Advent Challenge

30 11 2009

Advent: N. The coming or arrival, especially of something awaited or momentous.

As we gear up for Christmas at Epic, we’re reading through Gospel of Luke. All month, we look forward with hope, excitement and expectation of both Christ’s coming 2000 years ago and Christ coming to personally lead us today.

Scripture Readings:

  • Week 1 (Nov 30-Dec 4) Luke 1-5
  • Week 2 (Dec 7-11) Luke 6-10
  • Week 3 (Dec 14-18) Luke 11-15
  • Week 4 (Dec. 21-25) Luke 16-20

Allow the readings to lead you to:

1. Worship Fully. Because Christmas begins and ends with Jesus.

2. Spend Less and free your resources for things that truly matter.

3. Give More of your presence, your hands your words, your time and your heart to others.

4. Love All the poor, the forgotten, the marginalized, and the sick in ways that make a difference.


Marriage Glue is Forgiveness

30 11 2009

One of my professors had this saying he would repeat over and over every time he talked about marriage, “The glue that holds a marriage together is forgiveness.” I think my old professor’s wisdom holds true in everyday relationships. We all have had people do things and say things that hurt us. On the flip side, we all have done things that cause hurt and pain in the lives of someone else. The glue that holds relationships together is forgiveness.

But what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is not forgetting. Because no matter how hard you try to forget something, you can’t make your mind forget it. Forgiveness is not ignoring it and sweeping it under the rug. All that will do is create relationship landmines that will leave everyone walking on eggshells. Forgiveness means you acknowledge the hurt and pain the person caused you, but you choose to let it go and not hold it against them anymore. Forgiveness means you make the choice to forgive them and never bring it up again. You may think that they don’t deserve to be forgiven. You’re right, they don’t…that’s why it’s called forgiveness.

“Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember the Lord forgave you. So you must forgive others just as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3: 13).

Belt Sanders and Brooms: Speaking the Truth in Love (Part 2)

24 11 2009

There were three major things Kathy and I learned to begin to resolve conflict right in our marriage. Our old conflict resolution patterns were destructive and leading us toward divorce. If we were going to learn to speaking the truth in love we needed to do three things:

1. Getting Honest With Yourself

Speaking the truth without love doesn’t work. I would act like a belt sander saying things in an abrasive way. Verbal jabs, sarcasm, powering up, slander, self-righteousness became my natural response. My words would leave sand paper scars on Kathy. The hard truth is people who speak the truth without love often end up with revolving door relationships because they abrasively push people away.

Being loving without speaking the truth doesn’t work. Kathy would act like a broom and sweep the problem under the rug. Cowardice, avoiding, ignoring, TipToe around conflict, enabling became her norm. The hard truth is people who love without speaking the truth often end up with shallow relationships because they’re afraid of the conflict that will result from being honest.

2. Stop Focusing on Changing Them

David starts Psalm 139 by focusing on what everyone else is doing wrong, but by the end he courageously looks at what he needs to do to change. He prays a high risk prayer, “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. Psalm 139:23-4 The truth is it’s a lot easier to deal with other people than it is to get on my knees, and say, “God Deal with Me! Expose the dark parts about my heart that are not fully yielded to you. Acting as a Belt Sander or a Broom isn’t just hurting my spouse, it’s hurting me and most of all it’s offending You, God. Bring all that junk into the light. Expose it to your power and your grace so it can be changed by you.” We’ll never resolve conflict right until we get serious and ask God to deal with me!

3. Get Serious about Allowing Christ to Change You

BELT SANDERS: If your tendency is to “speak the truth, the next step is to listen love and affirm your spouse. You may be a black belt in speaking the truth, but you’re a white belt in love. Respond slowly, stop talking and start listening. When I’m abrasive, I’m hurting deeply the one I love the most. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” Ephesians 4:29. Did my word this week build up or tear down? Did I speak gently and tactfully? What can I do AND say this week to affirm to let them know I deeply love and care for them?

BROOMS: If your tendency is to “be loving,” the next step is to risk their rejection and speak up. You believe that if you speak up, you’ll make it worse. Keeping quiet isn’t helping; it’s hurting. Proverbs 10:10 says “Someone who holds back the truth will cause trouble. But the one who openly confronts works for peace.” Tell yourself conflict is not bad. It’s not a crisis, but an opportunity for growth. Where am I holding back? What do I need to say? The only way to deepen intimacy in a relationship is through conflict. Speaking up will strengthen the relationship.

“CONFLICT” SERIES continues @ Epic

Speaking the Truth in Love (Part 1)

20 11 2009

In our first two years of marriage, Kathy and I didn’t handle conflict well. It was horrendous. Any time a disagreement would come up, I would attack and she would retreat. I would blow up and she would clam up.

After a couple of marriage retreats, we came to learn the truth about why we acted the way we did.

In my house growing up, we would yell. When we were irritated, we would raise our voices and tell each other what was on our mind. When we were mad, we would throw stuff. When we were really pissed, we would say nothing. In Kathy’s house growing up, they handled disagreements completely different. Actually they wouldn’t argue at all. It was peace at all cost. If they were irritated, they said absolutely nothing. When they were mad, they would sweep it under the rug. When they were really pissed, they would write a letter.

When I would raise my voice and tell Kathy what I was thinking, she would think, “This guy is completely out of control. Maybe it will blow over, so I’m saying nothing,” What did silence mean in my house? Anger, so I would in turn blow another gasket…then she would get more quiet. We were a divorce just to waiting to happen.

Which way was right?

1. Speak the Truth: It doesn’t matter who you hurt. This resulted in verbal shrapnel all over the place.

2. Be Loving and Say Nothing. Sweep everything under the rug. This resulted in a lumpy carpet of unresolved issues, which we both would trip on.

Neither. Both are wrong. Both don’t work.

I was good at speaking the truth. She was good at loving. What we needed was to learn to do what Paul said in Ephesians 4:15 “Instead, WE WILL SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” We needed to learn to speak the truth in love.

And the journey of learning a whole new way of resolving conflict began…

“CONFLICT” SERIES continues @ Epic

Marriage: Ground Rules for Fighting Fair

19 11 2009

Everyone fights, but most couples don’t get it right. Many people never sit down to establish ground rules as husband and wife for handling disagreements. Here’s six that have helped Kathy and I in our eighteen years of marriage.

1. Choose the Right Place and the Right Time. Set up a time when you both are not tired or hungry. Have some watch the kids. Sit down face to face/eye to eye/knee to knee. Hold hands, pray and ask God to give you wisdom to discuss this peacefully.

2. Focus on the Issue, Not Winning. Learn how to attack the issues without attacking each other. You are both on the same team working together on a solution to the problem.

3. Allow One Person to Speak at a Time. Don’t’ talk over. Don’t talk down. Come ready to listen to their side and ready to figure out next step.

4. Try to Understand Their Underlying Hurt, Fear, Frustration. The underlying emotions in any disagreement are fear, hurt and frustration. Understand yourself. Understand them. Ask questions, listen to what’s beneath the conflict and try to see the pain from their perspective.

5. Confess My Part of the Conflict. Even if you are only 1% wrong and 99% right, apologize and confess your part. “I’m sorry for overreacting.” “I’m sorry for not telling you how I feel.” “I’m sorry for hurting you.” Be the first person to say, “I’m sorry, will you please forgive me…”

6. Commit to Forgive Each Other. Forgiveness is the foundation of every relationship and marriage is a commitment to daily forgiveness. Don’t say, “It’s no big deal”…Say “I forgive you for…” and move forward.

These six steps weren’t easy for us to learn and we don’t always have it all together, but they have helped Kathy and I go from destructive to constructive fights. To be honest, the key for both of us has been our relationship with Christ. I couldn’t have changed by my own strength. It’s been his power, his grace, and his forgiveness in our lives that has given us the fuel to face our shortcomings, change and become more of who God intended us to be.

Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Ephesians. 4:31

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy. Hebrews 12:14

“CONFLICT” SERIES continues @ Epic

30/30: Marriage. Disappointment. God.

17 11 2009

“I pity the married couple who expect too much from one another. It’s foolish to expect from one another that which only Jesus Christ can be…always ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a marriage under an impossible strain.” Ruth Graham

I’ve found a lot of marital conflict and disappointment comes when we look to our spouse to meet needs that only God himself can meet. I’ve been guilty of expecting a lot of things from Kathy that could only be met by Christ. When you start looking to your spouse to meet needs that God Himself has said that He is responsible to meet, you’re making that person into god and you’re setting yourself up for massive dose of disappointment and bitterness. Nobody can meet all your needs. Instead of expecting your mate to meet all your needs, God wants you to look to Him.

“Weapons of Mass Destruction” that Will Destroy Your Marriage

16 11 2009

weapons mass destructionIn modern warfare, countries agree not to use certain weapons: Nuclear weapons, Chemical Weapons, Biological Weapons…Weapons of Mass Destruction. Even though we’re fighting a war, we will agree that some weapons are too deadly, too devastating to be used in the fight. Even though we are in the heat of battle, will agree that certain weapons if used will destroy BOTH sides. In your marriage, you need to do the same thing. If you want your marriage to go the distance, some words need to be completely eliminated form your vocabulary.

1. Atomic Lies: “You always… You never… We lie when we use the phrase “always” and “never.” Those statements are meant to destroy the person and are just not true. It’s hitting below the belt, you can find at least one example where they didn’t act that way.

2. Cold War (Silent Contempt). In my house growing up, when we were mad, we yelled. When we were real mad. we threw stuff. When we were pissed, we gave them the silent treatment. Rolling your eyes and saying nothing shows disrespect and is destroying the foundation of your marriage.

3. Character Assassination. Sniping with sarcasm, belittling, insults, getting historical (listing everything they have ever done wrong) or gossiping are completely destructive. They will not just take out your spouse, but will destroy your marriage.

4. Divorce Missiles. Threatening to divorce your spouse is a nuclear explosion and fallout will be seen for years.

conflict final 3Today you need to resolve to commit your words to Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter how angry we get at each other. We are going to fight fair. Words are powerful and words can be hurtful. We have made some mistakes in the past, but let’s make this stuff out-of-bounds from now on. It’s hurting us too bad. It’s killing us too much. We will agree to eliminate weapons of mass destruction.”

A fool gives full vent to anger, but a wise person quietly holds it back. Proverbs 29:11