Page 3 of 21

Forgiveness | Guest Post by Scott Savage

photo-1451933335233-c41672c8f378

Today’s guest post comes Scott Savage. He serves as a Teaching Pastor at North Phoenix Baptist Church. His family includes his wife Danalyn and three toddlers. I met Scott last summer at a family get together, because our wives are cousins. You can follow his blog at http://www.scottsavagelive.com/.

Have you ever watched anything on the Animal Planet channel? You know, one of those scenes where a pack of lions attacks

I saw a similar scene one day when I was looking for new jeans. I drove to a shopping center near my apartment in Central Phoenix. The strip mall houses a Last Chance store. Last Chance is an outlet for Nordstroms, a high-end department store. Nordstroms sends their unsold goods to a few Last Chance stores around the United States, where one can find high-end garments at ridiculously low prices. Items you’d pay $100 or more for in Nordstroms, you can pick up for $15 or $20. I read a newspaper article a couple of years ago about Last Chance customers who make tens of thousands of dollars each year buying items at Last Chance and reselling them online.

Purses are popular items to flip, but shoes and suits can be steals too. My wife refuses to shop there – the tightness of the racks and the crowds of people stress her out. I love going – to people watch as much as to hunt for deals.

On the visit I mentioned earlier, I had a remarkable experience. As I came down the escalator, I saw a group of women descend on a recently opened stash of Coach brand purses. They were like the pack of lions I witnessed on Animal Planet. Where was Morgan Freeman to give commentary? Soon security intervened between the two women.

The reaction of the women reminds me of the way we often respond to the idea of forgiveness. Several years ago, I led a teaching series on forgiveness as a college pastor. I felt like it was a relevant topic, but I didn’t expect it to be such a divisive one too. If you had observed the discussion which followed my talk, you would’ve thought I had suggested the world was flat. The feedback was intense!

I had been working with many of these students for years. I thought I knew them, many of them were mellow, even reserved in group discussion. However, suggesting they forgive the people who wounded them seemed unreasonable. I learned a lot from that teaching series and discussion group. I’ve been studying human responses to forgiveness ever since.

One of my takeaways from my study has been nearly everyone has someone they’re struggling to forgive. Almost all of us have hangups about forgiveness. In first discussion session with my students, Matt couldn’t stomach forgiveness because he felt like he had to forget the wrongs done to him. Elizabeth felt it was a lot more complicated than just deciding to say, “I forgive you.” She had said those words but still felt like she hadn’t truly forgiven the other person. Michael couldn’t imagine reconciling with a girl who hurt him. Therefore, he couldn’t forgive her because he saw them as inseparable.

How about you? Do you have someone you’re struggling to forgive?

I believe one of our greatest stumbling blocks to true forgiveness are the myths we believe. Matt, Elizabeth, and Michael struggled to forgive because they believed myths about forgiveness. They said, “if this is what forgiveness means, then I cannot forgive.” If I had a time machine and could go back in time, I’d respond differently to them. I would say, “if that’s what forgiveness means, I wouldn’t forgive either. But I think you misunderstand forgiveness.”

If you’re struggling to forgive, I wonder what your stumbling blocks are. Why can’t you get over the hump? I’m curious if a forgiveness myth stands in your way, as it did for my students.

Over the last couple years, I began assembling a list of forgiveness myths I heard from people. The list now includes ten myths which have kept people I love from discovering the freedom of forgiveness. I believe the tragedy of unforgiveness is that we end up missing out while those who hurt us move in with their lives.

Anne Lammott, a writer, once said, “Refusing to forgive is like drinking rat poison and expecting the rat to die.” Unforgiveness is toxic, for us not for those who wounded us.

I wrote my new ebook, Forgiveness: From Myth to Reality, for all the people I’ve talked to since that original college discussion group. I don’t want any of us to miss out on the freedom we can discover when we forgive. What a tragedy it would be if we avoided forgiveness only to find we were avoiding a myth, not the real thing!

As a thank you to Peter for allowing me to share on his site, I’d like to give you a free copy of Forgiveness: From Myth to Reality. Click here to get your free copy. My prayer is you’ll unearth the myths you’ve been duped into believing and discover the reality of true forgiveness. You deserve the freedom which comes when you forgive.

Photo credit by m0851.

When Conflicts Turn

Gridlock materializes in conflict when two parties cannot find common ground. People stubbornly stand in their spot or even move farther apart. Often, seemingly unassuming issues become enormous challenges because people cannot make progress towards each other in a disagreement.

photo-1453112429066-0cbf536ccaf2

As I look back at the conflicts in my life, I notice a reoccurring theme. Conflicts turned the moment I moved from rationalizing my rightness of position to moving towards understanding the other person. It took stepping into their perspective and relinquishing a need to defend my point of view.

90% of conflict is understanding the other person, and 10% is about being right and wrong.

In the heat of the argument, we want validation of our correctness. Two immovable people in the midst of a disagreement trying to find a resolution results in gridlock. Both vying to win the debate as opposed to finding common ground.

How can we turn conflict from being right and wrong to understanding each other? Here are a few ideas to consider.

1. Listen without Interruptions.

Nothing raises the level of contention than not letting a person finish their thought. You can see the escalation of frustrations like presidential candidates raising their voices for airtime in a debate. Listening can calm a situation. It allows a person to speak their mind. Then they can sense the value of you attempting to understand.

2. Play it back.

A phrase I often hear from my wife and appreciate her saying is, “So what I think I hear you saying is…” That means you have not only listened to the information, but you have processed what a person said into understanding. You have attempted to play back what they have told you.

3. Stop using “But.”

The word “but” negates. You can play back everything to a person, then using “but” signals your view is coming. We know the feeling of hearing an apology with, “I’m sorry, but…” Instead, wait to interject your perspective until the person has felt heard.

4. Use patience.

We want to resolve conflict quickly, but it may take more time than you think. In understanding the person, you may want to take the time to respond with your perspective. A person just sharing their frustration might not be ready to hear the other side. Pray with each other asking for God’s help. Then set up a follow-up time.

The way we handle conflict reveals to how we understand the Gospel in our lives and grace of Jesus. Consider 1 Peter 3:8-9:

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

How have you learned to turn conflict by understanding the other person? Share in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Tomohiko Nogi.

Acts of Hope

Hope has become commercialized. Politicians peddle it during the election cycles. The endless amount of advertisers sells us on it. Sport’s franchises have asked fans to buy into the rebuilding process. Commercialized hope can lead us to cynicism and disappointment, making promises for today without any accountability for tomorrow.

photo-1441986380878-c4248f5b8b5b

Genuine hope moves us from passivity to action. Hope harmonizes the present with the future. What we believe about tomorrow leads us to how we respond today.

Eugene Peterson speaks of hope in Run with the Horses:

All acts of hope expose themselves to ridicule because they seem impractical, failing to conform to visible reality. But in fact, they are the reality that is being constructed but is not yet visible. Hope commits us to actions that connect with God’s promises (pg. 174)

How do we live with hope? Later on, Peterson talks about it becoming “Really Practical.” A coworker once coined the term, the nauseating details. I think this fits for hope because we get to the nitty-gritty of today by God’s promises for the future rather than a mere pie in the sky view.

Practical acts of hope look like this…
Planting because Christ causes growth.
Working with our best effort today at our tasks because Christ sees.
Praying for our enemies and those who hurt us because Christ heals.
Seeking reconciliation and forgiveness because Christ restores.
Showing up, because Christ is already present.
Engaging Scripture because Christ speaks.

The list could go on, but most often acts of hope seem extremely ordinary. Those practices that we can dismiss, but they come back to our minds. They reflect a belief in God’s promises. When we live with genuine hope, we ultimately experience God’s grace today.

What acts of hope has God called you to fulfill today?

Photo credit by Clack Street Mercantile.

Rough Edges

Certain relationships change us. These friends, family members, significant others, and coworkers cause us to have perspective. In a merciful way, they tell us the truth that few will while still encouraging us. By observing how they relate to us, we become better at relating to others. They help us smooth out our rough edges.

photo-1414497729697-b8555ba6c1cc

The rough edges represent the areas of our lives that Christ’s grace has work to smooth. The times we want to get even rather than forgiveness. It becomes present at our stubbornness. In conversation, we try to win the argument as opposed to hearing what the other person.

Rough edges remind us of the tension we live in of the old self and new self. Seeing the characteristics of Christ in us; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. Recognizing the work God still has to do in us.

So He brings people into our lives to speak the truth in love. Scripture invites to reflect on our hearts and actions. In the midst of prayer, taking the time to confess to God and even others those areas where we have fallen short.

My wife Robyn has become a person who has helped me smooth the rough edges in my life. Over the years, I have noticed the small transformations from her influence; moving from interrupting to listening, seeing conflicts from both sides, and responding with kindness rather than reacting in frustration.

Allowing God to smooth the rough edges means having more attentiveness to our lives. Seeing how people relate to us and observing how we handle challenges. Then His grace motivates us to change.

It feels like the tedious work of sanding or buffing. Gradually, our rough edges become the places where people experience Christ’s presence.

What rough edges in your life will God’s grace have to smooth? Who has God placed in your life to help you grow?

Photo credit by Mike Kenneally.

Longsuffering

Growing up, I had the challenge of memorizing from the King James Version (KJV). The Old English full of “thees” and “thous” would stump my recitation. Imagine a grade school student struggling through Shakespeare like verbiage.

photo-1442115597578-2d0fb2413734

One word made a little more sense to me as a kid in the KJV rather than the modern language; longsuffering. It described the prolonged amount of waiting adults asked of me. It looked like putting up with the annoyances of friends and siblings.

The KJV uses it on the list of the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 and Ephesians 4:2 uses it to describe our relationship with each other. Longsuffering relates to patience, tolerance, and forbearance for one another. Ultimately, it describes how God has given us grace.

We can become apt to want to change people. We critique without tact. Our impatience with others happens more than we would like to believe. Rather than responding in love, we react with frustration and anger. We can get fixated on other’s faults.

Longsuffering brings us to the Gospel. Christ has given us grace through his life, death, and resurrection. He calls us to extend the love He has given us to others. He loves us as we are and not a future version of ourselves.

In community, you and I experience the best and worst of each other. Every once in a while, we need to step back to ask Christ to give us the grace to see others as He sees them. Then we can begin to move towards longsuffering by…
Recognize how Christ’s presence in their lives.
Consider their gifts and strengths.
Support and celebrate when they take steps of growth.
Listen more without too quickly offering feedback.

As an adult, longsuffering has become less about my burden of patience and more about the realization of Christ’s grace given to me and extending it to others.

Who has Christ called you to act with longsuffering? How can you offer them grace that He has extended to you?

Photo credit by Samantha Sophia.

A Prayer for Holy Saturday

photo-1457301353672-324d6d14f471

Holy Saturday rests in the in between.
Good Friday reflects on Your sacrifice.
Easter celebrates Your resurrection.
We find ourselves on this day looking backwards and looking forward.
Yet, there’s a grace about this day.

Many of us will spend this day planning and preparing.
The small plastic eggs will get filled and hidden around the house.
We set the tables and check the items off the grocery list.
Final emails, texts, and phone calls communicate the details of Easter Sunday.

Today reminds us of the silence.
The tomb remained guarded, and the stone covered the entrance.
You taught your disciples about trust and dependence.
They had to wrestle with the reality of your Words.
It’s in the solitude of the in between that we experience Your grace.

We fill most our lives with noise and activities.
Stopping and reflecting has become inconvenient.
You invite us to wait in the quietness.
Grace means learning to be still and knowing You are God.

We continue to say, “Sunday’s coming…”
But we also recognize Your presence in the in between.
May today help us grasp a deeper understanding of our dependence on You.
Holy Saturday teaches us to trust You when we cannot tell how You are at work.
Help us not rush this day, but experience Your grace.

Photo credit by Annie Spratt.

The Wait of Good Friday

We have done everything we can do. Those words rarely bring comfort. A gap exists between our action and a response. It happens after making the phone call or sending the text holding our breath for confirmation. It happens when we keep looking for the messenger of a decision or diagnosis. After you have done everything you can do, you then hear the words, now all we can do is wait.

photo-1447108740809-7f5651c51fbf

I have thought of Good Friday regarding our waiting like the disciples for Easter. In this thinking, we can imagine ourselves having an eye witness account to Jesus’ suffering with a host of emotions; the guilt of failing Him, the seemingly disappointment of an ended kingdom movement, the grief of losing a friend. Will the resurrection ever come?

Perhaps, the most powerful example of waiting within Good Friday comes from Jesus. The scene that best describes His example comes from the Garden of Gethsemane. His prayer to the Father displays the authentic reality of pain, but also the acceptance of God’s plan. David Garland reflects on this scene in his commentary on Mark:

He (Jesus) had already handed himself over to death when he acted and taught as he did in the temple. He had brought his proclamation of God’s reign to the seat of human power. Now he must change from the one who acts to the one who waits and is acted upon. This change is one of the hardest things to accept in life – to become passive after a life of active involvement, to be at the mercy of others. Mark’s readers need not shy away from crying to God to be spared form their own cross that they must bear, but they can learn from Jesus to accept God’s plan through prayer.

Good Friday reminds us of God’s timetable and at times learning to accept the places and situations He has us. In the waiting, we come to a deeper awareness of Christ’s presence.

Jesus’ grace not only saves us but sustains us in suffering and pain.

The pain and suffering of Good Friday becomes the hope of the Resurrection, but Jesus offers us grace on Friday and Saturday. He too has lived through the waiting.

Jesus, our mediator in prayer, identifies and sympathizes with us in these moments. It’s within the gap between action and passivity that we learn dependence on Christ and come to the realization that we do not captain our own ship. In some situations, God calls us like Jesus to accept the plan He has for us trusting Him to lead us through.

Today, let’s learn to wait on Good Friday rather than rushing to the Easter Resurrection. In our waiting, we can learn to recognize Christ’s presence and experience a deeper awareness of His grace.

Photo credit by Pablo GarciaSaldaña.

Jesus’ Prayer in Pain

photo-1444062069505-351e1ed9eae7

There’s no easy answer to the question of pain. Logically, we try to rationalize coming out better on the other side. Our feelings can make us only focus on the present and how much the current season hurts. Each of us walks with a degree of pain looking for hope.

Grief can hit us in waves of what once was.
Disappointment arrives daily in minuscule and enormous ways.
Rejection appears in the least expected moments and from those closest to us.
We feel the criticism, betrayals, and the daily exhaustion of life.

Pain leads us to ask, Where is God in all of this?  Seth Haines in Coming Clean reflects on Jesus’s prayer in the midst of pain.

I consider Jesus in Gethsemane. Lord if it be your will, let this cup pass. It is the most human prayer of Jesus, I think. It is the bend-low before God, the stinging sweat prayer where Jesus says, “If you could spare me a favor, I’d rather not endure this.” I consider his prayer of self-preservation; if his request had been granted, what of this groaning creation? Would we still have been united with God, rescued from the slavery and corruption of the world? Or would we have groaned and groaned and groaned into and throughout eternity?

In his humanity, though, Jesus learned to bend his will to God’s so that he could be the ultimate agent of reconciliation. He surrendered to the mystery of God’s will, that he would be crucified, murdered, and that his murder would somehow bring a better way.

We celebrate Palm Sunday this weekend. Jesus’ prayer in the garden seems separated far more than a few days. He would endure the betrayals and scrutiny from people. Then He suffered the physical pain and exhaustion in the crucifixion.

The days leading up to Easter bring us back to the humanness of Jesus. He has walked where we have. We can imagine ourselves in the garden praying. It’s not about the tidy answers or logical conclusion; rather a Savior becomes present with us.

One of the most powerful expressions of God’s grace comes from His identification and presence in the most excruciating moments of pain. He finds us in the midst of prayer. He brings people who offer their presence.

How does Jesus’ prayer in pain offer hope to you? What did Jesus experience in His humanness that brings clarity to your pain?

Photo credit by Hannah Morgan.

Reframing the Disagreement: Moving from Beyond Rightness or Wrongness to Loving Each Other

Nothing builds a relationship like a disagreement. You may think this has a twinge of sarcasm, but consider it for a second. At one point or another, the people we love the most will rubs us the wrong way. Conversely, the people who love us the most will get rubbed the wrong way. Living without conflict or disagreement does not match reality.

BIR62RGGjGxN5nrbnzwu_3

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to share from Romans 14:1-23 at Browncroft Community Church. The Roman church had encountered a disagreement surrounding eating meat, drinking wine, and observing certain holidays. Interestingly enough, Paul focuses on the relationship of the people in the church rather than the right or wrongness of the issue.

One of the major critiques of the church and Christianity is disagreeing. Often, followers of Jesus disagree on issues with no clear direction from scripture. I had the opportunity to survey people on Romans 14. Listen to what they said frustrated them when followers of Jesus disagree or debate:

“Christians don’t really debate, they sling opinions and then duck.”

“Using scripture to support one viewpoint, as in misquoting, taking out of context, picking out one verse over many others to make a point.”

“Winning at all costs. It’s like they have to win the debate in order to prove their position is correct in the eyes of God.”

“Most people debate from an attitude of my position is 100% correct and there is no room for any other stance.”

I think these responses cause us to take inventory with God. Our major problem with disagreements comes from making rightness and winning the goal, rather than love in the relationship.

Paul in Romans 14 teaches us how to disagree well. He shows us how the Gospel meets us in our everyday relationships. From this passage we can adopt three practices to reframe our disagreements:

1. Stop Judging and Expecting People to Conform to Your Position  (Romans 14:3-4, 13)

Judging seems like everyone else’s problem. In issues of disagreements, we make judgments by expecting others to conform to our beliefs on disputable issues. It becomes a line drawn to the right on our side. Paul in this passage calls us to step back and recognize God as the real judge. Judging clouds us from seeing the issue and relationship with others clearly.

There’s a significant difference in critiquing and evaluating issues as opposed to judging a person. One seeks to understand the disagreement and the sides. The other makes a verdict on a person which only God can do.

2. Accept One Another by Getting Comfortable with Disagreement (Romans 14:1, 19)

John Stott points out that the reference to “acceptance” in vs. 1 carries the implication of Christ accepting us. The Gospel reminds us that Christ has welcomed us as we are rather than a future version of ourselves. Paul has asked the Romans and us to do the same for others especially those whom we disagree.

Acceptance is not passive. It becomes active by understanding a person’s story and getting their background. It learns to appreciate their differing viewpoint. From the view of this passage, acceptance gives a person room to disagree on a disputable matter.

3. Cut Others Slack because We Need Grace

At the heart of the disagreement in Romans 14 was a narrative that dismissed people’s conscience. You and I will have certain sensitivity towards issues and other disagreements we will not. When we remove our judgmental view and accept others, then we can begin to offer each other grace. It becomes an opportunity for us to love each other and make a disagreement a non-issue.

Take the opportunity today to read Romans 14. How might God challenge you to reframe the disagreements in your life?

The way we handle disagreements reveal our understanding of Christ’s grace in our lives.

Watch the message from Sunday below:

March 13 | Message from Browncroft Community Church on Vimeo.

Access the Group Guide by clicking here.

Photo credit by Sylwia Bartyzel.

Is God Pro-Exhaustion?

photo-1454678904372-2ca94103eca4

My wife and I started teaching a four-week class on busyness yesterday. Delving deeper into this topic becomes more of a mirror to seeing ourselves than a window in seeing others. Both of us have started the conversation of what busyness reveals about our hearts.

One of the most telling insights we have encountered comes from Richard A. Swenson in his book Margin:

We must have some room to breathe. We need freedom to think and permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has the time to listen, let alone love. Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions. Is God now pro-exhaustion? Doesn’t He lead people beside the still waters anymore? Who plundered those wide-open spaces of the past, and how can we get them back? There are no fallow lands for our emotions to lie down and rest in.

The question that roars from Swenson, “Is God now pro-exhaustion?”  We add activities, refuse to edit our schedules, and never turn off the work mode. Somewhere in the midst of this, you and I can believe the lie that busyness can offer us significance, value, importance, and love from others and God.

Why we are busy tells us far more about our spiritual lives than what makes us busy.

Perhaps, God has called us to live a different pace than we currently live. He may have given us less responsibility than we have put on ourselves. The Gospel reminds us of Christ saving us through His death and resurrection, not us earning our saving ourselves through our busyness.

What would it like for you to experience the still waters God provides? You could take a walk outside for five minutes. Not look at a screen for fifteen minutes. Laugh with your family. Read over Psalm 23. Today, you and I can rebel against our busyness by stopping long enough to receive God’s grace in breathing.

Photo credit by Pierre Rougler.

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2017

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: