Construction Zone: Fans & Fixtures

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

When the new houses across the street from me are being built there is an order, a process. Although the flooring and countertops and fixtures are what makes a house complete, those things are not part of step one. First, there is measuring and digging for the foundation. Then laying pipe and pouring the foundation. Afterwards comes a string of other things that I, not being a builder, have no concept of the order. Things like studs, wiring, sheetrock, paint, etc. Then at long last the decoration of the structure is allowed to begin.

action-digging-equipment-2058738.jpgJust like a skilled builder, God is a god of order as he makes our lives into new living structures. He comes in and digs up the dirt, excavates the heart. Then he slowly and precisely builds the foundation before a wall is ever erected. The difference with God building our lives is that it’s not just a three, six, or nine month project. The excavating may take years. The foundation may take years. Erecting the physical structure may take years. Are you getting a picture here?

When we first come to know Christ we want the transformation He offers. We want our old mess made into a totally new creation. But we want it overnight! To continue my metaphor, we want to purchase a manufactured home, already completed and ready to move right in. But that is not what the Master Builder of our lives has in mind. He doesn’t just want a sudden beautiful structure to appear; He wants a structure built to last and made of quality materials that will display His glory and operate in excellent fashion.

So while we are eagerly wanting to pick out the light fixtures and ceiling fans, Our Father is saying, “Hold your horses! We have a bow in this wall right here. The floor isn’t level in the back, and the basement has to be sealed properly before we can go any further.”

Dominion and awe belong to God; He establishes order in the heights of heaven.   Job 25:2

We chomp at the bit to be finished new creations. While that is a noble desire, it is also naive. In our youthful exuberance, like a kid waiting on Christmas morning to arrive, we want to be completed now. We want to be used for His glory now. Have a glorious ministry now. Be known for our deep faith and wisdom now. When we have a storm in our life we don’t really like those verses about “waiting on the Lord,” and we certainly don’t like those verses when we are so eagerly wanting to be “grown” in the Lord.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Rev. 21:5

As the years have passed, I am slowly learning to love the process. I’m learning that each season brings slow progress. Just looking at the passing days one at a time, it seems that I’m not being re-made in His image at all. But looking back over the years I can see the progress: the years He dug anger out of my heart, the years He poured faith into my foundation through a storm that seemed to be destroying me, the lifetime He has brought me into His lap to teach me while I didn’t even notice the massive construction going on around me. Looking back at that first slab I was seems like another lifetime. chandelier-2523029_1280.pngToday as I look I see a cozy little cottage taking shape. There’s still numerous projects going on, some I like, some I don’t. And who knows when or if I’ll ever get to install those beautiful chandeliers I dream of. But the Builder gets to pick the time and the pace and the design, I just need to cooperate. I know I’ll love it once I see it from the perspective of a new heaven and a new earth.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
   a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
     a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
     a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

 

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3

The Book of Job, Infertility & God’s Purposes

by guest author Jennifer Jordan

(Republished with permission from Jennifer Jordan. Originally published Friday, January 15, 2010 on her personal blog.)

Job – what an example!

This week I’ve been studying the book of Job. I must confess that it’s not my favorite book to read. I think because of the “poeticness” of how it’s written. I did, however, read EVERY chapter!

In the beginning of the story, Job had it all – tons of family and friends, wealth, and loads of farm animals. But then without warning, it’s all taken away. Why? We know, as 035_Story_Of_Job1readers, that God and Satan had worked out a deal, but Job and his friends go all around the world blabbing, trying to figure it out. God knew that Job would not sin against Him, but that doesn’t mean that Job didn’t become angry or frustrated. Job’s friends and family thought they had the answers – saying that it must be his sin or something he had done. They seem to go on and on and on about what all Job must do to get things right and back to “normal” with God. They were trying to figure out the “why” of Job’s affliction.

I feel I can somewhat relate to Job. I haven’t had all the loss or any diseases that Job had, but I have gone through a phase in my life where I wondered, “Why?” Through my struggles with infertility, I, too, felt like Job. Just like Job, I had no warning. Just like Job, I had friends and family that suggested “how to fix it.” Like – you must have done something (sin) that has caused this or you must not be reading the Bible enough or praying enough or even you must not be “doing” it right.

It was not until the very last chapters of Job (when God finally speaks up) that I got it. I can just see God listening to Job and his friends’ conversations thinking “oh my goodness!” I love it when God finally speaks up and says, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2) (BTW, after God speaks to them…they are silent!) How many times do we try to “figure things out” without seeking God’s knowledge and considering that His ways are for a specific purpose? Job and his friends had drawn conclusions about why he had gone through all his afflictions without even thinking about the hidden knowledge and purpose of God.

128-1.gifI think Job finally got it too. He says, “I know that you (God) can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2) And then later on Job says, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you… .” (Job 42:5)

I would have never, ever asked to go through infertility. I believe Job would have never asked to go through all he did. But if he had not gone through it, then Job (nor I) would have ever “seen” or known God in such an intimate way.

Tears come to my eyes when I think about how Job found favor with God throughout this whole book. Even though Job was frustrated and angry, he never sinned against God. My ESV Study Bible makes reference to this by saying, “This is probably because Job never lost his earnest desire to appear before God, and his words are testimony to that.” That makes me stop and examine myself. I can’t say that through all my frustration and anger with God and others that I have not sinned, but I’m so very thankful that He forgives, gives mercy, and loves me anyway!

In summary, I love what my study Bible says about the purpose of Job’s story. “The book of Job reminds God’s people that they have an enemy (Satan) who will denounce them, and, through the ignorance of Job’s friends, it helps the faithful to remember at all times how small a part of any situation is the fragment that they see. This equips believers to trust and obey amid life’s perplexities and it enables the faithful to support and encourage one another in a spirit of tenderness and humility.” (ESV Study Bible)

Though I didn’t choose infertility, I am thankful that God has shown Himself faithful and sovereign to me. I have learned to put my trust in Him, knowing that He has a plan and can see farther than I can even imagine. I am thankful for God’s Word, which I have learned to lean on daily. I believe that He WILL bless me and David with a child. I don’t know when, but I will continue to praise Him, trust Him and WAIT for Him, knowing that today I am one day closer!

What His Word reminds me…

Psalm 27:14 “WAIT for the LORD; be strong and take heart and WAIT for the LORD.”

Psalm 130:5 “I WAIT for the LORD, my soul WAITS, and in his word I put my HOPE.”

Romans 8:25 “But if we HOPE for what we do not yet have, we WAIT for it patiently.”

Jennifer Jordan

(Editor’s Note: Jennifer and David have indeed been blessed with a child since she wrote this article. Two, in fact! God loves to bless us in His time. Isaiah 64:4 tells us, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”)

Your October 31 Assignment

Pumpkins are carved, candy bought, costumes chosen with persnickety detail and maybe just a few tears and whines. While trick-or-treaters go door-to-door tonight and churches offer fall festivals for those who don’t want to embrace the evil side of this secular “holiday,” most people never think of the religious roots and implications of this day. I know very little myself, not having been raised in a denomination that celebrates All Saints Day (November 1).

I was actually a young adult with children before I came to realize that this day of the year, this season, held more importance than just a day for kids to dress up and get candy. This “kids holiday” really holds a great deal of importance for Christians. I won’t bore you with my limited knowledge when a quick Google search can offer so much more, so I’ll just give you your assignment. (Feel free to CLEP out of this if you were educated about these religious events and observances.) But the rest of you – Put on your thinking caps and get those fingers typing, searching these important things:

All Saints Day, All Hallow’s Eve, Reformation Day, Martin Luther (NOT Martin Luther King), Ninety-five Theses, Wittenburg, Germany, and maybe even the roots of the word holiday.

That should give you some food for thought for the next few days to keep you from eating all that candy the kids have! 😉 You can thank me later!

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What Does a “Christian” Marriage Look Like?

Part 3 – Happiness & Holiness

From the day of the wedding it is obvious. We’re different, husbands and wives that is. The picture above sums it up nicely without 1,000 words – we wear the white gowns and they the black tuxes. But that’s just the beginning of the differences. They build relationships by shared activity, we women more often by… you know the answer, … talking. They want just the facts, we have to share the whole story. They see the world through a totally different paradigm. That doesn’t make them wrong and us right, nor vice versa. It makes us, together, a great team with differing strengths, perspectives, and ideas, equipped by the Father to do the work He has prepared in advance for us to do.

However, it can be difficult to appreciate the differences when you are each coming at the same dilemma from two opposite points of view, and neither of you wants to give in. This is often the downfall of married couples. We begin to see decisions, trials, and everyday difficulties, home repairs and such, as battlegrounds where we fight to have our way. We can become more interested in gaining ground and having the power balance leaning in our favor, than in working toward a resolution, in compromising, and in being unified in living out Christ’s purpose for our marriage. We struggle to find that elusive happiness in marriage that all the Disney princess movies seemed to promise. That “happily ever after” that was supposed to be marriage.

Several years ago my husband and I heard Gary Thomas speak at a retreat on Sacred Marriage. The ideas he put forth that weekend greatly impacted our perspective on marriage. Specifically two really big take-away concepts. (The first one I’ll cover today.) When we can grasp them and keep them in our minds we treat each other differently. Respectfully. Valuing each other. Loving as Christ loved. But when we forget them, we get in that “crazy cycle” that Emerson Eggerichs talks about in His book Love and Respect (a topic for another day). You all know the crazy cycle I’m sure, whether you have read about it or not!

The two ideas we grasped help us to live out a marriage with a spirit of unity, living in one accord on a daily basis. The first idea is this:

  1. What if God designed marriage to make us holy rather than to make us happy?

So let me ask you, what IF God put you in that difficult marriage to make you holy? Are you willing to live it walking hand-in-hand with the Father even if it doesn’t make you happy?

When I started contemplating this question it was like I came to a fork in the road. I suddenly had to make a choice, was I willing to be unhappy and not have things always be my way in order to conform to God’s will? This question has since permeated my life beyond my marriage, but we’ll stick to how it relates to our marriages today. Am I more interested in God purifying me and molding me and refining me than I am in my own comfort? Holiness versus comfortable happiness, which would I choose?

Somehow we have let personal happiness become an idol in our lives. We Americans are entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” right? But in God’s kingdom holiness trumps happiness. Joy and peace are promised in Him, but happiness is not a promise to us.

Happiness is a state of well-being and contentment based on external happenings: success, wealth, having friends, pleasurable or satisfying experiences. Happiness is a temporary feeling that can quickly be supplanted by negative experiences.

But holiness is an expectation for us of our Creator. Holiness is an attribute of God alone. It is His purity and perfectness and rightouesness in all He is and does that is unattainable in humans unless His Spirit is living in us. It is that set-apartness of God. In us holiness is that other-ness obedient Christians embody.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27

 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16

This way of looking at our spouse (as part of God’s refining process for us) is probably very different than the average church-goers’ view. It is definitely different than the secular viewpoint. But when I choose, as a wife (or husband), to be more concerned about the personal holiness God is working in my heart than about my own temporary happiness, my marriage benefits greatly. My marriage becomes a reflection of Christ. It is a high calling. And it is not easy. What will we choose today?

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Psalm 139 – Search Me O God!

Psalm 139

He sees us, searches our hearts, and knows us better than we know ourselves.

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

We cannot go anywhere to escape Him even when we want to rebel and run away. We also cannot go too far in sin as to be out of His reach and unable for Him to find us, love us, and draw us back. We cannot stray to far away, nor be too deep In the darkness of fear or depression for Him to reach us – for He is Light.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

He created us intricately. He made us just the way we are. Every detail about us, from the timing of our birth and life, to our personality, even to that cell in our body that mutated and suddenly caused us to come face to face with a health crisis – He made us and allowed for that. He has determined the length of our days and the journey of life He will allow.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Cherish God’s thoughts. Cherish what He had revealed to using His Word.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

Love as God loves and hate what God hates. He will be your defender and your vindication.

If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.

Let us pray…

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.

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Construction Zone: Remodeling

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV

Remodeling.

A word that strikes fear and dread in many.

The closest I’ve ever come to remodeling was having our deck replaced. The constant pounding and sawing outside my kitchen window was overwhelming, but at least it wasn’t sawdust and noise and workers inside my house every day. Nevertheless I chose escape. I loaded up my writing work each morning for weeks and headed off to my other office: Panera Bread. After nearly a month my deck was finished, I’d gotten my writing project completed, and I had a new family, my Panera family. Love you Nola, Tyler, Taylor and Debbie!

God is constantly remodeling our lives. From the moment we turn to Him as our Savior, He actually starts rescuing and remaking us. Rescuing us from our selfish sinful nature and remaking our inner woman. As with physical remodeling, this spiritual remodeling is time-consuming and painful. It is ongoing throughout our life. It can be a process from which we wish to escape. But if we stick with Him and trust Him we will find a brand new us in the end.

Tearing out old sins and habits takes time and effort. Patching up the wounds and hurts from the past is necessary. Finding the faulty wiring built on old lies is crucial. Our Father does this process over time for the health of our spiritual and emotional lives. He digs in places where we would rather not have Him dig. He cleans out closets of things we would rather not turn loose of. We are sometimes left feeling stripped bare of the paint and cosmetic trappings the we have hidden behind for so long.

So how do we embrace this constant remodeling throughout our lives without seeking escape?

  1. Accept that this remodeling will come from time to time throughout your life.
  2. Remind yourself that you have the Master Architect working on you.
  3. Trust that He loves and adores you, and that is why He has chosen to update and improve the rotten, warped, and worn out places in your heart and soul.
  4. He is remaking us for His glory and for our good. We may not like going through the process, but we will love the renovation when it’s over. We will see that it really was for our good, and we will be thankful for the improvements.

As you face struggles this week that seem to tear out those old timbers, be grateful that he is remaking you into a beautiful structure for His glory! Pray and seek His face when you don’t understand. Stay in His Word. And most of all, Trust Him.

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He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

Construction Zone: Needed Repairs

As we continue our Construction Zone series, it’s time to take a look at something we all need at one time or another – Repairs.

Repairs to a home are often costly and time-consuming. We can’t believe the heat pump is already 10-years-old and out from under warranty. We wish we had paid a little more up front to have better quality flooring that wouldn’t have gotten marred so easily. We blame ourselves for the problem, if only we’d taken time to do some touch-up paint then maybe that wood wouldn’t have rotted.

board-broken-brown-2273477Likewise, needed repairs will come to our spiritual life. We can’t believe we slid down the slippery slope of sin so easily and got ourselves and those around us in a fix. We wish we had invested more in our faith, because at the moment we feel broken and messed up. If only we had taken time to go to church weekly, to pray daily, and to keep our spiritual life in repair.

I have good news. Your life can be repaired! That catastrophe is not impossible for God to fix. We serve a God of second (and third and fourth,…) chances. He’s the perfect Father who never tires of drawing us back to him as we toddle off into sin thinking we know best. Nothing is too grievous to forgive. Nothing is the final straw against us. As long as we have breath in our lungs we can call out to Him to repair our souls and our lives. All we have to do is make the call.

Seriously, all we have to do is to call out to Him in prayer.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

The call to the “repairman” is in. Now the work begins. Scripture tells us

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

builder-carpenter-close-up-1251176This is where Christ comes in and tears out the old and puts in the new. Demolition and remodeling can be a longterm and often uncomfortable project. Allowing Him to remove the old rotten sinful boards that make up our spiritual house is necessary but painful. We apprentice Him in this venture; we work alongside Him helping to pull out the ruined parts and replace them with new, God-ordained habits and choices and plans.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

adult-blur-close-up-1260312The process continues by taking in scripture daily to teach us to make new choices, to rebuke us when we sin, to correct us and get us back on course, and to train us in righteous living. When we seek Him through prayer and reading of His Word our life begins to be repaired and we become equipped, made usable for the task He has put before us.

If today, you find your spiritual house in shambles, your life teetering on the brink of utter devastation, turn to Him. Call on Him to repair the rotten places. Allow Him to mend the old and make it new. Choose to work side-by-side with Your Creator to remake your spiritual house based on the Word of God.

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Construction Zone: Doors

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9 ESV

Wouldn’t it be strange to walk up to a house being built and find it has no door?

I recall a history field trip with my children to a re-creation of an Indian village in Alabama. As we did the walking tour, we approached a walled structure that seemed to have no door. The kids were quite puzzled, and I myself was unfamiliar with this kind of construction and not really sure what to do. It was a circular structure made of straight tree trunks standing side by side to make a near-perfect wall. The trunks were 10-12 feet tall, each sharpened to a point making them look as if a giant had planted all his pencils in the ground eraser end down. As we circled around the wall we finally came upon a way in. The design was ingenious. The circular wall spiraled inside itself so that there was no actual closing door, yet it was very secure since it was close to impossible to know where the entrance was without intense searching.

Doors into structures are important. Open doors specifically. A closed and locked door offers no help to those seeking to gain entrance. An open portal allows entry. And what is more welcoming than an unlocked door?

I will never forget my grandmama’s house. She never, ever locked her door.  In fact, the tarnished old skeleton key stayed in the door all the time just in case she ever needed to leave for a long time and lock the house – and by long, I mean weeks. I’ve gone to her house many times and walked right in with a “Yoo-hoo! We’re here!” Sometimes I’d get a response from back in the kitchen, but other times I’d search for her like a grown-up game of hide-and-seek only to find her out back in her garden with an apron full of garden vegetables. Still other times I’d search house and yard only to determine she wasn’t home, and then I’d leave her a little note telling her I’d dropped by. Those welcoming, unlocked doors were just as important as any locked door ever has been.

Locked doors keep things out.

Unlocked doors allow entrance.

abbey-arcade-arch-157391Have we gotten so used to locking our physical doors in life that we have begun to lock out others from our lives in relational, emotional, spiritual ways as well? Has technology created distance in relationships or enabled us to retreat from others and become like hermit crabs, safe in our shell and all to ourselves? Research is telling us that this i-phone generation is among the loneliest in recorded history. They have many online “friends” and “followers,” but socialize face-to-face more rarely than any generation before. Consequently, depression, suicide, and broken families are on the increase.

As children of God, we are called to be His ambassadors – His liaisons to this lonely, hurting world. How does that tie in with our focus this year on constructing our homes and lives in a way that pleases our heavenly Father? Today, let’s examine the access we allow others to our lives and how God might view our behaviors.

architecture-door-exterior-162057Jesus said, “I am the door.” As “little Christs” we are to be little doors as well. Doors that open to reveal the heart and home of Christ to the world. Doors that open and welcome others. Not self-protective doors locking out the “evil” world.

I must ask myself, is my life and home a portal through which others can come to meet the Christ? Is your life an open door?

Think through these questions honestly and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you.

» Do you react to others receptively? Lovingly? Openly? Willing to help?

» Do you regularly invite people into your life to listen to them, encourage them, and pray for them?

» Do you invest in the lives of other women?

» Do you regularly share Jesus with people the Holy Spirit brings across your path?

» Does your home and life say to others, “Come,” and point them to Jesus?

– OR –

» Do you find yourself mainly secluded in your own home and family life?

» Do you socialize, but not broach spiritual discussions nor pray for those you encounter who need Jesus?

» Are you fearful of certain types of people? Do you allow this to keep you from being an open door to them?

If the Holy Spirit has spoken to you through this little evaluation, take a moment to journal a prayer to your Father. Your construction assignment this week as you work to build your spiritual home: Make sure you put a door in. Anything else would be unnatural. Humble yourself to be willing and obedient. Be that open door that invites others to Christ in word and deed.

 

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In-Dependence Day

This 4th of July you’ll probably go to the lake or cook out, ski or swim or sit out in the lawn chairs and celebrate wholeheartedly the birthday of our nation. We Americans will enjoy patriotic music, watermelon, and fireworks as we think of the independence we have because of the fight for freedom back in 1776.

As children of God let us also celebrate our dependence.

Dependence on a loving Creator who provides not only our basic needs, but many things for us to cherish and enjoy.

Dependence on Jesus as our Savior and Rescuer. The knight in white armor riding to our rescue.

Dependence on Him for our future, not only our eternal home in heaven, but for our daily struggles tomorrow and the next day and the next…

Dependance on the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Teacher.

This word, dependence, is not a word we like. From a very young age we each chomp at the bit for independence. Freedom. But as we grow in Christ we learn that true freedom comes only through submitting our lives to Christ. In God’s world of paradoxes, the first is last, the servant is the greatest, the impossible is possible, and freedom comes in daily choosing death to our self-will. So today as you say a blessing over your barbecue and potato salad, whisper a prayer to your Father and offer up that independent spirit as a sacrifice, and begin to live “in dependence” on Your Abba.

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Practical Peacemaking

A Hoscotch Approach: 10 Hops in the Right Direction

Our most recent “Construction Zone” article touched on peacemaking. We asked you to coment your practical tips that would help us all in this area. Today we continue with a few practical tips of our own. Feel free to add other tips in the comments at the end of this article. We said that peacemaking started with loving God and loving others. Today will focus on that latter phrase: loving others. In particular, loving others in the midst of conflict.

1. Listen. Really listen. When you find yourself in a difficult discussion, allow the other person to fully express their concerns and fears. Listen to understand. Too often we listen just waiting our turn at replying and therefore we never truly hear what is being action-adult-advice-1120344said. In fact, we may be planning our next volley of words in our own minds and therefore we literally do not hear a word the other person says; we only hear our own inner thoughts. Listening is our God-given way of taking in the facts. Use this gift.

2. Try to understand the reason they are upset. Often the reason they say they are upset is not the true reason. Are they operating out of fear? Guilt? Anger? Hurt?  Revenge? Jealousy? Insecurity? Ask questions to try to get to the root cause. Once again, listen carefully. Be discerning and trust your intuition. Notice what escalates their strong responses, this will lead you to the real issue; it shows you’ve hit a nerve with them.

3. Examine the anger being thrown at you. If they present with anger, you can usually be assured that there is more to it than that. Anger is generally a secondary emotion displayed instead of a primary emotion that is harder to deal with, such as hurt, fear, sadness, etc. Anger feels powerful, while hurt and other emotions a person has can make them feel vulnerable and in a weak postion. Anger can also ignite within a person the fight or flight response, a physiological response to what they feel is threatening them. Thus, they may lash out at you and attack you verbally or physically (fight) or hang up on you or run away from the challenge of dealing with the conflict (flight). Another form of attack is a more passive-aggressive approach where they do something covertly that is detrimental to you. These things will never bring resolution to a situation. They stall bringing true resolution and healing to a difficult situation.

4. Choose not to allow others to incite you to anger. You are in control of your feelings. Exercise self-control. Many things a person in conflict with you may say or do will feel like bombs being lobbed your way. Whether their behaviors are aggressive or their words are hurtful, cruel, or alarming, choose to remain calm: take deep breaths, follow scriptural principles, realize your fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, powers, and spiritual forces of evil.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12 KJV

5. Try to diffuse a voltile situation. This will include things like:

  • Speak calmly and gently.
  • Talk with them in person if possible.
  • If you’re talking in person, maintain a non-threatening, open body language.
  • Rephrase and reflect their words back to them to make sure you understand correctly.
  • Even if you don’t agree with their point of conflict, try to understand why it is important to them.
  • Express your understanding and willingness to come to reconciliation.
  • Don’t belittle or speak down to others.

woman-1708105_12806. Ask for God’s wisdom to understand the meaning and what is often left unsaid behind their spoken words. Pray, pray, pray. As you find yourself in this type of situation begin immediately to pray asking for wisdom, for eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to understand and a will to obey. Ask God to give you clarity and understanding.

7. Allow God’s love to flow through you to the person opposing you. Human love is imperfect even with our best efforts. God’s love is perfect. Through prayer and putting our own self-will aside we can allow His love to flow through us. Through His love we can love people who would otherwise trigger us to hate them.

8. Keep the lines of communication open even if you are rejected. If you are hung up on or abandoned in the discussion, pray for and seek ways to continue reconcilation: a gentle non-threatening appeal, a call or kind gesture, enlisting the help of a pastor or spiritual mentor. (Note: Texts and emails are too easily misunderstood. Tone and individual differences in word meanings often make these written approaches more harmful than helpful.) 

9. Go the extra mile. Do everything within your power to bring peace and resolution to the situation. Operate in the fruit of the Spirit with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.   Romans 12:18

10. Don’t post anything on social media. Period. (We shouldn’t even have to say that.)

What are your thoughts and tips?

Nathaniel Mckenzie