and hair care, but normal, God-honoring maintenance does not equal self-indulgence. Some describe this as "painting the barn." Aim to reflect the beauty of the Lord who created you! Bring glory to the Lord (Colossians 3:17).
  • Style yourself for a simple, attractive appearance. The goal should be to look pleasantly and modestly attractive, not distracting from your Christian testimony but enhancing it so you can draw others to the Lord. Dress modestly and reflect the beautiful person God created you to be.
3. Expand Your Horizons.
  • Discover your strengths and weaknesses. Do you know your spiritual gifts
  • Develop some new skills and explore creativity options. Try something new (gourmet cooking, gardening, photography, etc.) or learn something new (a language, a musical instrument, etc.)
  • Expand your knowledge. Enroll in a workshop, webinar or conference. Read for knowledge and growth. Nurture your mind. Be a life-long learner. Seek out a mentor. Explore!
  • Further your education—take a class and get a degree.
4. Plan for Strategic Dreaming!
  • Plan to decompress. And especially if you have small children, this isn't a luxury; it's a necessity!
  • Plan in daily "breaks" to rest and recharge. You need breaks, even if vacations or days off are out of the question.  
  • Give yourself permission and time to dream. Be intentional.
  • Be a FINANCIAL investor. This is the normal way we think of investing, and it is important. If you're not saving now, start. If you're not budgeting, start. If you're not giving to the Lord and investing in missions and worthy outreaches, start!
  • Set aside some "dream" money. What's on your bucket list? What can you do financially to pursue your biggest dreams?
5. Practice Gratitude.
  • Look for things to appreciate. At all times ... in all things (1 Thessalonians  5:18). 
  • Train yourself to notice God's goodness.  See it in nature, in circumstances, in people.  There are so many opportunities to see God's hand in your life. Stop and notice!  (James 1:17; Psalm 34:8; 84:11)
  • Be thankful for grace. Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more (Romans 5:20).
  • Worship in thanksgiving. Be grateful for the cross. We all worship things and people every day ... be sure you're worshiping the Lord, not "idols" that can never satisfy. (Psalm 100)
We'll continue with three more "investments" in the next post.

Meanwhile, do you need to invest more in your relationship with the Lord, in your own well-being, or in your husband? Which of these tips might help today?


Remember, Return and Trust

I keep thinking about what and who America needs "for such a time as this."

  • We need a strong military and leaders who are courageous.
  • We need powerful strategies and strong weapons of warfare.
  • We need appropriate responses toward those who desire to destroy people and nations.
  • But we must first seek and place our confidence in the Lord.

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses ...
but we will remember and trust in the name
of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7, Amp)

We need moral fiber and strong character, and these things only come from the God who created us.

"Righteousness [moral and spiritual integrity
and virtuous character,
exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace
to any people" (Proverbs 14:34, Amp).

We are far from being a righteous people. We desperately need changed hearts. People need to know the Lord God of heaven who changes people from the inside out. (People need Jesus!)

And those who know Him - those who name the name of Christ - are not guiltless. We, in many, many cases, look and act just like "the world."

God has always called His people to "come out" from the world even as we live in it ... to be holy as He is holy.

"I do not ask You to take them out of the world,
but that You keep them and protect them from the evil one,.
They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them in the truth [set them apart for Your purposes,
make them holy]; Your word is truth" (John 17:15-17, Amp)

"... You shall be holy (set apart), for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16, Amp)

We need wisdom, we need strength, we need courageous leaders ... but most of all, we need revival.

"... we will remember and trust in the name of the LORD our God."

We must remember ... and we must return and trust.

NOTE: OneCry is a nationwide Call for Spiritual Awakening. I recommend this as a means to draw us back to the Lord.

Graphic: courtesy of Morguefile


My 4 Commitments in America's Unrest

I hesitate to write about the recent violence in America. I am no expert. I am only a member of God's family who loves His Word, and I'm trying to make sense of what I see.

I loved sharing with four "women of color" in two different circumstances this week - at a luncheon with evangelical women, and at my home church. We laughed, hugged and talked about things that matter.

I talked with one of them about all the upheaval we're seeing on television, and it was good to join in unity around the truth of scripture.

The Lord calls us to love others, but He also calls us to speak truth to one another. Oh, how desperately Americans need to hear the truth of the Word of God. It speaks to all the pain, but people turn away, unwilling to hear.

The sin problem touches all of us.
"As God's image bearers we are all equal," wrote Trillia Newbell. "We are equal in dignity and worth ... We are also fallen equally...."
I am responsible for my own attitudes. So are you. We can work and pray for reconciliation as the Lord brings these opportunities to us. I cannot fully understand the pain others have suffered, but that doesn't mean I can stop listening or stop trying to understand.

Yes, I recognize the sins of the past. But I do not dwell there. The Lord enables people to grow and move forward in forgiveness and grace past all grievances ... if we are willing.

In these scary days, I am committed to four things:

1. I will denounce evil wherever I find it. Even within myself. Especially within myself.

Again, the "speaking the truth in love" principle applies (Ephesians 4:15). We can't compromise with sin; but we can always lean in with greater love. We can hold out for hope.

2. I will strive to love with God's holy love.

God's "holy love" is not squishy. It's strong ... a love that is set apart and beyond compare.

3. I will stop speaking in stereotypes. They don't help, and most of the time they lack in compassion or understanding.

4.I will learn to see the people of the world as Jesus does - as sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

I sorrow when I see the palpable anger in our culture. I am terribly sad over the moral decline in America. And I know it must pain God's heart that we have forgotten Him ... that we ignore - or worse - reject Him in all our struggles.

As a Christ-follower, I believe the answers to all our problems are not found in any earthly "savior" - only in THE Savior, the Lamb who is still calling people from every nation, tribe, people and language (Revelation 7:9).

Are you struggling with the violence and unrest we see in America? How is the Lord or His Word helping you respond in ways that are helpful - and in ways that will honor Him?

graphic from Morguefile


Christians, Declare Your Freedom!

With July 4th just around the corner, and millions of Americans making plans to celebrate America's Independence Day, I had some thoughts about the word "freedom."

We like to think we're a free people, but many of us are still living in shackles."

Christians, why do we live enslaved to hurtful attitudes or chained to addictions? It's time to declare our freedom.

As I studied Romans 8, I was struck by the strong sense of freedom throughout this chapter. It's a Declaration of Independence, not just from something, but in Someone!

Our Independence comes through DEPENDENCE on Christ!

I think there's four ways the Christian can declare freedom.

1. Declare Your Freedom in God's Righteousness (Romans 8:1-4).
In Adam's sin, we were all condemned, but in the righteousness of Christ there is no condemnation (8:1). We won't be judged for sin if we rest in the work Christ did for us on the cross and in His resurrection.

We may suffer the natural consequences of sin, but not condemnation.

We are free from the law (Romans 7:4; 8:2) and it can no longer condemn us. Jesus already took that condemnation upon Himself (8:3). It's why He came! (John 3:17).

If we believe in the salvation Jesus came to give us, we are not judged, but if we refuse to believe, we're "condemned already" (John 3:18).

When we are "in Christ," we are empowered and controlled by the Holy Spirit, not the law (8:4). The indwelling Spirit enables us to be holy and obedient, pleasing God (Philippians 2:13).

This is our "declaration of independence" from the law.
In the Spirit we have life and liberty and enjoy the pursuit of "happiness"—joy in the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:17Romans 8:2, 4).
2. Declare Your Freedom in God's Power (Romans 8:5-17).

Before we are in Christ, we are "debtors" to our sinful flesh (8:12) and we cannot live in victory over sin.

There's a distinct difference between death and indebtedness to the flesh vs. life and freedom in the Spirit:
  • In the flesh, we dwell on things that please the flesh (8:5; James 1:14); that is the natural bent of our lives. 
  • But in the Spirit, we focus on things that please the Lord. That is our new heart desire.
  • In the flesh, we are spiritually dead—though physically alive (8:6). We may be nice, moral, even religious, but we are "dead" and desperately need the Spirit of Life! 
  • In the Spirit, we are truly alive—spiritually alive!
  • In the flesh, our nature rebels against God, fighting Him, at war with Him (8:6-7). 
  • But in the Spirit—in Christ—we are at peace with God (Romans 5:1).
  • In the flesh, we're self-pleasers (8:8). 
  • In the Spirit, we say, "Have it your way, Lord!" In other words, in salvation, we have the Spirit (8:9-11), but what's more, the Spirit has us! (8:12-17)

We are adopted into God's family and led by the Spirit. And when we are led by the Spirit, we can have victory, not defeat, in the struggles of life.

In other words, while none of us is perfect—this side of heaven we'll fail and fall many times—we don't HAVE to sin when we are in Christ. We may fail to walk in the Spirit, which leaves us easy prey to the enemy and his strategies, or we may simply choose to sin because we give in to the lusts of our flesh (James 1:14). Either way, we're ignoring the power God wants to give us to live in freedom and victory.

3. Declare Your Freedom in God's Glory (Romans 8:18-30).

I had to think about this one a while. My first reaction reading this section of Romans 8 was: "There's a lot about 'groaning' here!" But understanding the three kinds of "groanings" helped me think about the power and freedom of living in ... and for ... God's glory.

Creation Groans (8:18-22).
Creation—nature and the animal kingdomgroans under the suffering, decay and pain caused by The Fall in Genesis 3. But someday that will change. Creation will be delivered and become what God intended when He declared it good (Genesis 1:31). Redeemed creation will bring glory to God.

Believers Groan (8:23-25).
Because God has given us a foretaste of His glory in salvation, we crave what is ahead. We wait with hope, knowing something is better to come when we are in the presence of God and free from sin forever. Redeemed people will bring glory to God.

The Spirit of God Groans (8:25-30).
He prays for us as we suffer under weakness and suffering. The Spirit desires that we learn how to glorify the Lord now, so He shares our burdens in prayer with great groanings. We don't need to get discouraged and give up. What God began when He chose us in Christ (Ephesians 1:4-5), and continues and He makes us more like His Son, He will finish for His glory in heaven (Philippians 1:6).

4. Declare Your Freedom in God's Love (Romans 8:31-39).

One of the most comforting scriptures is Romans 8:35. It says, "What shall separate us from the love of Christ?" In Christ, we are completely secure, with no fear of separation from God forever.
Every part of the Trinity is "for us" and making us fit for eternity in heaven. God is making all things work for us and, therefore, "who can be against us?"

Jesus died for us (Note: freedom is not free), the Father declared us righteous, the Spirit intercedes for us and God loves us with unfailing love. He uses everything—good times and bad—to purify us and make us "more than conquerors (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Declare your freedom, Child of God.
In Christ, you have the victory!

Are you claiming your freedom in each of these four areas? Which one do you need to embrace and celebrate today?

 - Dawn