Month: February 2016 (page 2 of 2)

Reads of the Week | 02/06/2016

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Start your weekend with these five articles in the Reads of the Week.

Two Boats, One Gospel: Black History Month and the Church’s Witness by Esau McCaulley

February is Black History Month. McCaulley shares a compelling perspective on racial reconciliation with the grace and truth of the Gospel:

In the midst of my anger, Jesus has come and spoken words of peace. I now see that our destinies (black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Native-American) are united, caught up in the one story of the one people of God. America’s story is only important as a witness to the gospel’s power to bring beauty out of pain and estrangement.

Jesus Met Me Under a Table by Dr. Chuck DeGroat

We look for safe places. DeGroat speaks of how we can create safe places for people to heal and how Jesus does the same for us.

Fair Trade Sports by Zach Smith

This is an important article to re-read from the archives. Many of us will watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. Smith does an excellent job bringing to light the tension between the church and sports.

To Hope all Things about the American Voter by O. Alan Noble

In the midst of a political season, Noble calls us to love our neighbor even if we disagree with their vote. He provides a wonderful plea for political sober-mindedness.

Stop Being Over-Sensitive by Jade Mazarin 

Mazarin offers simple and practical advice for the many of us who can be over-sensitive. She encourages readers not take responsibility for other people’s actions.

What were your reads of the week? Share the links in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Roman Mager.

Surprise People

Prepare for the worst. You and I can think of scenarios where this applies. The moment you get the email saying, “Can I meet with you to discuss something?” It happens in the meeting where you have to pitch the idea. Some of us shiver with fear walking up to a podium for public speaking. You open the door of the house anticipating loads of laundry, dishes in the sink, and the rest of the house in shambles.

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Think of the relief when the worst does not happen. Rather than telling you the bad news, someone wants to sit down and tell you the good news. You hear more encouragement than criticism in the pitch or presentation. Someone has anticipated your exhaustion and cleaned the house. People can surprise us.

Flip the scenario around. You notice another person preparing for the worst. They worry just like you about the reactions to the presentation and the pitch. They anticipate the mess as they open the door to the house.

We know what would like in those circumstances, but how often do we think about others? Better yet, do we respond others in helpful ways?

Experiencing Christ’s grace moves us to recognize the needs of others. The Gospel meets us in everyday life. It’s reflected in our acts of service. It comes through in the moments when people expect the worst.

James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful Community makes this observation about Jesus’ example:

His (Jesus) example becomes our example. Not merely because we want to imitate him and perhaps earn his favor. Being a servant of others is the highest way to live. Wanting and needing to be served by others is not life-producing but soul-destroying, Jesus showed us by example. Jesus the Creator of the universe, the King of all things, comes to serve. He washes the feet of the disciples. He lives to serve.

He not only taught it, he lived it. He gave his life for the good of others, including you and me. We who follow him as teacher are called on to do the same, to shift our focus away from ourselves and onto others.

Serving in Jesus’ name has less do with action and more to do with an attitude. Grace causes us to see what He has done for us; thus, we extend that same grace to others. The Gospel causes us to see the needs of others and respond to them in ways that they can recognize Christ.

In a world full of busyness and self-focus, we surprise people when we offer them grace. They have thought the worst about a circumstance and we have offered them the contrary.

We surprise people when we take the focus off of ourselves and place it on them. It’s the kind word of encouragement when they expected the criticism. It’s doing the mundane chores without being asked. It’s the moment you listen to someone and comment later.

Serving others becomes a tangible expression of living the Gospel in everyday life.

What can you do to surprise someone today? How can you serve them so they can experience grace?

Photo credit by Kelley Bozrarth.

Fear

I married into a family of mental health therapists. My wife, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law practice counseling. As some of our friends like to point out, our conversations tend to gravitate towards boundaries, guided images, breathing techniques, and Table Topics games.

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EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing) has become a frequent discussion topic. This type of therapy uses eye movement to reprocess memories in the brain. For example, a counselor will rhythmically use their fingers or machine for your eyes to focus and your mind will begin to reprocess for healing.

My niece picked up on the conversation about EMDR. I sat at the dinner table, and she approached me waving her fingers back in front of my face. The young aspiring therapist turned to me and asked the question, “What are you scared of?”

I had the decision of humor or authenticity. In thinking of the altruistic teachable moment, I thought I would answer authentically, “I’m scared of failure, not measuring up, and letting people down…”

She paused the waiving of her fingers and looked me in the eye, “Uncle Peter, that’s boring!”

Let’s just say, my niece still needs training in empathetic listening before starting a practice. My fear of leeches was a little more entertaining.

Whenever I think of fear, I remember this conversation. The older we get, the more fear follows us. Perhaps, we realize how much we have to lose, or we have never dealt with fears that we have carried our whole lives.

Rather than realizing and identifying our fear, we can fall into trap of reacting to it:
Don’t take the risk.
Dig your heels into the ground instead of change.
Never ask for the feedback from others.
Remain silent about an idea.

Mark 6:45-52 tells the story of the disciples in the midst of the storm. Strangely, Jesus in this passage sends them to boat knowing the storm would come. What happens? The disciples get tossed in a storm. To their surprise, Jesus comes walking on water. Again, fear debilitates them from experiencing this miracle.

The disciples had seen Jesus perform miracles and just a few verses prior He had fed the 5,000. That sounds a little bit like us. Instead of our faith growing in Christ working in our lives from the past, we fall into the pattern of fear of the present and the future.

Jesus calms the storm, but I think even, more importantly, He gets into the boat. He does not just perform the miracle and walk away. In His humanity, he steps into the boat with the disciples. This episode becomes a teachable moment of faith. Just like the disciples we need the constant reminder that; Christ in us is greater than any fear we face.

Paul David Tripp makes an implication to this passage saying, “Jesus will take you places you did not choose to go so that He can produce in you what you could never achieve on your own.”

Fear ultimately stalls us from growing. Letting the fears like failing, unknown, imperfection, not measuring up, change, and intimacy hinders us. So God graciously brings us into the storm to remind us of His presence in our lives over our fears.

I think my niece might be on to something too. Our fears can be boring keeping us from the adventure God has called to experience.

What fears are you facing today? How has God called you to face these fears?

Photo credit by Tim Marshall.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down

I heard this verse frequently recited growing up. A person in a wise, gentle tone would say, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Ephesians 4:26 sounded like idyllic relational advice. You can imagine a couple of fifty years of marriage mentioning this verse as advice. Scripture passages like this make sense until you find yourself in the heat of the moment.

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Anger rarely meets us at predictable times. We experience frustrations for a variety of reasons. Our plans get re-routed. People say hurtful words. You and I can get forgotten or overlooked. A simple gaze of the political banter on social media can inflict rage on us.

The question for us has less to do with, “Will we get angry?” but rather, “How we will respond to the anger?”

Paul in Ephesians communicates the realities of Christ with us. The Gospel, the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection, revolutionize our relationships. Through the grace He has offered us in forgiveness, we can extend the love He has offered to us to each other. The Gospel transforms our reaction to anger.

I sometimes think we make assumptions about verses like Ephesians 4:26 without unpacking what it means for our lives. Klyne Snodgrass in his Commentary on Ephesians makes this observation:

The text (Eph. 4:25-27) assumes that people will make us angry, but anger must not take up residence. If given a place, it infects and mutates into further resentment and hostility. If given the place, it becomes the avenue the devil uses to cause sin. For that reason, it must be shown the door rather quickly.

The passage does not deny our experience of anger; rather it calls us not to let anger fester. As one of my professors Dr. Ron Hall would say, “We deal with these issues as close to the occurrence as possible.”

Anger left unchecked in our lives can lead us to other sins:
Holding a grudge and remaining bitter towards another.
Taking revenge.
Gossiping about other people.
Lacking kindness in our response to other people.
Often, it can place our interests above others.

So what does it look like to not let anger fester? I used to make the assumption that I had to resolve conflicts right at the moment. Sometimes that makes sense to applying this verse.

Other times though not letting the sun go down on your anger means taking space in the heat of the argument. Instead of further escalation, we recognize that we cannot resolve the issue in our current situation. Both people realize that they need time to calm down and then continue the discussion on a resolution.

The wisdom of this verse requires us recognizing our pattern of anger. Christ’s grace helps us not give into our adverse reactions and passive aggressiveness. On the contrary, knowing the truth about ourselves especially what jolts us halts us from making poor decisions. We can ask Christ and trusted friends to help see the situation clearly as opposed to being swayed by our emotions.

What anger has festered in your life? How has Christ challenged you not to let the sun go down on your anger? You may want to take the time to read and reflect on Ephesians 4:25-26.

Photo credit by Kasper Bertelsen.

Gossiping and Processing

People will frustrate us. Some might even hurt us. Miscues and miscommunications happen on a regular basis with our family and friends. It occurs intentionally or unintentionally. When we experience disappointments in relationships, we need a space to speak our mind.

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Speaking our mind about our relationships has to do with not only what we say, but how and why we say it. The difference becomes a matter of gossiping or processing. The space where we talk about our disappointments and frustrations of others can either leave us in resentment or moves us to maturity.

Jesus in Luke 6:45 says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

The writers of Scripture do not run from the pain we experience from others. Rather their insight concerns what happens in our hearts. They focus on not taking revenge, letting unforgiveness fester, and pursuing peace. Jesus calls us to look into our hearts to recognize the unhealthy patterns of how we see others when they disappoint us.

Talking about the conflicts in our relationship deals with our hearts. We can fall into the trap of gossiping of others in unhealthy ways or learn to process the situation healthily.

What’s the difference between gossiping and processing? Here are four indicators of having the right motivation for speaking our mind in the midst of relationship conflict:

They vs. I

Gossiping makes the problem about the “other person.” It speaks in the third person and assigns motives to actions without knowing all the facts. On the other hand, processing uses “I” statements. These statements give the other person the benefit of the doubt, but more importantly, help separate feeling from reality. It’s not that our feelings do not matter, but often they do not give us the whole picture.

Shifting from “They” to “I” begins to help us see our part in the problem rather than blaming the other person.

Quantity vs. Quality

Simply put, gossip looks to broadcast the problem to as many people as possible, quantity. Processing pursues quality relationships and conversations. Quality relationships includes people who will listen well, but will give us the truth about the other person and our role in the problem.

Campaigning vs. Feedback

Closely aligned to the last indicator, gossiping campaigns. We share our relational problems with several people for them to side with us rather than the other person. Gossiping builds a case with an audience.

Processing looks for feedback. After speaking our mind, we start asking the question, “Am I seeing this person and situation rightly?” Processing wants to pursue growth and maturity. Gossiping remains in the same place.

Winning vs. Reconciliation

Gossiping makes the goal of winning. How do win the relational disappointment? We take revenge on the other person by airing our grievances with multiple people. Sometimes we hold a grudge against them. Inside our hearts, we have held on to bitterness.

Processing pursues reconciliation. When we want to discuss our relational problems with a close friend, they help us see the road to forgiveness and Christ at work in us. They tell us where we have gone wrong and help us give grace to the person who hurts us.

This week, you might experience disappointments in relationships. How you handle it reveals Christ’s work in your heart. Start by asking God for forgiveness for the times you responded in the wrong ways and for the grace to respond healthily in the future. Then identify the people in your life who will listen to you process and will help you see the reality of yourself and the other person through Christ.

What other differences do you see between gossiping and processing? Share in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Arnel Hasanovic.

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