Category Archives: Relationships
When we started Trinity Fellowship nearly 28 years ago the Lord was faithful to show us what He wanted us to help Him build….and how He wanted us to build “it”. We had no preconceived idea(s) as to what it should be or how it should look. So, we were dependent on what we believed He was saying to us. That only makes sense when you understand that our lives are to be lived by faith. One of the things, early on, that seemed to be clear is that we would be an organism (not organization) that the Father would use to set people free. That freedom would include everything from freedom from sin, addiction and faulty thinking to freedom from lifeless religious bondage as well.
Looking back through the years it seems clear that the Lord has definitely kept His part of the promise, as He always does. One of the things that’s been extremely rewarding has been the steady stream of people who have come to Sayre to find that ‘freedom’. We’ve built some amazing friendships with folks from all over that we would have otherwise never had the privilege of knowing.
One particular case in point happened not too long ago when a person we didn’t know called about a friend who had experienced a moral failure in his ministry . We didn’t know the person who called but we had been referred to him by someone we both knew.
When he called he was understandably full of questions such as, “What do y’all do?”, and “What’s the Cost?”, and “How do you do what you do?”. I tried my best to answer all those questions and finally he asked, “Well, what kind of program do you have, anyway?” My reply must have taken him completely off guard; “Uuuh, …..we don’t have a program.” It’s really true there’s not a program per se here…but what we do produces long term results. We’re not batting a thousand but we’re doing pretty good. Here’s some reasons why;
- We first bring them into our ‘circle’. It’s not an inner circle because inner circles are, by nature, exclusive. We’re inclusive!
- We let them be a part of whatever it is that we’re doing at the time. If we’re on a ministry project they come along and they might even help if they’re willing. We never apply pressure on them to do that but the door’s always open for them to participate. If we’re going to lunch, they go. If we’re going to a basketball game, they go too. We let them know that they’re an important part of our family.
- We let them see the ‘real’ side of us. We refuse to put up the facade of perfection. Truth is, we’re far from it. Besides, it’s just not our style!
- We’re learners…..and we help to develop that trait in them, by seeing us do it, while they’re here.
- We spend quality time with them. We swap stories. We listen to their story. They listen to ours’. It’s a great way to build long-term relationships. And, that’s what we’re all about.
- We help them to understand the Father’s love for them. We encourage them to connect relationally with the Father and we explain how easy that is.
- We treat ’em like VIP’s…….’cause they are!
- But more important than all the other stuff….we just love ’em. It never fails, you know! It’s undefeated! And, it always works!
- The Lord always does His part…..which is just about everything!
But, program, uuuuh …..we don’t have a program.
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Do you know anyone that you would describe as having a ‘heart of gold’? You know, that person that possesses all the qualities you’d want to embrace yourself. I’d say a person with a heart of gold would be someone with integrity, someone who is always truthful, someone who is dependable, someone who is sincere, someone who cares, someone who has your back, someone who does the right thing, someone who is brave, someone who sees the best in everyone. Well, you could take that list a whole lot further if you wanted to…but you get the point.
I think we’re born with a pure and innocent demeanor but it doesn’t take long for the world and all it throws at us to begin to tarnish those traits. The world is mean, it’s indiscriminate, it does its best to run over us and when it does …..it just doesn’t care. These things take a toll on even the strongest personalities. And, ….they can cause that pure and innocent demeanor, or heart, to be tainted. You know what they say, “The struggle is real!”
But there’s good news; When we’re born again it’s “Job #1” for the Holy Spirit to ‘conform us into the image of Jesus’. Quite a task, if you think about it,…..even for Him. After years of learning to walk with the Lord I’m more like Him than I was. But, in reality, I’m still a long ways from being just like Him. The Father’s plan to conform us into the image of His Son has nothing whatsoever to do with our appearance as the bible verse might indicate. But it has everything to do with our heart being conformed to be like His!
Neil Young’s song, “Heart of Gold”, encourages the listener to “be a miner for a heart of gold”. That’s exactly what the Lord does when we come into relationship with Him. He ‘mines’ those valuable qualities and traits that lie deep within our soul and brings them to the surface. We are, after all, created in the image of God!
I’m thinkin’ we should do the same thing with the people we’re in relationship with…and the people we encounter. Maybe they’re arrogant, disrespectful and hard to deal with. What you see might not be ‘who’ they really are! Maybe they’re just the result of the meanness of the world. But what if, deep down, everyone out there really does have a heart of gold that just hasn’t yet been ‘mined’?
Being that kind of miner starts with a determination to bring out the best in others….no matter what it takes.
Let’s you and me take the Father’s example……Let’s be ‘miners for a heart of gold’!!
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Life is full of tricks and turns. It’s universal in that we are all going to go through an entire array of experiences, both good and bad in the course of our life. Some of these experiences are expected while others seem to come out of nowhere…..and are totally unexpected. We might be on the mountain one day and way down in the valley the next. Those valley experiences can really take a toll on us if we don’t do something to offset the stress.
At this stage of my life I can’t imagine someone not turning to the Lord in the midst of their trials. But, just like anyone else…..before I knew better, I didn’t do it either. Now I do know better. I’ve learned through some very unpleasant seasons in life to lean on the Lord through those times. Once we start to trust the Lord with our life that scenario should become a no-brainer. As we mature we begin to understand that the hard times afford us with some profound growth opportunities.
But, what about the good times; the mountain top times when things are seemingly as good as they can get. I’m suggesting that we turn to the Lord during those times, as well. Most of us at one time or another have thought how dumb the Israelites were when they were being blessed by the Lord. It’s interesting, but during those good times they were prone to stray away from the Lord and His goodness. If we’re not careful we’ll make the same mistake, ourselves. We should resolve to be grateful, and turn to Him….even in the good times.
Many people have made their choice to try to make it through life without turning to the Lord. That’s tragic but I think it happens for a couple of obvious reasons. First, God has been mis-portrayed by many to be mean-spirited and judgmental. Second, He gets the blame for every negative and painful thing that happens by some people. But the truth of the matter is that He’s a Father…..and He’s good! Really good! You just have to taste and see for yourself!
There’s gonna be plenty of hard times….and hopefully plenty of good times in life. The way I see it we’ve got two choices; we can either run from the Lord or run to Him. I’ve never seen the former work, ……not one time. On the other hand, I’ve never seen the latter ‘not work’!
The choice is yours!
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When I hear the song, “Lean on Me”, it reminds me of when I was in college out at ‘ol Eastern New Mexico University in Portales right out of high school in ’71. The song, by Bill Withers, was a #1 hit on both the soul singles and the ‘Billboard Hot 100′. It ranks #208 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Hits of All Time”. The song has a great positive message.
“Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on”
“You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on”
It oughta be a priority in life to ‘be there’ for other people in their times of need. It takes a special person to put their own baggage, issues and problems on the back burner in an effort to help someone else out of life’s jams. And if we believe anything of what the Bible says about sowing and reaping…we’ll be sowing some good seeds that will bring a nice little harvest when we find our own selves in that place of need. It’s really how humanity ought to work.
Are you someone that a friend could lean on? It requires that we become listeners and encouragers. Oftentimes that friend doesn’t need advice near as much as they just need someone to listen to them. And, for that person, sometimes it just helps to hear themselves talk about their dilemma. Being there for someone and hearing their problems can give you some incredible insight in how to pray for them.
Anytime a person comes to you and tells you their problems,…..what they’re actually doing is asking you for help. And, the fact that they came to you just says that you have at least earned some level of trust with them. That’s a pretty important factor; I wouldn’t take it lightly! Trust is an extremely valuable thing.
One word of caution; being a person worthy of someone leaning on can bring it’s own set of problems. We must keep in perspective that while we want to help….we can never take the place of the Lord in their lives. Our goal should always be to point them to Him!
Your People need someone dependable to lean on!
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The last year we lived on the ranch in the Texas Panhandle I had the responsibility of taking care of 2500 head of cattle. About 1800 of those were close to 40 miles away north of Canadian, Texas on the expansive Urschel Ranch. I’d go up about three times a week and spend the day horseback checking the cattle; getting a decent count on them, making sure they had water, making sure none of them were out of the pastures they were supposed to be in. It’d make for a long day but it was enjoyable to me.
I was about three years into my walk with the Lord. Didn’t know much but I was learning a lot. I had given my testimony a couple of times and was already feeling the call for ministry…even though I had no idea what all that might mean. A friend and I had a cowboy church service (years before anyone ever heard that term!) at the Hemphill County Expo Center in Canadian and I preached the message. That was a first! I have no idea what I preached about but I do remember that one of my friends since childhood (a few years older than me) got saved that day. Let’s just call him, Jeff.
Jeff was a cowboy and had been in some of the very worst combat fights in Vietnam. In three different battles there were over a hundred US troops under fire….and all three times less than fifteen came out alive. Jeff was one of the ones each time. But, it had left an indelible mark on him. He struggled with deep depression, was separated from his wife, had trouble sleeping and agonized over the things he was ordered to do in Vietnam. Jeff was a scary looking guy, well actually if you weren’t friends with him….he just didn’t look scary….he really was scary. He’d done plenty of crazy things and the locals weren’t sure what he might do next! He hair was cut short on the top but long in the back…..way down past his collar. He had about 6 top front teeth totally gone! He wore denim shirts with the sleeves cut out of them and he had lots of tattoos; something not that common in those days. He spent a lot of his spare time at the gym pumping iron and was quite a specimen of a man.
Part of my regular routine the times when I’d go up to check cattle was to make it back to the Dairy Queen on my way home and catch Jeff after he got off work. I made it a point. I was doing my best to encourage him and give him good, sound advice. I’d pray with him every time before I headed home. One particular time we were in the DQ when a Greyhound bus made its stop there. The place was completely full of people. Jeff got there before I did and saved me a spot. His intimidating look had the attention of just about every person in there. Bear in mind that when he talked, Jeff talked really really loud; maybe louder than anyone you’ve ever known! I asked him that day, as I always did, “Jeff, how are you doing?” He replied in his loud voice, “Andy, I’m doing really good!”. I knew that I needed to press in a little more. “But, Jeff, …..how are you really doing?” And in a voice a lot louder than you need to be talking in Dairy Queen he said, “Yep, Andy, …….I’m doing so good I got rid of all my plastic explosives yesterday!!” You could’ve heard a pin drop! Every eye in the house was on us! It was funny, ….in a crazy kind of way; all those people started gathering up their food without saying a word and getting out the door as fast, but as inconspicuous as they could. It was like they didn’t totally believe him. I bet some of them are still telling that story today!
I learned a lot in my experiences with Jeff. I made it a mission of mine to help him. I wanted him to be OK; I wanted him to be well. Julie and I had planned a little vacation and were planning on being gone for about a week. I got real worried that if I wasn’t there to check on Jeff that he wouldn’t be alright. I even told Julie as much. I was actually afraid to go on vacation fearing he would implode. But, the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that point and said, “It’s Ok, Andy, …..you’re not the one that’s taking care of him anyway.” That put it in perspective for me. God always knows the right thing to say, and always at just the right time.
I wish this story had a happy ending….but it doesn’t. Several years later Jeff was living downstate in Texas and took his own life. I can’t help but believe that the Lord has lots and lots of grace for people like Jeff.
I’ll never forget the things I learned…and I look forward to seeing him in Heaven.
If you’re a parent you’ve heard that question more than a few times. In fact it could happen on just about any trip. Doesn’t matter if it’s a short trip or a long one you’re apt to hear it. We had five kids so you can imagine how many times we heard, “Are we there yet?”, in their younger years. Little kids don’t really have much concept of time and distance. If they’re in the car and you drive a few miles they immediately start wondering why we’re not already there.
Our Christian walk of faith is kinda like that too. We go a ways, encounter a mess of trials tribulations, overcome one thing after another, win a few, lose a few, slowly but gradually get better…..and you’d think we oughta be there. Our life is an incredible ‘road trip’ if you can think about it that way. We may not express it to the Lord exactly like our kids do on a trip, but you gotta admit….we’re thinkin’ it! “Are we there yet?” I bet the Lord gets a kick out of our impatience at times. But in the long haul we’re like our kids; as we mature we begin to realize it’s not a quick trip. It takes a while to get ‘there’.
Spiritual maturity is not an elusive thing at all. It’s attainable alright,……it just takes awhile. We’re on our way there now. But we might as well just settle in and realize it’s a lifelong endeavor. It takes a long, long time for people like us to get conformed into the image of Jesus. When I look at my own life I can tell I’m more like Him than I was….but in all reality I’ve got a long way to go.
It’s an incredible trip we’re on; not a short one by any means, more like a marathon. and when we wonder, “Are we there yet?”, we might need to remind ourselves; no, we’re not there yet……but we’re closer than we were!
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