6 Tips for Happier, Healthier Relationships

family prayer

It’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving. Then Christmas. Family and friends. Good food and good times.

Mostly.

Truthfully, this time of year is especially stressful for some. I am not referring, in this post, to the ones who have lost loved ones this year. That’s especially difficult. My prayers go out for you. I’m talking about those who have living “loved ones”…positionally speaking at least.

The holidays expose many people to broken relationships, hurt feelings, grudges from the past. Many will have to be around people, by default, that they wouldn’t choose to be around unless those people were blood relatives…or in-laws…or friends who aren’t your friends, but come with the package of celebration. They will be there…and the reality of that causes you to be less enthusiastic about celebrating this year.

That’s true, isn’t it? And, the truth hurts sometimes…doesn’t it?

(Raise your hand if that’s your story.).

What should you do? How should you respond to the one who has hurt you the most…or who always seems to say the wrong thing…or who is…honestly…even mean at times? How do you respond to the most difficult relationships in your life?

I want to encourage the Biblical approach.

Here are six tips:

Bite your tongue – When you are tempted to snap back…don’t. Sure, it will be difficult…even seemingly unfair at times, but see it as spiritual discipline training. (James 1:26)

Extend grace – Forgive. Let go of a grudge. Even though it may not be received well and nothing may change in the relationship, it will change you. (1 Peter 4:10, Colossians 3:13)

Put on another’s shoes – Anyone who hurts you…has a story. Usually they were hurt too…by someone. Remember…hurt people…hurt people. Think about where the other person is coming from before (or as) you encounter them. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Practice patience – Be honest, some relationships require more patience than you thought you had, don’t they? But, isn’t that what we are called to do as believers? It is a “fruit of the spirit”. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Exercise humility – When we humble ourselves, we may get taken advantage of at times, but God always rewards humility. Who knows? It may be the break point in the relationship. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6)

Pray for them – The last one is sometimes the most difficult…but oh how Biblical! Prayer releases the burden to the burden bearer…the One whose yoke is easy…the One who paid for your sins. Prayer can even change the dynamics of a relationship. Pray for the awkward, difficult, shattered and broken relationships in your life…and the people who caused them. In the most tense moments this holiday season, slip away and pray. (Matthew 5:44)

Apply liberally, as needed.

You’ll have healthier, happier relationships this Thanksgiving and Christmas season…and even into the New Year.

Do you have a difficult relationship facing you? What tips do you have?

Growing Up Book, By Robby Gallaty

growing up

A pastor friend, Robby Gallaty, releases a new book this month on making disciples. I’m impressed with Robby’s story and want you to know about his work. Here’s a quick interview with Robby about Growing Up Book:

Robby, why you are so passionate about making disciples?

In 2002, I experienced a Paul-like conversion after surrendering my life to Christ. The Lord set me free from a three-year battle with drugs. For several months, I wandered aimlessly in my Christian life, uncertain of how to proceed. My upbringing did not promote Scripture reading, memorization, or unrehearsed prayer.

Then one day my life changed forever.

What was the turning point?

Two men took the time to invest in my life: David Platt—author of Radical and Follow Me, as well as the Foreword of my book—and Tim Lafleur. Since then, I have read nearly every book on discipleship, searching for answers to my questions. Although I have read a lot of great books that describe the philosophy and theory of making disciples, I have often been left wondering after reading, “Now what?”

After being discipled, I thought to myself, “If I had a manual for making disciples that was easy to understand and simple to implement, I would not have wandered for so long.” After a decade of research, I wrote Growing Up: How to Be A Disciple Who Makes Disciples as a way of sharing my findings. The information in the book has been tried and tested in a church setting. At Brainerd Baptist, the church I pastor, we have seen the amount of people involved in discipleship groups grow from a handful in 2008 to over 1,000 expected this January.

My book takes the guesswork out of growing closer to the Lord and equipping others to do the same.

Why is Growing Up different than other books on discipleship?

The book contains a step-by-step process for growing in your faith and leading others to do the same. Here are some of the topics covered in the book:

  • Three essential relationships every believer must be fostering;
  • How to begin, lead, and reproduce a D-Group (i.e., discipleship group);
  • Why a D-Group of 3-to-5 is more effective than an 1-on-1 relationship;
  • A proven method for HEARing from God;
  • One spiritual discipline that every disciple should be practicing;
  • The single, fastest way to end laziness in your discipleship group once and for all;
  • The difference between an addition and multiplication strategy, and how it applies to your context;
  • How to begin a simple discipleship ministry in your church without adding another program;
  • Answers to commonly asked questions about disciple-making.

I also have included eleven appendices outlining the entire discipleship process.

For anyone who orders the book before November 15th, I am giving away $250 of discipleship resources:

  • Digital copies of the manuscript in Kindle, iPad, and .pdf formats;
  • My new e-book: Subtle Threats that May Devastate your Discipleship Ministry and Three Immediate Solutions;
  • Three live online training sessions (one hour each). My Replicate Team will disciple you as you disciple your people;
  • Growing Up Almanac e-book, a leader’s guide that will outline the weekly meeting time;
  • 25% off the Discipleship University Course (Spring 2014);
  • All eleven printable appendices.

You can visit growingupbook.com for more information.

Thanks Robby, for challenging us to make disciples, and giving us great tools to do so!

Cast Your Net…A devotional

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“Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” He told them, “and you’ll find some.” So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:6)

Cast your net on the right side!

The disciples had struggled all night and caught nothing.

Suddenly a voice cried out to them, “throw the nets on the right side”. When they did…they were unable to haul in the catch.

The disciples were given a visual reminder.

They should never forget that on the right side of the boat is where the fish are….

And…where is the “right side” in life?

The right side is where Jesus is!

The right side is where the Creator and Sustainer of all is located. The right side is where you and I find the hope of the world. The right side is the place of grace.

Are you casting the net of your life on the right side of the boat?

If you’re having a though time right now with life…could it be your casting your net on the wrong side of the boat?

Throw your net on the right side today!

Choose Jesus! Choose His way. Choose to obey.

The Biggest Mistake of My Life

hiding mistakes

One of our boys has always been such a deep thinker. When he was 3 years old, watching a movie with him was a chore, because he would analyze every aspect of the plot. We would try to explain to him it was only a cartoon, without a ton of hidden meaning, but it was never enough. Even today he’s the analyzer of life. He asks the deep questions.

Personally, he takes after me (although he’s more fluent at it than I am). I’m a questioner too…and believe it’s been a help to me in life, ministry and leadership. The best questions get the best answers.

So it was not surprising when one day, when he was an early teenager, seemingly out of nowhere, Nate asked, Daddy, what’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your life?”

I didn’t have to think long. We had owned a very successful, fast-growing business. We stood to make lots of money in the years ahead, and we sold that business to buy another. It was devastating. If it could go wrong it did. Although it’s a very long story and we felt we were doing the right thing at the time, it proved to be a very painful five year experience until we sold the business, basically walking away with nothing.

I told Nate (we call him Nathaniel) that selling one successful business and buying that business was obviously the biggest mistake of my life.

Nate countered quickly, “Yea, but you’ve said you probably would have never surrendered to ministry had that experience not occurred.

You’re right,” I replied. “I was too busy chasing a dream. God worked it for good. But, that was definitely my biggest mistake in life.”

As I said, I’m an analyzer too, so several days later, while I was in a time of prayer, Nate’s question came to my mind. I decided to ask God about it. In my prayer, I said, “God, why did you allow me to make the biggest decision of my life? I would have followed you if you had made it clear. Why couldn’t you let me do it another way? That was such a difficult time in our life.” (It was one of those rare pity parties I had with God. Don’t be afraid to have them. He understands.)

God seemed to interrupt me before I could continue. Now please understand, I have never heard God audibly. And, I’d love to say He speaks to me everyday. But, there have been a few times where I am certain I heard the impression of God on my heart…where I know God “spoke” clearly to me. This was one of those times. (As a side note, they always line up with truth from God’s word.)

I sensed God say, “Ron (I’m so glad He knows my name), your biggest mistake was not buying that business.”

I was surprised. I figured it must not be God to hear such a reply. So, I snapped back, almost as if I was sarcastically speaking to my own false thoughts, “Oh really, well then what was the biggest mistake of my life? Because I can’t think of one bigger.”

God interrupted again…

“Ron, your biggest mistake was following your will for your life and not mine.”

And, God was silent. Point made. Point accepted. I had no more questions.

The truth is many had seen what God was doing in my life; including my wife, but I had ignored them…continually replying that we are all “called to ministry”…and I resisted the surrender to vocational ministry for many years.

God’s counsel that morning has proven true so many times, as I reflect back over my life and the decisions I have made. The greatest failure in my life has always seem to be a result of when I do what I want to do rather than what God wants me to do.

Here’s hoping someone learns from my mistakes.

Rest in the Shadow of the Almighty

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He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 NIV

When I was a little boy, air conditioning was a luxury. Most of the schools didn’t have it and many of our houses were without it. Still it seems like we spent more time outdoors then than we do now. In the summer, we would go to my grandparents quite often. When the time came for homemade ice cream, everyone would gather around, bowls in hand, and head for their favorite shade tree. No matter how hot it was, with ice cream in hand and a shade tree above, the weather was always just right.

That is what I think of when I think of the “shadow of the Almighty”.

Resting within the protection of God’s glory, I find peace from the burdens of the world.

No, my problems don’t always disappear, but the journey is made easier. The valleys aren’t as deep, and the mountain tops seem to last longer and come more often.

Dwelling within God’s shelter means that I trust Him even when the odds makers say I shouldn’t. It means that I choose Him over the achievements I can make on my own. It means that my life is not my own. I am bought with a price, the shed blood of Jesus, and that my home is in Heaven, where awaits for me an eternal blessing, which far outweighs the problems of this world.

My grandparents tree is no longer standing. I have air conditioning now everywhere I go. We seldom make homemade ice cream. In fact, at family gatherings now we rarely go outside. As I reflect on the good memories about that shade tree, however, I realize that the best shade I will ever experience is within the “shadow of the Almighty”.

Why don’t you rest in His shade with me for a while?

Like maybe for an eternity!