From Sovereignty To Relationship

From Sovereignty To Relationship June 12, 2023

Sovereignty To RelationshipFrom sovereignty to relationship. What does that mean, and how does it even tie us to food and faith?

I’m an origins guy. What happens in the beginning is usually a pretty good indicator of where a story is headed, and many times sets a precedent for what you can expect in the stories to come. Origins help us to build relationships with the incoming stories.

For example, my wife and I started our journey together from completely different backgrounds. Her parents were somewhat disconnected from her every day life, and mine were radically involved in just about every breath I took. Almost 19 years of marriage later, and you can bet your bottom dollar that those two foundations alone have played a significant role, and continue to play a significant role in how that we relate to each other, how we parent, how we run business… I could go on and on. And that’s only one foundational piece of our story. There are many. 


When I think about faith and my relationship with Jesus, God and Holy Spirit who are at the foundation of what I believe in, I look for origins. I ask questions. I’m extremely philosophical in how I view the Bible, and it’s difficult for me to just accept things as they are told. I want to know how. Why? I want the background information! 

Pair that with my desire for strong relationships, and you can understand why I desire to know what I want to know. I’m not just passionate about information, I want to use that information to become more closely connected.

When someone boldly declares from a pulpit – much like the pulpit I grew up sitting in front of – that God is sovereign, it makes me wonder, “how do you know that?” 

“Was He always sovereign?” Sovereign Rule

“What does sovereign even mean?” 

“Does it mean the same thing to you that it means to God?” 

The word sovereign as an adjective in the dictionary has a lot of other words attached to it. Words like supreme, unmitigated, paramount, absolute, independent, royal. 

When you hear a theologian talk about sovereignty, it’s often described as God’s total and complete power over the universe where He knows all, sees all and is in control of all. When something goes right in your life, you can chalk it up to the sovereignty of God. When something goes wrong, you can chalk it up to the sovereignty of God. 

Additionally, when something goes right, you should praise God and thank Him for that something! 

When something goes wrong, suddenly it’s a different tone. You shouldn’t blame God for the bad things that happen – even though we just called Him responsible for everything in the universe. Instead, you should simply nod your head, take your lashings, and move on because He’ll somehow work it out in the end. And if He doesn’t? Oh well, He’s sovereign! 

I’m not going to even begin to get into the question of how the devil and evil plays into this. Oof! 


Instead of defending a Biblical precedent for sovereignty, why don’t we just go back to the questions we asked before: 

“Was He always sovereign?” 

“Shawn, how are we going to get from sovereignty to relationship?”

In other words, if you return to the origins (as much as you can determine an origin for God), is sovereignty the foundational characteristic of His identity? 

Before there was an earth. Long before there were angels. When nothing else existed except for God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, what were they like? Trinity

Were they sovereign? 

What would they be sovereign over? God isn’t sovereign over God. Jesus doesn’t rule over Holy Spirit any more than Holy Spirit rules over God. They are equal. 

So what were they? Is it possible that they were something else? 

I’d like to propose that if God and Jesus and Holy Spirit were all that there was before there was anything else, then what they were was: 


There it is: From sovereignty to relationship.

Perfect relationship. They know each other and they share love for each other. Serving each other the way that a husband properly serves his wife, and his wife serves him. Humbly, and with joy. By choice. 

And if you’re even willing to entertain that thought for a moment, then I’d ask you to entertain this thought as well: 

Could it be, that while God is completely capable of being sovereign now, that maybe His original nature reveals how He wishes to interact with us at this present moment?

Through relationship. 

And maybe how He wishes us to interact with each other. 

From sovereignty to relationship.


Think about Adam and Eve. God doesn’t set Himself up to be their ruler. He sets them in a garden, and reveals Himself as their friend. 

When God calls Abraham, does He promise Him a throne? No, He promises Him a family. Generations of people too numerous to count. temple

When God wants the children of Israel to remember what He has done for them in Egypt, He doesn’t ask them to build a temple to represent His power. He asks them to sit down and have a meal called the Passover. 

In fact, when King David desires to build God a temple, God tells David that He’s not interested. If you have a God who loves interacting with people, you better not try to imprison Him in a temple. Does He allow a temple? Sure. But how many times does He allow that temple to be destroyed throughout history? Is there a current temple in Israel? No. 

Is it possible that the God who loves relationship was secretly rejoicing as the stones of each temple they built came crashing to the ground? 


When you think about the incarnation of Jesus, you see Him coming to earth, not in chariots of fire, but in the womb of a woman. 

You see Him developing His ministry by creating a close knit group of His dear friends. People who would face torture and death because He had loved them so well. In fact, He loved them so well that they wanted to make Him an earthly sovereign! And His response? “No thank you!” He was trying to take them from sovereignty to relationship. 


With becoming a sovereign ruler, you create a kingdom. A kingdom where some are in, and some are out. In some kingdoms, no one is allowed in. In other kingdoms, you can move in, but you have to follow the right rules. In some kingdoms, the king is a tyrant who will destroy you at your first mistake. In other kingdoms, the king is more gracious and wants to provide a healthy kingdom for his people to live in. 

KINGDOMBut relationship gets tricky. In relationship you can hurt and be hurt. You can celebrate the greatest joys of doing life with a best friend! But that best friend also has the potential to hurt you greater than anyone else in the world.

I’ve certainly felt and experienced that in church, as a leader and as a congregant. It’s where relationship can get really weird and stunted and uncomfortable fast. 

What growing up in church and working in the church has taught me is that organizational relationship is a lot like prostitution. Yeah, I said it and I’m not taking it back. Why? Because money and expectation are involved. The moment you remove yourself from expectation and stop investing your money, the relationship is typically taken away. Similar to an end-of-the-night transaction between the John and his paid escort. The relationship lasts until the money changes hands. 

As a leader, that looks a little different. Relationship is removed when I stop serving you the way you want to be served. The moment your feelings are hurt and unresolved. The moment I tell you the hard things and the pain of changing is greater than the pain of staying the same. So you move on. 

As a caveat, I certainly look back and see the many things I did wrong as a leader. That doesn’t change, however, the reality of what I just described. 


How does this all correspond to the thought of Jesus and His kingdom? What ways does He take us from sovereignty to relationship?

This is where I get to bring it around to food. 

Sundays have become my favorite day of the week, and I say that as someone who has not gone to church in almost two years. 

A normal Sunday typically starts with brunch at our restaurant and signifies the end of a full weekend of serving our favorite dishes. 

At the end of the work day, when everything is cleaned up and the lights are turned off, we transition to a different type of food adventure. We invite our dear friends, family and co-workers to an evening of eating, drinking delicious libations and enjoying relationship at our home. It’s big, it’s loud, and I’m sure that our neighbors can smell the cigars that fill the air all around the neighborhood. 

The kids are laughing, playing and running around the property. In the winter they are sledding down the long hill that ends in a cul-de-sac and in the summer they are throwing water balloons at each other and shooting each other with squirt guns. 

I’m certain that in their minds they are free from the control of their parents as they race unsupervised around the area. For them, this is the essence of going from sovereignty to relationship!GRILL

My son and I recently spent a weekend building a huge wood-fired grill in the backyard, and that has become a centerpiece for much of our weekly celebration. So in addition to the sights and sounds, the smell of cherry-wood also fills the neighborhood, along with whatever meats and vegetables we are grilling and smoking. 


I want to bring you into one of the conversations that took place recently. We sit together at the end of the night with the last couple to leave and its nearing midnight. We’re catching up on life, and talking about a time when we all were together at a church that my wife and I had planted. The conversation leads to discussing relationships that have come and gone. Discussing the fact that both of our families have been disconnected from church for quite some time, but not disconnected from Jesus. 

Sitting there in that moment, I realize that Sunday nights – what we have come to lovingly call family meal – are everything that I’ve ever wanted out of a church experience. 

There is something special that takes place when the food is incredible, the drinks are flowing, the children are playing and the life is happening. What is missing from this gathering of hearts from many different backgrounds? 

What’s missing is the exchanging of money. The expectation of volunteerism and unquestioned loyalty. What’s missing is the need to grow and expand inorganically, placing the need for those involved to bring in more people to somehow squeeze them into a house that is already packed.

Please don’t get me wrong, we are not a closed-off group. Neither are we a group that is fighting for membership and growth. New friends often make their way into my house, out to my back yard, and around my fire pit. The difference is that no one is asking them to surrender their Sundays and join the cause. 


I’m fully convinced that this is an imperfect representation of the Kingdom of God. It’s the big long table where friends are welcomed. Where the food is incredible, and no one needs to feel the pressure of expectation. It’s a place where God is not sovereignly standing at the front of the table and giving a lecture. The place where Jesus is loving His friends, washing their feet and asking for those present to make room for those who will come. To help set the table for more, if you will. 

It’s the transition from sovereignty to relationship.

There are times when I look around and I think, “this is my favorite day of the week.” And there are also times that I ponder, “I think this is what heaven will be like, and so much better.” 


dinner tableFood has been an unexpected main character in my story as a pastor turned chef. It’s not surprising, though, as I now read the Bible and see how interwoven it is in all of the best stories. We see the story of a God who comes down, builds a table for us, and invites us to join Him. From sovereignty to relationship. 

Much of modern theology has centered on the respect and fear of God, coupled with acting out holiness in our own power. Many have taught the need for living a bleached-out life without recognizing that Christ’s death and resurrection did that already. I’ve never advocated for reckless living, but we’ve taken opportunity for relationship and labeled it as reckless. 

Rather than boldly declaring freedom in Christ, we’ve settled for our names on the back of our pews. We’ve settled for unquestioned loyalty to a church or a denomination instead of joyful community that expresses the relational heart of God. 


I don’t know about you, but I’ve come to a place in my life where I’d much rather sit at a table filled with all of the best food with my friends, rather than a building where I get to stare at the back of your head. And there’s a part of me that thinks that that’s the story Jesus is telling too. 

Because as I said in the beginning, the origin often signifies the way the stories will be told in the future. The God of relationship is still looking to dine with us, and I plan to give Him every opportunity. I hope you will too. 

Want more content? I’d love for you to follow me as I continue the deep dive into food and faith.

And if you haven’t already, check out another incredible story of friendship and food here: Now We Are Friends!

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