Tag: truth (page 1 of 3)

Little Foxes

“Catch for us the foxes,
    the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
    our vineyards that are in bloom.”
(Song of Solomon 2:15)

What pesters you? What frustrations consume the dialogues in your mind?

The other day, I spent the morning frustrated by a minor detail of a conversation. Nothing necessarily immoral or consequential, but irksome nonetheless. It created an issue of more time spent discussing the topic that could have been avoided.

My wife noticed my distraction and seemingly “off” behavior. She graciously asked, “What’s on your mind?” Without really thinking, I blurted out, “Why do these little issues matter so much to me?”

Have you been there? I think for most of us, we prepare for the enormous issues. Yet, on a day to day basis, the little pesterings and frustrations get the better of us.
You have to re-explain the same direction after the thousandth time.
You once again have been the benefactor of a nitpicked piece of feedback.
Your day gets detoured by an unforeseen errand.
Your plans get altered by everyone else except you.

I recently came across Song of Solomon 2:15, the passage quoted above. In an extremely obscure book of the Bible, that word picture made so much sense. When you and I look at what derails us, the “little foxes” can be as or more dangerous than the catastrophic problems.

Listen to what Tremper Longman and Dan Allender say about the verse:

…the foxes stand for anything or anyone who threatens the harmony and well-being of the vineyard garden. That is, anything or anyone who presents danger to the intimate relationship between a man or women. (God Loves Sex)

Though Song of Solomon 2:15 specifically references the marriage relationship, this verse provides us a larger principle whether married or single. The “little foxes” keep the focus on ourselves rather than others. They can distract us from God’s best blessings in our lives. Ultimately, the accumulation of them in our lives can result in long term effects.

How do you deal with “little foxes?” It begins by identifying WHY anything or anybody has taken so much space in our mind and time.

These seemingly small issues hint to a deeper pain inside us: insecurity, bitterness, doubt, or anxiety. When we can go deeper, we can invite God to speak to the root problem. This is why community matters: with a trusted friend, you now have a place to receive truth and grace. Truth to see your blind spots to grow, and grace to receive.

What are your “little foxes?” What little pesterings or frustration are robbing you? Perhaps today is a prompt for you to identify these and take your next steps of growth.

Photo produced by CloudVisual

Remedying Short Attention Spans

Short attention spans come easier and easier. The headlines of last month can get lost in the urgency of today’s news. We move from story to story at an alarming rate, sometimes without taking any time to reflect on the larger issues. Opinions get debated without little nuance or thoughtfulness. It can seem more information brings anxiety rather than peace.

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Remedying short attention spans begins with recognizing Christ’s grace. It requires us to redirect our focus to a greater reality rather than succumbing to distractions. In a world where everything seems urgent, the Gospel constantly reminds us of the resurrection of meaning. We can live life as those created in God’s image and restored by His forgiveness.

A new way of looking at engaging Scripture includes the habit of having a longer attention span. We need this simple practice and reminder of seeing God’s grace. Consider what Eugene Peterson says in Run with the Horses:

We live on the gossip of the moment and the rumors of the hour. It is not as if we never hear the truth at all, but we don’t realize its overwhelming significance. It is an extra, an aside. We have no sense of continuity. We respond to whims, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Then Scripture is placed before us. Words are assembled and arranged, and powerful patterns of truth become visible…Amnesia is replaced by recognition. Distraction gathered into attention.

Engaging Scripture has to do with cultivating an attentive heart to seeing God’s presence in the world around us. Not falling into the trap of worry, today’s headlines, and ventilated opinions, but coming to the place where we discover the Gospel in real life; seeing God’s grace in the everyday.

So today, read the Bible seeing the continuous work of God’s grace in the world around you. Take time to reflect on His faithfulness of yesterday. Slow down at a verse that stops you rather than reading for a quick self-help fix. Keep the Scripture as a reminder by writing it down or saving it on an app.

How can you recognize God’s continuous work rather than living with a short attention span?

Photo credit by Seth Doyle.

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.

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.

Passion without Giftedness or Ability

I played guitar in high school, and I wanted to minor in Digital Media. Guitar playing requires this little thing called rhythm. Digital media includes having the perspective to see the minute details. I had a desire to pursue the guitar and digital media, but they did not match how God wired me.

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My brother-in-law Chris took the picture above. He picked up a camera a few years ago and has continued to develop this love while also having the skill to see photos before clicking the button. I have a couple of friends who play in a band called Pompton Lakes. You can see the joy of them playing for practice or on stage.

When I think over my pursuit of digital media and guitar, I reflect on these individuals. They have passion, giftedness, and ability in these areas. They have grown and developed.

Maturity means having an honest conversation about passion, giftedness, and ability. You and I know people who have found a rhythm in these three characteristics. We also know people who play off beat with these characteristics.

I wonder how often we try to pursue areas where we have passion, but no giftedness or ability. It’s a challenging and honest conversation with ourselves. American Idol brought us singers out of tune. People call themselves event planners but do not manage the details well. You can observe this in people in sports and art too.

Maybe we pursue these passions out of a genuine interest or at times we do it out of the comparison of others or wanting recognition.

Strangely, people believe in developing giftedness and ability, but it seems we rarely talk about developing a passion. When we can realize how God has wired us with gifts and abilities, perhaps our passion can get developed by helping and serving others.

We no longer have to confine ourselves to a particular gift or ability. In finding the truth about ourselves, we can find the freedom to serve and make a difference in ways God wired us.

How do we find out about gifts and abilities? Take the gift assessments, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator,  and StrengthFinder. Even more importantly, ask the people around you, “What gifts and abilities do you recognize in me?” Allow them to have permission help you observe your life and God might speak through them to show you how you can help others.

In having the honest conversation with ourselves, we might find out that our passion does not line up with our giftedness and ability. I had to find out the truth about playing guitar and digital media so I could appreciate people like Chris and Pompton Lakes, but also to free myself develop and grow in the gifts and abilities God gave me.

What passion have you pursued that does not line up with your gift or ability? What gifts and abilities do others notice in you? How might God call you use those to serve others?

Photo credit by Chris Mason Design.

What I’m Scared to Hear

I sat across from a friend at lunch. We reminisced about our college experience a few years prior. The conversation turned towards our growth since that chapter of our lives. In the midst of this conversation, he commented to me, “You listen better now than before. I remember how often you used to interrupt people…”

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My friend’s observation caught me off guard. I began to rewind our conversations. Each episode I played back in my mind pointed to a moment where I could have listened more intently. The truth of what he said scared me because I had to recognize an area of growth in my life. His comment also confirmed the truth about growth in my life.

The truth hurts. It sounds like a trite saying after someone gives a sharp piece of feedback. You and I want to grow, but listening to the reality about ourselves feels like root canal work: a necessary process with an enormous amount of pain.

If people could share the honest truth with you, what would they say?

That question can scare us. The truth can confirm a fault we always knew or make us aware of an area of growth we did not see. It can come out of a place of love from another person and at other times they say it out of their selfishness. For us to truly grow and mature, we have to learn to receive difficult feedback recognizing what we need to hear.

Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend in How People Grow talks about the desire to accept the truth:

When people understand that the truth can save and preserve their lives, it is hard not to love it. When you love something, you pursue it and want to be around it. Seek God’s truth. Hang around honest people. Invite safe people to tell you the truth about yourself. Don’t take a passive role with truth: Hunt it down. Pray David’s prayer: “Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me.” (Ps. 43:3)

Finding out the truth about us can scare us, but it brings us life. Community becomes essential. When we have friends who love and care for us, we can listen to the truth knowing they want the best for us.

Some people speak the truth without grace or knowing us. That can become more about them than you. The people that love us the most will give us the reality of where we can grow and how God has brought growth to us.

What my friend said at lunch scared, but confirmed growth in my life. God brings people in our lives who not only help us grow but point to His work in us. Thus, we can do the same for someone else.

What truth might God call you to face today? What truth might God call you to share with another motivated by love?

Photo credit by Alyssa Smith.

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.

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.

The Mind

What were your first thoughts this morning? The to-do list of tasks emerged. You might have thought about the people you will see and the future conversations. Yesterday’s success and failures jogged in your self-conscious. Somewhere in there, we wonder about lunch. We have more thoughts than we can ever realize.

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When we begin to examine our thoughts deeper, we uncover reoccurring messages. These messages range from the following:
Lies we believe about ourselves.
Anxiety concerning what we have to do or what people think.
Fear of failing.
The bombardment of criticisms we have heard from the past.
Hurts surface and re-surface.

What we think affects what actions we take and what we say. Grasping our thoughts means uncovering the positive and negative narratives. It takes time to sort through our thoughts to recognize the truth, reality, and feelings. Ultimately, what we think matters, but it might not paint a complete picture.

Paul in Romans 12:2 calls us to “renew our minds.” The previous eleven chapters detail what Christ has done for us in His death and resurrection: the Gospel. Through Him, we have experienced reconciliation, and we no longer have to walk in guilt and shame. Renewing our mind becomes the nuts and bolts of experiencing the Gospel in our everyday lives.

Dr. James B. Richards in How to Stop the Pain explains the correlation of the Gospel and a renewed mind from Romans 12:2:

The Gospel reveals faith-righteousness from beginning to end. We must start renewing our minds to it by accepting the fact that we are righteous in Jesus. We are completely accepted by God. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves more loved or accepted. Because we are righteous in Jesus, we are loved and accepted. Through these feelings of love, safety, and peace, God can walk us through a life of transformation without us feeling afraid or condemned (pg. 88)

Renewing our minds does not mean the removal of negative thoughts, rather it’s the process of seeing these thoughts through the Gospel, as a person loved and accepted in Jesus Christ. The pressure of transformation moves from our ability to the grace Christ offers us. The Gospel allows us to exchange our fears, anxieties, lies, hurts and the past for the reality of Christ in us.

What thoughts in your mind need to experience the Gospel in renewing your mind? In what ways, can seeing Christ give you a new mindset?

Photo by Jacob Sapp.

I’m No Saint

Do you have a difficult time receiving admiration? Downplaying seems humble, but you have undercut a compliment. Saying thank you at times feels seems like we expected it. Part of the tension for us comes from how we view ourselves. Many of us have filled our minds with our sharp critiques. Hearing admiration from another halts the thoughts of ourselves.

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We use self-deprecating humor. Our ability to laugh at ourselves has an ounce of authenticity, but for many it acts as a defense mechanism. If I can put myself down before others, then they will not. It reveals how uncomfortable we are in our skin.

For some us, we live every day with the constant bombardment of knowing that we do not add up. Our imperfections gnaw at us. Rather than seeing the beauty and grace of the Gospel, we have the partial view of over recognizing our brokenness.

Paul in Ephesians 1:15-23 prayers over the readers. He calls them saints. Not a word just reserved for the spiritual giants or charismatic leaders, but for the ordinary people. Eugene Peterson in Practicing Resurrection says this about the passage:

If someone is taken by surprise by something admirable that we do and that person says, “You’re a saint,” our automatic response is “I’m no saint.” We protest, “If you knew me you would never say that.” But Paul is not deterred. “Yes, you are. Pay attention to what I am saying. I want to give you a new word for yourself, a word that defines you primarily in terms of who God is for you and God is doing in your life, a person who is growing up in Christ, a person who cannot be accurately identified apart from God’s intents and persistent attention: saint.” And so we do pay attention. Saint. Holy (pg. 78)

The Gospel in us declares, “You are a saint.” Not of the virtue of what you have done, but of what Christ has done for you. Misunderstanding the Gospel can result from not moving from seeing our brokenness to receiving Christ’s wholeness.

All of us have faults and foibles. You and I have a first-hand view of our areas of growth. When someone points out any goodness in you remember God calls you saint. Those words of affirmation point to the tangible presence of Christ in you. Rather than protesting it, let us realize how the Gospel changes our lives.

Sainthood moves from just seeing ourselves to seeing others. The grace we have received from Christ in our lives allows us to see His grace at work in others. Being a saint has nothing to do with us, but has everything to do with Christ with us.

In the midst of knowing the reality of our thoughts and actions, we may have come to believe the lie, “I’m no saint.” Paul reminds us of the Gospel at work in us, which Jesus calls us saint.

Photo credit by Chris Lawton.

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