Take the Time to Ask

In our interactions and our relationships, there are assumptions we use as a filter through which we judge and respond to others actions and reactions. We often called these assumptions “what’s normal.” Problem is, normal has a fluid meaning defined by each individual’s own experiences.

Your normal might not be someone else’s normal. So what happens when you get in a situation or discussion and perhaps how they are responding seems a little abnormal to you. What do you do? Do you impose your normal on them? Or do you take the time to understand what their normal looks like so that you can respond in an understanding way?

See we like our assumption. They make our lives easier, but do they actually help the other person?

Because basically an assumption is us inserting what we think is the truth into a situation and then responding according to our version of the events. But this often means we are not addressing their situation at all, we are simply preaching a message that may or may not speak to them at all. In fact, it might do exactly the opposite. It might do harm rather than good, because we haven’t taken the time to understand the actual situation or them.

Thing is, not making an assumption requires us to invest the time and do the work of asking questions before responding and therefore risking getting answers that might challenge us, frighten us, or make us uncomfortable. 

What is more important?

Your time, connivence, and comfort, or the other person’s soul?

Let’s just take a moment and see how this might play out.

A child says in a panic, “Please don’t turn out the lights. I don’t want to sleep in the dark.”

Do you say, “Well, normally people sleep in the dark so that’s what you are going to do.”? Or do you ask “What has happened that you do not want to sleep in the dark?”

See because for you normal might be that you sleep in the dark all the time and it’s safe and saves on the electric bill. 

That child’s normal might be, when the lights were turned off was when their mom’s druggy boyfriend would come in and do what he wanted.

A Christian who’s been at a church for a year says, “I’m just not sure I am ready to get involved in a ministry.”

Do you say to them, “Surely you could manage to be involved. It’s not that big of a commitment.” Or do you ask, “What makes you feel like you aren’t ready to get involved?”

See because for you normal might be that a ministry is just a great way to help out other people and make friends in the church. 

To the other person normal might be, that ministry leads to being used for their resources, controlled by leadership, and ultimately kicked to the curb when they voice concerns over how others are being treated. 

When a Christian says, “I’m struggling in my marriage, I sometimes think about leaving my spouse.”

Do you say to them, “Well, you shouldn’t think that way. You just need to love them and pray for them.” Or do you ask, “What’s happening that you are thinking about leaving your spouse?”

See because for you normal might be that your spouse sometimes get’s angry enough to yell at you and is a messy and doesn’t always do a great job with finances. 

To the other person normal might be that their spouse sometimes get’s angry enough to go from leaving bruises to actually breaking bones, always controls all the finances, and keeps the keys to both cars so that it’s impossible to leave without their permission.

Asking questions can mean the difference between radically misjudging a person and their situation or else seeing them through the perspective of their normal and being able to respond with compassion and understanding.

When we fail to spend the time to ask questions and understand someone else’s normal, we fail in being Christians. We fail in caring about them and caring for them as the body of Christ.

Job in the Bible is a man who is deeply misunderstood by his friends due to their assumptions about what is normal. Here is a piece of one of their conversations where Job finally get’s fed up with their responses where they are telling him what is happening to him is all his fault.

Job 12:1 “Then Job answered and said: ‘…But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Indeed, who does not know such things as these?’”

Job’s interactions with his friends, among other things, is a reminder to us that we should not just make assumptions about what is happening. For in the end even God reprimands Job’s friends for their words. Job 42:7 “And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”

Challenge: Next time you’re tempted to respond out of your own preconceived ideas of what someone else means or is going through, pause and remind yourself that your normal might not be their normal. Ask them what is really happening and take the time to understand their normal before responding.

Advertisements
Posted in Christian Living, Problems in Christianity | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Others Well

When we think of love, we don’t always think about what motivates love. In fact most of the time our assumption about love is that it is the motivator, but this is not always true. 

Love can be motivated by other emotions or desires. I have had more than one conversations with people about someone else in their life where I have said of that someone else, “They are loving you, the only way they know how. But that doesn’t mean they are loving you well.”

When loves comes from sources/motivations like control, selfishness, disbelief, manipulation, pride, and/or personal need, these motivations can alter how love is manifested.

This is perhaps why when Paul writes to Timothy he makes a rather interesting comment about love. He puts clarification around love that might seem rather strange until you realize love is not always as clearly defined as we might think and hope it to be. 

Here is Paul’s clarifications: 

1Ti 1:5-7 “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.

Godly love, that loves others well, comes from

  1. A pure heart
  2. A good conscience
  3. A sincere faith

Note: these sources must be sought by the person giving the love, not by the one receiving it.

The solution to an impure heart can only be obtained by the possessor of that heart when they go to God and ask for His cleansing. Psa 51:2

Solving a wrong conscience can only be addressed by the owner of that conscience when they seek God’s wisdom and Word to be their guide. 2Co 1:12

An insincere faith can only become sincere when the holder of that faith chooses to believe fully in who God is. Heb 11:1, Heb 11:6

James 3:17 “ . . . the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

Pro 2:6-8 “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints.”

Pro 11:2-4 “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

How do we love other’s well? Have a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Love in a righteous, upright, and wise manner. Evaluate yourself and seek and accept God’s grace and wisdom that you might truly love others well.

Posted in Christian Living, Problems in Christianity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will You Stand Against Evil?

When dealing with authority, which has veered from a justice course and no longer rightly serving the purpose for which its position of authority was established, I have observed there are three types of people and responses. 

The three types of people: 

There are the people who cannot see the issues surrounding this authority and therefore have no motivation to do anything about them. 

There are the people who see the issues, but are disinclined to do anything about them.

And there are the people who see the issue and are willing and determined to respond to and even challenge the authority in order to see its course turned back to a justice path or if nothing else to at least see its destructive course abolished. 

On July 4, 1776 (known now as Independence Day in the U.S.) a group of men declared their intent to remove themselves (thirteen colonies) from the injustice of British authority and become their own nation.

We celebrate this event today knowing this declaration become a reality, but on that day those men signed the Declaration of Independence not knowing if they would succeed or not. They signed it knowing they’d be labeled traitors and treated as such for doing so. They chose to stake their lives and fortunes to fight against injustice and evil and for what they knew to be right.

These men stood up and publicly declared their challenge to a king and government. They did it respectfully, but they were effectively saying, we will listen to you no more, because what you are doing is evil and we will not allow it to continue. 

When we see wrong are we willing to make the same kind of stand as these men? Are we willing to challenge an authority that has become unjust and abusive? Or will we stay silent and let the injustice stand?

We will not know the results when we start. We will be risking much, but if we aren’t willing to risk what we have to stand against evil and for what we know is right, then why call ourselves Christians at all?

Rom 12:9 “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”

Rom 12:17, 21 “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men….Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

2Co 13:7 “Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified.”

1Th 5:15 “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.”

1Th 5:22 “Abstain from every form of evil.”

1Pe 3:17 “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

2Ti 3:12-17 “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of…you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

(All scripture is taken from NKJV, emphasis is added)

Posted in Christian Living, Problems in Christianity, Two Types of Christians | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seclusion vs. Relationships

Seclusion isn’t healthy for us, and yet it’s any easy thing to default to when relationship pain has happened.

In our physical lives God gives us pain to warn us that damage has been caused, is about to be caused, or is currently being caused.

It rings loudly in our minds and brings a reaction that hopefully helps us respond correctly to the source of that pain. Which in life often means quickly removing ourselves from what is causing that pain. This is often also how we respond to relationship pain. We remove ourselves from the interaction and the relationship.

But what about when pain has not yet come? What about when our past experiences tell us we are approaching something that has, can, and very possibly will cause us pain? Do we continue forward or do we turn back and not risk the possibility?

A burner on a stove must be hot to cook food and yet the same hotness that might mean the perfect temperature for cooking something delicious could mean seared fingers and pain that lasts weeks.

So, do we turn off the stove and run away? Do we leave it untouched because once upon a time we got burned? Well, that would make life and cooking rather difficult, wouldn’t it?

Do we never walk again because once upon a time we stepped on a nail?

Do we never sleep again because once upon a time we had a nightmare?

Do we never eat again because once upon a time we got food poisoning?

You might say, well of course not because these are things we can’t avoid, can’t live without. 

Exactly!

And we can’t live without relationships either. We wither away inside when we seclude ourselves from people. 

Yet when someone has (or more than one somebodies have) hurt us badly our response is often to not just avoid that person but to avoid all people. To count all as ready, able, and likely to cause us pain. Therefore we often live secluded, leaping backward at any possibility of pain.

To live secluded because of the fear of pain is not living at all though,  we need to live life accepting and trusting that pain will let us know when to take a step back. We don’t have to take that step back just in case. We can trust that the safety mechanisms God build in will tell us what we need to know when we need to know it.

Does this mean we will never be hurt? Of course not. But it means we will not destroy ourselves by fully avoiding something so paramount to our own survival as relationships.

Posted in Christian Living, Problems in Christianity | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Are You Found?

I have been studying in Philippians and I came across a verse that I have read many times before, but this time a certain set of words stood out to me. Here is the passage in the letter written by Paul to the believers in Philippi:

Philippians 3:8 “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

There’s a lot in this statement, but here’s the part that stood out to me: “that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.”

Found in Christ. 

What struck me about this, is that in this statement there’s an assumption of an outside observer. Paul doesn’t say, “that I may gain Christ and be in Him,”  Pall says, “found in Him.”

This reminds me of when God comments to Satan about His servant Job’s righteousness and Satan’s response: Job 1:9 “So Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.’”

Satan has already been observing Job, and he has found something out about Job. 

Satan has found Job to be in God.

In 2 Samuel 22 David also talks about God stepping in on his behalf, and I can’t help but think this too is what it looks like to be found in Him. To have an enemy realize you are not alone here on planet earth, but rather He, the Creator of the Universe, stands with you. 

 2Sa 22:2-19 “And [David] said: ‘The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; the God of my strength, in whom I will trust….When the waves of death surrounded me, the floods of ungodliness made me afraid.… In my distress I called upon the LORD…. Then the earth shook and trembled….He bowed the heavens also, and came down.… From the brightness before Him coals of fire were kindled…. He sent out arrows and scattered them; lightning bolts, and He vanquished them….He took me, He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me; for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support….’”

It says in Psalm 46:1 (A Song for Alamoth) “…God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Being in Christ doesn’t always look like an instant victory, but as with both Job and David, God did indeed in time proved Himself faithful. 

When Satan comes looking at your life, are you found in Christ? Because in Christ, we bear witness of God’s power and might to not just the spiritual forces but also to the whole world. (Danial 5:13-14)

Posted in Christian Awe, Christian Living | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ailing Church

We speak of church as a place of healing and strength, and on the surface we attempt to maintain this façade, but when one investigates beyond the masquerade of happy Sunday-morning faces, depression and hopelessness are rampant symptoms of a silent plague infecting the very core of Christianity. Something is ailing the hearts of the individuals in our church bodies, yet we are so busy accomplishing church business, we have failed to notice the care and attention so desperately needed by the hearts of Christians within our very churches.

Do you feel loved and cared about within/by the church?

In a community claiming to live the love of Christ, we fall painfully short of these words spoken by Jesus: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)

We do a better job loving our friends, strangers, and sinners than we do loving those sitting across the aisle from us in Church, or even more so those sitting next to us in Church.

We are missing the heart of Christianity. We have neglected to care for and minister to the hearts of our own, and because of this we are decimating the very strength and core of Christianity: Christ’s unconditional, unwavering love, which we should be experiencing and imitating. Basically, the church is ailing from a plague of personal neglect.

And therefore, having missed the fullness of John 13:34, we also fail John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This love is not just meant for friends or outsiders; this love is also for those within the church.
If we can’t and don’t rightly support and love each other within the church, the world won’t see disciples. They will only see depressed and hopeless people pretending to thrive when in fact their church is and has failed them, because the body, which should be caring for and supporting each other, simply isn’t.

Love is a Christians’ life-blood. Without it we become anemic (feeble and unable to give life-blood to others).

Let’s start the healing of love within our own church bodies first that we might then be ready and able to minster to and love those outside in need.

But, what is love really? If you asked a husband if he loves his wife, more than likely he’ll say, “Yes.” Yet if you ask the wife, “Do you feel loved by your husband?” Her answer will more often than not be, “No, I don’t feel loved.”
I’m guessing the same is true of the church, if asked “Are you a loving church?” The church would likely say, “Yes, of course we are.” But if you ask those in the church, “Do you feel loved by those making up this church?” I think you would be shocked to find the answer a resounding, pain-filled, “No.”

Challenge: What if we each intentionally poured life into the church? Maybe we’d have more than just a few people capable of ministering. Maybe the whole church would become healthy enough to make a difference. Maybe John 13:34-35 could actually be true of us.

(Note: This post was original published in 2016, but its content bears repeating. So I am re-publishing it now here in 2019. Sadly this post is even more true now in my opinion than it was then.)

Posted in Christian Living, Problems in Christianity | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Given Treasures Right Before Our Eyes

 

Matthew 6:25-29 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

 

Posted in Christian Awe | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Memorial to Live

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

This Memorial Day my hope is that we would more than just remember veterans. My desire is that we would honor the gift they gave us and live with honor and integrity. That we would stand for what is good and true. That we would love others regardless of our differences. That we would find common ground and yet always be willing to stand and fight against evil, no matter what face it wears. Rom 12:9 “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”

1Co 16:13-14 “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.”

Posted in Christian Living | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wholly Loved!

In a TED talk I recently heard, entitled “Managing A Narcissist,” Ann Barnes the speaker gave some startling statistics. In the millennial generation 70% of people exhibit narcissism.

Narcissism is basically an individual’s attitude or mindset that they are incredibly important and the world should revolve around them.

I was shocked by this statistic and wanted to know more about why this number is so high, so I decided to do some research. Here, in my own words, is what I learned and my conclusions.

When we think of narcissists we think of hugely selfish people. Which narcissists usually are, but there’s a twist to how they become like this that we wouldn’t really expect.
Here are two ways narcissism can develop: Narcissism can develop when parents or caregivers treats a child as loved, important, and accepted while denying completely that child’s imperfections. It can also develop when parents or caregivers treat a child as loved, important, and accepted only when no imperfections are visible [meaning they remove their love and acceptance (reject the child) when imperfections become visible].
So despite being treated, all the time or some of the time, as a very important person, never is the child truly, wholly loved.

Thus, from this, the child either learns to do as the parents have done and deny they have imperfections (utilizing self-deception, which requires lying to oneself and others on an ongoing basis), or they learn to expect and demand love when they are within their “perfection” because this is the only time they feel they deserve love or are capable of gaining it.
Therefore, maintaining a reality or illusion of perfectionism becomes a narcissists addition. Flaws mean being unloved. So they can never have flaws, never make mistakes, never take the blame, and never say they are sorry.

Meanwhile, the people closest to narcissists see their imperfections the clearest. And when these people express aloud the reality of the narcissist’s failures they can easily become the narcissist’s enemies because they reveal the truth. And even in the narcissist’s moments of perfection (when from their perspective they should be the most lovable) those closest to them often stay at a distanced because of the lies and inconsistencies surrounding the narcissist’s life. Therefore, love from those whom the narcissist desire it the most often remains elusive.

Because of this and the way they perceive themselves and the world, narcissists flip-flop back and forth between ultimately loving themselves or ultimately hating themselves with almost nothing in between. They are some of the most insecure people while at the same time some of the most arrogant and egotistical people.

It’s a strange paradox, but this is what the lie of human “perfection” does to us. It tears our lives in half, forcing us to live a falsehood while denying the irrevocable truth of who we truly are.

From a narcissist’s perspective, love is only attainable through perfection. But perfection is something humanity, outside of God, can never truly achieve. Therefore real love (unconditional love) is something narcissists particularly struggle to receive and in someways cannot receive without first shattering their own world of “perfection.”

They have to become a whole person in order to be wholly loved. But to be a whole person they have to accept simultaneously both their “perfection” and their flaws. Truly be themselves, because only as their true full selves can they actually experience real love.

But the fear of being whole and wholly known in order to be wholly loved is a terrifying thing to not just narcissists. Every last one of us, at one level or another, fears rejection. We fear that if we are seen for who we truly are we will be unlovable and therefore forever alone.

Being wholly loved is not to say that everything we do and say is loved, rather its that we are wholly loved regardless of the mistakes we make or the flaws we have. Wholly loved is when you are fully known for who and what you are and not rejected but instead cared about, loved, and wanted.

Rom 5:6-8 “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

1Jo 4:10 “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Eph 2:4-9 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works…”

Rom 8:38-39 “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Posted in Christian Living, Sharing the Gospel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Do We Know if Doctrines are Right or Wrong?

How do we know if doctrines are right or wrong?

#1 We need to know what Scripture says.
If we haven’t taken the time to read God’s Word for ourselves then it’s easy to be convinced by someone that their doctrine/teaching is right when perhaps it is far from it. We need a solid understanding of Scripture, which means reading and studying the Bible for ourselves. It’s important we do this, because the more familiar we are with Scripture the less likely we are to be deceived. If we know the truth, we will be able to spot the lies.

One of my favorite parts about studying Scripture is that you don’t have to fear what you will find. It’s not a piece of fiction or man-made creation that’s going to fall apart or come unglued upon further inspection. Scripture will hold up to scrutiny. There will be the times not all of it makes sense and then you just have to keep going. Keep reading and keep putting the pieces together, because it does work and it won’t fail you.

#2 We need to  know what the church doctrines actually are. What is being taught?
It’s really easy to just take in information that’s being passed along to us without really evaluating what it is, why it’s being taught, and whether or not its true. So we need to be asking questions like, “Why are we doing such-and-such?” “What is this supposed to signify?” “Can you show me this in Scripture?” “Do you believe this is the only way to do such-and-such?” “What passage does this doctrine come from?” “What other doctrines does this church teach and believe?” Etc.

#3 We then need to take the time to compare these church doctrines with Scripture and ask ourselves, “Are these doctrines (teachings) accurate to what the Bible says?”
Does this align with what I know of Scripture, or is this something some person has just invented? The problem of false doctrine is an age old issue, because anyone can teach anything. However, when we do know Scripture and have taken the time to ask ourselves about the doctrine, and when we have compared it to what we know of God’s teachings it’s much harder for even the convincing voice of a pastor or teacher to deceive us.

Our confidence in doctrine comes when we know for certain the doctrines (teachings) we are holding onto and standing upon are in fact accurate to Scripture.

False doctrine:

1Ti 1:3-7 “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.” (NKJV)

Rom 16:17 “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”

How we should teach and stand on true doctrine:

2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (NASB)

Tit 2:6-8 “Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” (NKJV)

Posted in Defining Christian Beliefs, Problems in Christianity | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment