Tag: community (page 2 of 7)

Breaking Bread

My Grandma grew up in New York City during the Great Depression. She developed a toughness in speaking her mind and defending what she considered right. Her life changed when she began to follow Jesus; radical grace complemented tough, gritty truth.

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The church I grew up attending had a special communion service. Fresh loaves of bread sat out in the front of the sanctuary. The pastor gave instructions to take the bread and find a person who you might have offended or needed to forgive. It became a tangible way for the church to practice forgiveness as Jesus taught.

On that particular night, Grandma approached the front. She took the loaf and turned to the pastor, “I have felt bothered and upset at you, and I would like to ask for forgiveness.” As they broke bread together, tears began to roll down their faces.

I have heard that story from my Grandma a dozen times. When she talks about that pastor, I can hear her admiration for him. It has become a powerful picture to me of forgiveness.

Consider the night that Jesus gave communion to His disciples. He broke bread with a man who would betray him. Another person would deny him. Almost all of them would abandon him. After Jesus had resurrected, he broke bread with these very same people for their reconciliation. The Savior, who taught on forgiveness, practice it to the people who hurt him.

The Gospel motivates us to break bread because Jesus has graciously broken bread for us. Breaking bread means putting aside our desire for revenge. It moves us from bitterness to compassion. And in a simple act of eating to stay alive, we come to see that we all need grace from our Savior.

Imagine a community of people who sought reconciliation instead constant bickering. People would see the love of Christ at dinner tables and perhaps the literal act of breaking bread like my Grandma. Sometimes before our tough conversations, we simply need a meal together.

Who has God called you to break bread with today? Maybe, you can take the first step of reconciliation like what Jesus has done for you.

Photo credit by Mike Kenneally.

Bridge Building & Wall Building

Embrace your critics. You may have heard several iterations of this axiom from books, articles, and speakers. We desire to grow in how we interact with difficult people, our opposites, and even enemies. Then the conflict comes, or the blunt feedback hits us from them. Rather than looking to embrace, it seems easier to exclude.

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You and I have a choice when we come to these relationships, will we build bridges or walls?

No matter what the current best practice resources say, our natural tendency can desire to shut these people out of our lives or ready ourselves for an unhelpful argument. In the moment, we want to take revenge or find justice. Rarely does this help in the long run.

Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount says in Matthew 5:44, “…But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” You may have heard this verse a thousand times, but take a moment to consider it with fresh eyes.

The audience listening to Jesus’ teaching faced the injustice of the Roman government, especially taxation. In the previous verses, Jesus calls them not to retaliate and go the extra mile (Matt. 5:38-42). Not an easy task in the midst of mistreatment. Jesus called these people run against their natural tendency of building walls and build bridges towards other people.

Not only did Jesus teach this verse, but He lived it out. His death and resurrection provided us grace as a bridge to Him. That’s the Gospel, the Good News.

So when we face the critics, difficult people, and even enemies, how can we build bridges rather than following our natural tendency to build walls? Here are three ideas.

1. Wall building assumes the worst. Bridge building assumes the best.

Conflicts can result from us placing assumptions on other people. We think that they are out to get us, or they intentionally want to thwart us. At times, it can happen. Many times people have acted with positive intentions that they did not mean to affect us negatively. Looking to assume the best of a person allows us to see their perspective and then have a dialogue to share our perspective.

2. Wall building focuses on disagreements. Bridge building finds common ground.

People have different beliefs, convictions, and personalities. Before we go on in an argument, find the common ground. What areas can we agree? Starting from this place can encourage reconciliation and a mutual resolution.

3. Wall building pleads a case. Bridge building seeks personal blind spots.

When we plead our case, it becomes an us verse them. You and I will vent to others hoping they agree with us while continuing to increase the distance from the other person. Building bridges means asking, what do I not see about myself? We can begin to pray seeking God’s help see our motivations of our hearts.

You might find yourself in the midst of a challenging relationship. Consider the example Jesus and ask Him for wisdom. Find a trusted friend to help you recognize your blind spots.

What other ways can you build bridges instead of walls in your relationships?

Photo credit by Dan Gribbin.

The Imaginative Gospel

I sat across from two friends at coffee. We updated each other on our lives and current reading list. The conversation began to turn towards how people grow. He reached for his coffee cup and made a powerful observation about following Jesus.

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He said to both of us, “We tell people what not to do, rather than giving them the imagination of what life in Christ could look like.”

We can become fixated of what we need to stop or quit. Dallas Willard in the Divine Conspiracy called this the “Gospel of Sin-Management.” This gospel lives in the present without the future vision of how Christ’s grace transforms our lives. It becomes our constant anxiety of checking out lists and earning God’s grace.

The Gospel gives us the optimistic imagination for growth. God’s grace causes us to see His presence at work in us. He invites us to have a vision for our lives in His likeness and loving people as He has.

When Jesus encounters people in Scripture, He sees the reality of who they are and who they can become through believing in Him.
Peter, despite his faults and failure, receives a vision from Jesus to shepherd God’s people (John 21).
The woman at the well moves past her reputation in Samaria to communicating to people a vision of Christ’s grace (John 4).
The woman caught in adultery moves from experiencing shame to the radical acceptance of Jesus (John 8:1-11)

The Good News of Jesus Christ gives us the reality of our need for a Savior, but also provides us a vision of life-change through His grace…
Worry can transform into faith in Christ.
Judging others can turn towards compassion.
Shame gets exchanged for the radical acceptance of a Savior.
Materialism and greed can be swapped for contentment.

The list could go further. The question for you is where has Christ given you imagination for life-change? What one area might He call you to have a radical vision for His grace?

Ask God about these questions. Then share it a with a trusted friend. Grace grows our imagination with the assumption of God at work in our lives.

Imagination and faith are the same thing, giving substance to our hopes and reality to the unseen – Bishop John V. Taylor

Photo credit by Kamesh Vedula.

Forgiveness | Guest Post by Scott Savage

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

Jesus’ Prayer in Pain

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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.

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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.

When to Walk Away

I have come to appreciate my wife Robyn’s wisdom. Often, people will ask for her perspective. It comes with a territory as a professional counselor. Last week, a person asked her about handling disagreements.

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As Robyn responded to the question, she shared a thoughtful piece of wisdom, “Sometimes in the heat of the disagreement, we need to kindly walk away and then plan on coming back to the conversation.”

Walking away from a conversation means recognizing gridlock, neither of us can hear the other in the present moment. So we agree to finish the conversation later in affirmation of each other. With a little time and perhaps even perspective from another we can have a more productive conversation.

How many times have we dug our heels into a disagreement? We defend our viewpoint. The other person supports theirs. No person moving towards the other in understanding, but, on the contrary, the debate escalates with no sign of working together.

Rather than digging our heels into the ground, we can learn the moment to walk away. Not out of anger, but out of the realization that sometimes both people need space. Then we can come back to the conversation with grace and understanding for each other.

Photo credit by Dan Gribbin.

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