Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jesus' Friends in High Places (No not in heaven)

In 1937 Dale Carnegie wrote a best selling self-help book titled "How to Win Friends and Influence People."  Interestingly as you look at the major themes in the book you find cultural truths now less than a century later.  It is possible that Mr Carnegie tapped into some universal truths that exist in western culture or more likely he has shaped culture over the last 72 years with his philosophy or perhaps a combination of both (perhaps in a future post).  However Jesus did not follow the teachings of Mr Carnegie when it came to dealing with the religious establishment of his day.  He broke the very first fundamental to handling people "don't criticize, condemn, or complain" when it came to the religious leaders of His day.   Needless to say Jesus did not have friends among the religious establishment, or did He?

Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were two friends of Christ that were a part of the religious establishment of His day.  They cooperated to secure Jesus' body after His death on the cross and performed a hasty (due to time constraints), but honorable burial.  Jesus' burial place belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. 

Nicodemus came to Jesus at night to learn from Him (John 3:1-19).  The dialogue recorded with Nicodemus has become the central tenet of all Christian faith.  Jesus shared the most important truth about his purpose here on earth with Nicodemus.  In this section we learn about being "born again (John 3:3)."  This concept confused Nicodemus and Jesus elaborates that unless a person experiences a spiritual conversion (rebirth) then they cannot enter into the "kingdom of God (John 3:5-8)."  Nicodemus continues to be confused.  Jesus continues by explaining that the "One" the "Son of Man" must be trusted in order for this spiritual rebirth to occur and that believing in Him would result in eternal life.  Jesus was of course referring to Himself (see article on "Son of Man").  He then gives the most popular verse in the Bible:

�For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (HCSB)

It is interesting to consider that them most popular verse in all of Christendom was first given to a Pharisee the party that hated Christ and then Christ followers.   God examines the heart not the affiliation. 

The next time we see Nicodemus is in a dispute over the attempted arrest of Jesus Christ (John John 7:32; 50-52).  In this situation they had already made up their mind that Jesus was promoting himself as the messiah.  Their opinion was that he was a false messiah.  Nicodemus defends Jesus by confronting his fellow colleagues that they have not heard the whole story.  He had obviously and some say that he believed on that first night.  This was no small thing that Nicodemus did on that day.  The Jewish leaders had made it clear that anyone that was sympathetic to Christ would be put out (John 9:12).  So Nicodemus was taking a triple risk by standing up for Jesus.  First he risked losing his status as a religious leader.  Second it is likely that Nicodemus was a Pharisee by occupation as well.  In this way he risked his livelihood. Third Nicodemus was a righteous Jew and his faith was very important to him as he sought out truth.  He risked being excommunicated from the very thing that he loved (a place to worship God). 

Finally we see Nicodemus again after Jesus' death (John 19:39-40).  As I read this I wonder, "Where are Christ disciples?"  They had been scattered, but even after His death it does not seem that they returned to give their friend a decent burial.  We see that Nicodemus step up to the Job.  He brought the materials needed for a honorable burial.  There was something in the character of Nicodemus that would not allow Jesus body to be left on the Cross like a common criminal.  He had to do what was honorable no matter what the personal cost would be. 

We only see Joseph of Aramathia at his burial.  Joseph was a wealthy man (Matthew 27:57), a member of the religious ruling body (Sanhedrin Mark 15:43), and secret disciple of Jesus (John 19:38).  Joseph had right motives and a sincere heart.  He had not gone along with his colleagues in the unrighteous condemnation of Christ (Luke 23:50-51).  Trapped by a sincere love of God and they unholy action of his fellow colleagues Joseph did the honorable thing.  He boldly approached Pilate to seek Jesus' body that he might give him a proper burial.  What is more he gave up his family tomb to place Jesus in it.  Think of that for a minute.  Keep in mind that Jesus had not yet been resurrected so there was not context that we have.  If someone a good man needed a burial place how many of us would go down to coroner ask for the body and then bury them in our own burial plot.  Again I am echoing the question in my mind, "Where are the 12 disciples?"  Is it possible that these two with much more to lose in my estimation could have mustered up enough courage to go against the sentiment of their colleagues. 

What can we learn from these two about friendship?  First we have to recognize that friendship can transcend social status and affiliation.  There is something greater than the positions we hold or the things we associate with.  There is friendship "code of honor" if you will that defies this worlds concept of right and wrong.   A friend will come to you even when others have abandoned you.  You might say yes but these came after Jesus had already died.  To which I would reply, "Where are the twelve disciples?"  Their absence is very conspicuous.    You see Jesus had friends in the twelve, but at that moment he needed friends outside the twelve and those friends came from the most unlikely place.  In the end a friend is one that will count the cost and then do what is honorable.  I hope to be and to have such friends whether in public or in secret. 

God Bless You All

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

John the Baptist "Friend of Christ"

John the Baptist

Image by Loci Lenar via Flickr

John considered himself to be a friend of Jesus (John 3:29).  What is it that he did that led him to this opinion of himself?

John was on mission for God.  He knew that God had sent him before the one that was going to bring salvation to the world.  He said that his call had been "given to him from Heaven (John 3:27)."  What is more he in his calling was sent forth like an ambassador goes before a king.  His ministry was in preparation of Christ's (John 3:28).

The imagery changes from forerunner to friend of the groom.  The friend of the groom had a high responsibility.  His job was to find and secure the bride at times.  If the groom was already betrothed (similar to engaged) then the friend of the groom would serve the bride in what ever she needed.  He also was a witness to the couple's fidelity to one another.  The friend would announce the coming wedding celebration.  The friend of the groom was responsible for the preparations for the wedding celebration.  He was like a super-wedding coordinator. 

In this way John was the friend of the groom.  Interestingly several of John's disciples became disciples of Christ and in turn became the early church (securing the bride).  He announced the coming of Christ.  He prepared the way for the wedding by proclaiming the need for repentance. 

What can we glean from this in friendships?  John was a very good friend.  He had a servants heart and was willing to do what ever it took to help his friend.  Admittedly it was our Lord, but a friend still.  He honored his friend by diminishing his importance.  He did not compete with his friend.  He blessed and supported the efforts of his friend.  He was willing to have his disciples transfer to follow his friend.  If we are to be a good friend then we must be able to be a servant, be helpful, honor, in humility, not compete, not demand our own way, support, and willing to sacrifice. 

As I have gone through this I am becoming aware that friendships have more to do with me than they have to do with qualities in others.  If you find someone that is trustworthy then it seems that friendship is the work that you put into it.  What are your thoughts?

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Friends of Christ

Jesus Raises Lazarus

Image by Loci Lenar via Flickr

Speaking of meaningful conversation...

Jesus had many meaningful conversations, but none so dear as the ones that he had with those who were his friends.  Jesus called his closest disciples friends, I will discuss the 12 and the three beloved later.  He also has a group that were not disciples per sey, but experienced friendship with Christ. 

Lazarus, Mary, and Martha

He said this, and then He told them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I'm on My way to wake him up."
John 11:11 (HCSB)

Jesus had a deep care and concern for this family in that lived in Bethany.  Lazarus, Mary, and Martha were siblings.  It is inferred that Martha was the oldest and Lazarus was the youngest.  This family seems to be well off, based on the type of funeral/burial of Lazarus and on them owning very expensive items (See John 11 & John 12:3; 5).  Lazarus is only mentioned in John related to Christ raising him from the dead.  Jesus called Lazarus friend (John 11:11), loved him and his sisters (John 11:1; 5), was willing to risk his life for them (John 11:8), wept at his death (John 11:35-36), became angry that he had died (John 11:33; 38), and raised him from the dead (John 11:43-44).  Martha and Mary are also mentioned in (Luke 10:38-41).  Based on this it would seem that Jesus stopped in to see them whenever he traveled to Jerusalem.  He was quite at home with them and they would care for him while he was there with them.  

How does this apply to us?  We have confidence enough in our friends to trust we would be able lodge with them whenever we pass their way.   That seems to be a higher level of confidence in my mind.  So what is the quality of that type of relationship.  Well Jesus loved them.  Do we have a fond affection for this type of friend?  Jesus also loved them with His whole being so as to be moved to act in their best interests.  Do we act in the best interests of our friends?  Jesus loved them with tenderness.  Do we act with tenderness and compassion?  Jesus laid his life on the line for them (and more generally for us).  Do we sacrifice for our friends?  He shared deep spiritual truths (oh to be at the feet of our Savior and listen to what he had to say; See Luke 10:39).  We do not frankly and more often than not avoid spiritual discussions at all with our friends.

As I learn more about the relationships that Christ I am struck by how much of His life was about serving others.  Often we look at relationships as what benefit we can get out of them.  Jesus on the other hand (as if he needed anything) set that completely opposite.  His approach was what are their needs and how can I meet that need.  Tenderness, compassion, sacrifice, love, trust, and shared spiritual times are the mark of friendship according to an examination of Christ's life.  How are you doing in the friendship department? 

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Is Meaningful Conversation a Measure of Happiness?

Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well

Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr

I have had a bit of writers block, but in my prayer time this morning the log jam in my mind was broken. 

It seems to me that one thing that most people long for is an authentic relationship.  And yet it also seems that it is the one thing that is lacking in nearly everyone's life.  Why?  Well the answer to that is about as diverse as the people that long for them.  Broken trust, past trauma, unmet expectations, living in a fallen world, perfectionism, fear, awkwardness, social degradation, unhealthy messages from past, self-doubt, rebellion, neglect, and on and on all wage an assault on authentic relationships.  If we are honest this assault comes from within as much as it comes from the outside.  When relationships lack authenticity then meaningful conversation is first to go. 

Recently there was a study about having a substantive conversation with others (see article here).  In this study they found that those that had more substantive conversations were generally more happy than those that engaged in small talk.  Interestingly the strongest correlation with lower scores of happiness was being alone (see actual study here).  So being alone in this study is the best predictor of low scores on well-being, next was small talk which was not an effective predictor, but correlated with lower scores on well-being, then substantive conversations was a predictor of of higher scores on well-being.  And the strongest predictor of well-being was being able to talk to others generally (whether or not the conversation was substantive). 

If talk is a measure of authentic relationships (which seems reasonable to me) this study seems to confirm my belief that people are seeking and longing for authentic relationships.  And it would also seem that either people who have a higher sense of well-being seek out more meaningful conversation and/or people who engage in meaningful conversation are generally happier people.  If I had to guess I would say it is probably a little of both. 

Interestingly Jesus offers the opportunity to enter into authentic relationship with Him and in turn with others.  However, I do not see these types of relationships by in large in the church nor in Christian families.  It is possible that I am biased in the fact that I am a counselor and generally I get the darker side of life by virtue of that profession.  However even as I look to relationships outside of my job I discover that rarely is anything ever as it seems.  That underlying most relationships is a longing for authentic relationship.  I am not jaded.  I have seen these relationships, but my gut tells me they are in the minority. 

My wife is one of the authentic relationships.  She knows me better than any person has my whole life.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Yet she accepts me.  That is a precious gift.  Don't get me wrong there is still plenty that I do that gets on her nerves (sometimes I wonder how she does it), but she stays with me and loves me.  Yet even in this relationship, when she or I stop engaging in meaningful conversation, I think my experience is consistent with the study in that my sense of well-being goes down.  I also can say that being alone without my wife around is a time when my well-being is the lowest.  Sorry babe you cannot take that trip out of town with the women (just kidding).

Jesus is one of those relationships where I have experienced authenticity.  Before Him there is nothing hidden (even when I would have them hidden they are not).  So openness is a foregone conclusion.  Yet even in this relationship can lack authenticity.  My own shortcomings can stand in the way.  Not because Jesus, but because of my own pride and/or my own shame.  Either or both of these will become a barrier to authentic relationship with Christ.  Interestingly this same concept of meaningful conversation comes into play.  I notice a correlation to my sense of well being and reading my Bible (the way that Jesus speaks to me) and Prayer (the way that I speak to Jesus and the Holy Spirit leads my heart). 

Where are you at?  Is your relationship with Jesus Authentic?  Do you have a relationship with Christ?  If you do then are you talking with Him through prayer and Bible reading? 

How about your other relationships?  Do you have people that you engage in meaningful conversation with?  If not what is standing in the way?  If it is a confidence thing what are you willing to do to restore that confidence?  What changes are you willing to make to have and be an in authentic relationship?

Blessing to you all! 

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Circles of Confidence part II

The god mostly pray in touch the legs in heart...

Image via Wikipedia

Friends of Christ

No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13 (HCSB)

Before we look at some of the friends of Christ I want to examine his teaching on friendship.  At the heart of friendship is a love that is sacrificial.  Without sacrificial love there can be no greater confidence and intimacy has reached its limit.  There are people who can live this way.  They have enough confidence in humanity to accomplish particular tasks (eg fellow workers), but they never go beyond.  Their circle of confidence never allows for others to come near them.  In doing this they protect themselves from being hurt.  However they tend to live lives of isolation and loneliness. 

You are My friends if you do what I command you.
John 15:14 (HCSB)

This verse can have double application I believe.  Jesus' is clearly saying when we love with a sacrificial love then we are His friends.  I think by implication when we do not love this way then we are not acting like friends of Jesus.  The other application I believe is that a friend will fulfill the request of another friend.  Don't get me wrong we must hold Jesus in higher regard than other friends, but if a friend asks you to do something and you do not do it then how is it that person is your friend.  In this way it seems to me that most friendships are killed by neglect and not by angry actions. When what we do does not match up with what we say or believe then we lack integrity.  This lack of integrity is destructive to relationships.  For example, If I say I believe in the Grace and Forgiveness of God, but I do not treat others graciously or in a forgiving manner then I lack integrity and people will question and/or reject my friendship and I am rejected by God (See Matthew 18:32-35). 

...I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.
John 15:15 (HCSB)

A friend is a person that shares important parts of what they know.  Openness is a good measure of friendships.  When a person starts to withhold information from another then friendships wither.  A lack of openness usually is a good measure of a lack of confidence.  This lack of confidence can be in certain areas of the relationship.  For example I may have high confidence that a friend will help me with a job around the house, but low confidence that they could help me with a emotional problem.  That is OK.  We will see that Jesus had fewer people that He put higher confidence in than those who were simply His friends.  So varying degrees of confidence is not a bad thing in itself. 

In this Jesus is making known to his friends what He is hearing from our Heavenly Father.  We to can make intimate things know about our relationship with God as well as intimate part of our lives.  As our confidence grows then so does our ability to be intimate in our relationships.  Jesus did not do this with everyone though.  In the same manner we need to discern who is a friend and who is not. 

You did not choose Me, but I chose you...
John 15:16 (HCSB)

Here we can again see a double meaning in this passage.  Jesus is saying that he chose His friends to be the continuation of His ministry here on earth.  His friends were going to establish the Church and tell others about the Good News of Salvation through Christ.  It also says that Jesus chose His friends.  In the same manner we to should choose our friends.  All to often people let others to choose them as friends.  Sometimes they are lucky and other times not so.  Keeping your eyes open and paying attention to how people talk about other, how they treat others, and to a certain extent trusting your convictions is a good way to discern who would be a good friend. 

In short then Jesus teaches that friendship involves sacrificial love, willingness to do things that a friend asks, openness, and a choice (discernment) of friends.  God willing I will look at the people that were friends of Christ.  God Bless You.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

100th Post

Today is my 100th post on my blog.  What started as a tool for me to develop my writing, a place to post sermons, and a place to put down ideas about healthy living from a Christian Counseling perspective has been very fruitful to me.  I have learned much over the last 9 months.  My commitment to write on this blog has ebbed and flowed over that time.  I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the statistics related to the last 9 months.

My first post: Matthew: 9:27-32 (a sermon)
Number of posts that are sermons: 5
What's in a name?  Tamin Derek
Where I learned about designing my blog: Blog Doctor, W3Schools.com
Number of Visits to the blog: 1623
Number of Unique Visitors: 410
Number who regularly follow: about 10
Number of countries visits originated from: 34
Number of states visits originated from: 37
Returning visits: 73%
Average time on the site: 5:04
Most Popular post: Christian Mindfulness
Top "Landing" Post: Knowing Christ (part ii)

To be honest I find these statistics quite humbling.  I never imagined that there would be this much interest in anything that I would have to say.  I also want to say that God has richly blessed me in this pursuit.  He has used this as an opportunity to see his hand work in my life and in the lives of others.  Those of you who read this Blog are a blessing to me.  Your comments are inspiring.  Even those that do not comment, but just read are blessing as well.  I hope that I can continue this effort, God willing.  I have many more ideas to explore and develop.  BTW  I do appreciate the feedback very much.

God Bless You all!

~BJ

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Circles of Confidence Part I

Christians believe that Jesus is the mediator ...

Image via Wikipedia

There is a belief that confidence in another person has to be an all or nothing.  However we can have degrees of confidence that allows us to have more and less intimate relationships with others.  The greater the confidence the greater the intimacy.  One of the realities is that the greater the intimacy the greater the hurt when someone betrays that trust.  However God does not intend for us to life a life of isolation.  So how do we decide the level of confidence to place into others.  I propose that we take a look at the life of Christ to see how he handled the levels of trust, by what I call Circles of Confidence. 

From the Scriptures I can find ten circles of trust for our Lord: Money Changers (John 2:14-16), The hypocrites (Matthew 23:27-28), The Crowds (Matthew 4:25), the 120 disciples (Acts 1:15; Acts 1:21-22), The 70 sent (Luke 10:1), good friends (John 11:5), The twelve (Luke 9:1), The Three Closest Disciples (Luke 8:51; Luke 9:28; Mark 14:33), and Abba Father (Mark 14:36).  If you can think of these 10 circles each within the other with the most outside circle having the lowest level of confidence (even distrust) and the innermost circle (ie God) the highest level of confidence. 

Money Changers

Interestingly this is the only group that Jesus took specific action against (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; John 2:14-16).  I do not want to draw this out too far.  Jesus' passion for His Heavenly Father was so intense He was moved to take action against those taking advantage of others genuinely seeking God.  They also served as a barrier to the poor seeking out God.    In the same respect anyone that would prevent others from seeking the Lord or take advantage of the poor are worthy of our distrust.  These are the people that are without care and compassion for others to the point that they have seared their conscience.  At times these people can be very hurtful and antisocial.  At others they can have the appearance of being helpful or desiring to help out. 

The Hypocrites

Those that Jesus identified as hypocrites were the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 23).  They acted righteous but lacked true spirituality and were short in grace and mercy (Matthew 23:23-24).  Jesus had harsh words for these.  It is fair to say that he had no confidence in them as well as there ability to be spiritual leaders.  He challenged them on the basis that they were educated in God's word and should have known better.  This is a bit different than someone who does not know God's word, but acts hypocritical (ie says one thing and does another).  These were the ultimate actors.  They had no problem proclaiming thier own self-importance.  Yet God's word convicts them (Matthew 15:7-9).  People that stand in self-righteousness judgment of others using religion to do this are the type of people that are worthy of no confidence.  Don't get me wrong people are to be discerning.  Some people use "don't judge" line to avoid accountability and conviction of sin.  We just need to work on our own log in our eye before moving to others specks (Matthew 7:5).  Jesus had no logs so He could see clearly.  Do you see clearly?  Sometimes our lack of trust has more to do with log in our eye than the other person's trustworthiness. 

The Crowds

Everywhere Jesus went He seemed to draw a crowd.  Jesus had compassion on these (Matthew 9:36), yet he did not entrust them to know and understand his mission (Matthew 13:10-11).  In some respects Jesus' confidence was neutral toward the crowds.  He was willing to share and be a part of their lives.  On the other hand He did not entrust them until they demonstrated some level of commitment to be disciples (See Luke 9:57-62).   I believe that when we are dealing with people in general  that we can have compassion and concern for them.  However we cannot just accept everyone into higher levels of confidence.  We risk being hurt if we extend confidence inappropriately (Matthew 7:6).  The goal should be to minister to needs and get to know them, but avoid higher levels of intimacy until they demonstrate a level of trustworthiness.

The Disciples (not the 12)

There is a group of people that followed Christ through his ministry.  Five hundred were witnesses of his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6).  One hundred and twenty were still waiting in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost (Acts 1:15).   Some left at the difficulty of Jesus' teaching on Body and Blood being bread and wine of redemption (John 6:61; John 6:66). 

In our circle of friends and acquaintances we have people that we share common beliefs with.  We share a confidence with them because of these common beliefs.  At times these beliefs draw us together and at others they pull us apart.  There also is a level of commitment to these beliefs.  Notice that 500 diminished to 120 over the approximately 50 days following Christ's resurrection.  This tells me that not all those that share our beliefs are worthy of high confidence.  That is not to say that you are distrust them, just that your confidence would be medium until you were able to see if there actions match their beliefs.

The 70 Sent

Jesus entrusted these with a mission of spreading the Gospel (Luke 10:1-18).  At times we are tied to others with a specific purpose.  That is to say there is a specific task that is assigned.  This can occur in work relationships, church relationships, and community relationships.  If there is a task that needs to be accomplished it requires a moderate level of confidence in those doing the work.  Without confidence either the task is never given or it is sabotaged by an attitude of, "you probably won't be able to do this, but..." There is an expression in this section "a worker is worthy of his wages (v 10)."  Providing for the needs of those who are working is an expression of confidence.  Notice it is not the quality of work per sey that is worthy, but the work in and of itself (See Matthew 20:1-16).  It also leads me to believe that an expression of unworthiness is really robbing a person of just wages if they are making a sincere effort.   I have no doubt that in the midst of the Seventy there were those with greater skill and talent.  There also were those that shall we say less than perfect.  We know that some were quite excited about the power to cast out demons more than they were excited that they were in a saving relationship with Christ (Matthew 10:20). 

I am going to break here.  My next post will deal with the friends of Christ, the 12 apostles, and the three closest disciples.  So far we have covered two groups worthy of distrust (money changers, and hypocrites) those that take advantage of others who are weak, those that use religion for personal gain, those that stand in the way of others sincerely seeking God,  and those that use religion to promote there own righteousness and stand in judgment of others.  Then we talked about those that are neutral in confidence.  That is to say they are neither trusted or distrusted, but treated with compassion and a desire to meet their needs and get to know them better.  Moving in to a medium level of confidence we have those that share our beliefs and values.  We ended with those that we have a moderate level of confidence for the purpose of accomplishing a task at work, church, or in the community.  These we have enough confidence in them to believe they will accomplish the task at hand. 

I hope that you find this helpful.  God Bless You!

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Confidence Restored?

confidence

Image by glsims99 via Flickr

There is a financial term "full faith and credit" which means the unconditional commitment of one party to back the the interests and principle of another's debt.  An example of this is the most recent mortgage loan crisis with our government "bailing out" finical institutions who had large amounts of mortgage debt that were worth less than the properties used to take on that debt (due to falling real estate prices).  The US Government bought many of these debts, but more than that they gave "full faith and credit" to help other institutions secure capital so that they could start lending money again to lower mortgage interest rates and stabilize the housing market.  Well I think the jury is still out as to whether this will work in the long run, but the point is this.  The expectation is that the US government will not default on it's loan obligations.  That makes these investments much lower risk, because if things go badly the US Government will bail us out. 

This illustration is much more meaningful when we apply it to our relationship with God and with others.  A person that has a relationship with God can rely on and trust in the "full faith and credit" of God's goodness, mercy, provision, loving-kindness and so on.   That is to say our commitment of Confidence has less to do with the character of the person that we are trusting and more to do with our confidence that God will work things out.  Stated another way, "I trust you not because you are a guarantee, but because even if things go poorly God is big enough to bail both you and me out, by His great mercy and grace."  Ultimately your trust in others ought to be an expression of your trust in God. 

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (HCSB)

Confidence in another person really is an expression of love.  Notice above it says love does not keep a record of wrongs, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  At first glance this seems a rather silly notion to the natural man.  But this verse must be understood in the context of our relationship with God and in light of our future with Him. 

Keeping record of wrongs is the opposite of confidence.  Face it we are all weak in our character.  We all have major flaws.  You don't have to go very far to discover a weakness in yourself or in others that you have a close relationship with.  Keeping a record of wrongs is like going on an investigation of why I should break off this relationship.  You will always find evidence.  The end result is a heart filled with discontent and suffering.  Don't get me wrong being hurt by someone will often take a long time to heal.  You also will likely remember the thing that hurt you for a long time, possibly for the rest of your life.  The difference is being reminded of a hurt is not the same as "let me tell you how you have hurt me."  The difference is in part an attitude that throws it in another's face versus what can I learn to grow from this painful experience. 

Bearing all things leads to a restoration of confidence. The word bear in the Greek is a beautiful word picture.  The root word means roof.  The picture is to cover (ie roof) in silence.  A person who has confidence in the other person will cover them in silence.  What does that mean?  To me it is an expression of not airing dirty laundry.  It can also mean that the relationship is protected and covered without fanfare or celebration.  Think about your roof.  It probably does not get much notice until it stops working.  It covers in silence.  Yet can you imagine your life with out it?  In the same way bearing all things builds up and if needed restores confidence in a relationship. 

Believing all things I must admit is a hard one for me to receive.  As I read that phrase my first thought is I must be a fool to believe all things.  Is that not being naive?  When we look at the Greek for believe then it really opens this up to the purpose of these series of posts.  In this case the meaning is to commit, entrust, give credit, and have faith.  Given that it seems to draw us even deeper in to unconditional credulity.  However I can think of other passages that encourage us to be discerning (1 Corinthians 2:14; Hebrews 5:14).  So then this statement cannot be unconditional belief in all things.  I believe that what is being described here is a disposition to believe in a person and their motives.  When this quality is lost in a relationship then confidence is lost and trust along with it.  The only way to restore confidence is to return to a disposition of trust and faith in the other person (ie believe all things).  Otherwise the opposite disposition becomes a poison well that slowly kills the relationship. 

Hoping all things looks toward the future with a positive outlook for what could be.  This type of hope is the root of Christian faith (Romans 8:24-25).  In relationships it is hope for a better future.  This kind of hope is more than wishful thinking.  It is confidence (there is that word again) that through commitment, hard work, and God's grace the relationship will be a blessing.  So often we are hopeless about ourselves or others.  Hopelessness destroys confidence.  Without confidence there is no trust. 

Endure all things?  But why should I do that?  First consider that if a person endures trials in a righteous manner they are rewarded in heaven (see James 1:12).  There is a kind of endurance that is really just learned helplessness.  It is a resignation to suffer through it, because that is all we can do is suffer.  That type of endurance is destructive.  The type of endurance that is being describe here is when a person perseveres through the pain, suffering, trials knowing that there is something better for them in the future.  Learned helplessness is laying down and taking it with barely a whimper.  Biblical endurance is standing up (with the help of the Lord) and walking through fiery trials.  It is the type of confidence that relies on the "full faith and credit" of our Heavenly Father. 

When we place our confidence in others we create an environment where trust can grow.  On the other hand when we remove our confidence we withdraw an essential quality that is needed in healthy relationships.  Over time it will be wither like a plant without water in the hot of a summer.  Confidence is absolutely needed in a growing trusting relationship.  The great news is that we can place our confidence not in the failings of humans, but in the greatness of God's grace and mercy.  We can trust in God to bring our relationships into the light of His glory and the showering of His love. 

God Bless You.

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Trustworthiness: What does it look like?

Sometimes it is much easier to see what trustworthy is not than to truly understand what it is.  It seems that distrust and unfaithfulness are easy to spot, but a trustworthy man who can find (Psalm 12:1). 

Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man?
Proverbs 20:6 (HCSB)

I like words.  Words are the building blocks of ideas.  Without words we can scarcely communicate with one another.  Think of how it would be if you had no words.  Even our very consciousness is a product of words strung together giving our lives meaning.  When I try to understand an idea I often trace it back to the word.  To understand trustworthiness I believe it would be a useful exercise to look at the word itself in order to understand what we are looking to cultivate in our lives in order to be a trustworthy person. 

Before we do though let me just say that trustworthiness is more that simply understanding and saying the right words.  It is the action of trustworthiness that defines whether a person is or is not trustworthy.  No amount of special pleading will move a person from untrustworthiness to trustworthiness.  With that in mind lets look more into the meaning of this word.

Looking at Word Origins

Trustworthy as a word first appeared in the English literature around 1808.  This would make the word relatively young.  I would be very interested what word or words were used before to convey the idea.  Based on the King James (1611) the word would have been faithful (See Proverbs 11:13 (KJV) compared to Proverbs 11:13).  The word faithful can be traced back to the 1300s making it a much older word than trustworthy.  So now we have two words to explore faithful and trustworthy. 

Faithful quite literally means full of faith.  One might ask full of faith as to believe or worthy of other's full faith (ie confidence).  I would think it is both.  It does me no good to have other's faith and confidence when It is lacking in me.  Let me suggest though that being full of faith is a higher priority than having others confidence.

Faithful also indicates a person that is willing to stick to it for better and for worse.  It indicates consistency.  God remains faithful many times in spite of our unfaithfulness.  He is always faithful.  So in our relationships we can demonstrate faithfulness by being a consistent source of support, love, kindness, and edification for the one that we care for.   

This type of faith starts first in one's relationship with God.  It is a deep abiding trust that God will work things out for the good of those who trust and love God and follow Him and His purposes(Romans 8:28).  Notice how the trust leads to action.  I trust leading to love leading to following Him.  Often we turn that around like this.  I will do what I think God wants me to do, hoping to demonstrate my love and devotion to him and someday I will have enough faith to trust in Him.  Don't miss this point.  Being full of faith is confidence leading to action and not action leading to trust.  This is very important in this presentation of trust.  The act of trust is proceeded by trustworthiness (faithfulness) and confidence.  Full of faith then extends from this relationship with God into the relationships with other people (ie confidence; more on this in a future post)

Looking at Synonyms

A trustworthy person is authentic.  Often times in a relationship where trust has been broken or when someone is seeking to gain another's trust the person wanting to be trusted will fall into a pattern of telling the other what they think they want them to hear.  This approach may gain some points with the person in the short-term, but it lack authenticity and will be diminish trustworthiness in the long-term. 

A trustworthy person takes responsibility for their actions (good or bad).  It is easy to be defensive.  It takes a trustworthy person to accept not only the things they have done wrong in life, but to understand the effect that has had on others view of them personally.  Stated a different way blaming others for not seeing us as trustworthy (after doing something wrong) is denial of responsibility. 

A trustworthy person is mature.  There is whole host of things that come with maturity, but probably the biggest is perspective and effective action.  For example a mature person will recognize when a conversation is heading toward conflict and choose to do what best for the relationship rather than keep the conflict going to prove a point.  Maturity also carries with is some mellowness, calmness, levelheadedness.

A trustworthy person is credible.  This credibility is rooted in honesty, but it is also brought about by constancy in doing what one says they are going to do.  There is a correspondence between what I believe, what I say, and what I do.  That is integrity. 

A trustworthy person is open.  Openness to other points of view.  This does not mean that this person agrees with all points of view, but a trustworthy person is willing to listen until he or she understands the other's point of view. 

A trustworthy person lives by his or her values.  It is important to understand your own values and what is important to you.  It is important to understand why they are important to you.  Then it is important to let those values guide what you do.  So often we get trapped into making decisions based on our situations rather than our values.  Situational ethics is in the end becomes a personal choice based on what you believe is best for that situation.  Principled ethics lead you to choose based on what is right and just in each situation regardless of what might make you feel good.

There are many more words that define trustworthiness.  I have elaborated on some of them here.  You can see more synonyms here.  My recommendation is that you review this list of words and the words from the thesaurus and ask yourself, "Am I cultivating these qualities in my life?"  If you are then you seem to be on the right track.  If not then you have ask whether you really are growing in trustworthiness.  Honestly each person has work to do in the area of trustworthiness.  This exercise needs to be looking at one's self not used as a tool prove someone else's untrustworthiness.  If that is your tendency after reading this post then can I say that a trustworthy person acts to improve himself or herself in order that she or he can do what is in the best interests of the other person. 

Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye but don't notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and look, there's a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
Matthew 7:3-5 (HCSB)

In short then trustworthiness is...
Faithfulness
Authenticity
Taking responsibility
Maturity
Honesty and credibility
Openness
Principled based on values not situations
Willing to examine one's self
Acting in the best interests of others

 

 

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