Response Time Matters

miami_package_feelthehealdetoxGod’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? This is the first post in Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

Response time matters in emergencies. It also matters in non-emergencies, because the time it takes you to get through a grocery line, wait in traffic, or fix a meal impacts other plans and responsibilities you have. Sometimes a fast response is essential. Sometimes, to give or expect an immediate response is premature, invasive, and inconvenient.

It’s important to invite God to determine the best response time when you’re dealing with issues among your church family. Let God tell you when and how to respond instead of your default comfort settings becoming the driving force. You might prefer to let things simmer for a while and see what the impact will be before addressing the issue, but carefully listen to God’s promptings. He might agree with you, but it’s also possible that he knows if you approach a particular person right away, the behind-the-scenes whispers will be quieted and the eventual roar will be eliminated with the early action. On the other hand, you might prefer to jump in and solve issues right away, and while that might be the best option at times, God will also encourage you to wait at times, because he knows approaching the hot fire will cause the flames to burn higher and hotter, making it more visible and dangerous for those otherwise unaffected.

Responding isn’t about your preference or comfort. God knows what’s best. Responding in his time is what matters, because he knows everyone involved, including yourself, much better than you do. Response time matters because people matter. Response time matters because your relationship with God matters.

Listen to Jesus’ instructions to his disciples—and us—about responding to others. Be sensitive to his leading and trust him. God knows best.

If the people in a certain place refuse to welcome you or listen to you, leave that place. Shake its dust off your feet as a warning to them. (Mark 6:11)

But I say to you who are listening, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.  Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy. (Luke 6:27, 36)

Response Time Matters

healingthehurtResponse time matters in emergencies. It also matters in non-emergencies, because the time it takes you to get through a grocery line, wait in traffic, or fix a meal impacts other plans and responsibilities you have. Sometimes a fast response is essential. Sometimes, to give or expect an immediate response is premature, invasive, and inconvenient.

It’s important to invite God to determine the best response time when you’re dealing with issues among your church family. Let God tell you when and how to respond instead of your default comfort settings becoming the driving force. You might prefer to let things simmer for a while and see what the impact will be before addressing the issue, but carefully listen to God’s promptings. He might agree with you, but it’s also possible that he knows if you approach a particular person right away, the behind-the-scenes whispers will be quieted and the eventual roar will be eliminated with the early action. On the other hand, you might prefer to jump in and solve issues right away, and while that might be the best option at times, God will also encourage you to wait at times, because he knows approaching the hot fire will cause the flames to burn higher and hotter, making it more visible and dangerous for those otherwise unaffected.

Responding isn’t about your preference or comfort. God knows what’s best. Responding in his time is what matters, because he knows everyone involved, including yourself, much better than you do. Response time matters because people matter. Response time matters because your relationship with God matters.

Listen to Jesus’ instructions to his disciples—and us—about responding to others. Be sensitive to his leading and trust him. God knows best.

If the people in a certain place refuse to welcome you or listen to you, leave that place. Shake its dust off your feet as a warning to them. (Mark 6:11)

But I say to you who are listening, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.  Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy. (Luke 6:27, 36)

God’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? This is the final post of Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

Catch Your Breath

healingthehurtI’ve learned to take a breath before I speak. When I don’t, I often find myself in a quagmire of problems.

Our lives are stuffed to the brim with space-fillers. With tablets, cell phones, computers, and much more at our fingertips, we can access information and have multiple conversations at once. While e-readers and other screens emphasize the importance of white space for our eyes, we’re constantly sacrificing the white space in our lives. Less white space leads to an overcrowding that pressures us, and our conversations are no exception.

Every second of white space in time doesn’t need to be filled. When we feel the pressure to fill every moment, we’ll begin to anticipate the filling process, thinking of what we want to say next instead of waiting, patiently listening, reflecting, and respectfully responding in turn. Invite processing time. It will take practice, because you’re likely not used to it, and people with whom you converse are certainly just as unfamiliar with it. More white space in conversations creates a slower cadence, a rhythm that flows more than fires. When push and pull is replaced with intentional give and take, the focus can shift from the conversation itself to a respect for the people having the conversation. After all, the relationship is more important than the outcome of the conversation. Words spoken should be driven by the impact they have on the relationship instead of the influence they have on the outcome of the conversation.

Breathing helps as you talk, because it’s an intentional invitation to reflect before responding. As I breathe, I invite God to fill my mind, heart, and words, taking a moment to intentionally yield to him. While it takes some getting used to, it’s not as intrusive or distracting as you might originally think. Most people won’t notice at all. It’s not a deep, cleansing breath, just a regular breath in for oxygen—with an invitation for more nourishing, courageous, and powerful breath. If you find yourself still struggling to listen to the person instead of planning what you’re about to say, you can also use an exhaled breath as you’re listening as a commitment to empty yourself of your self, yielding to and trusting God instead. (Let me admit, I do not always yield well, so I’m not sharing these techniques as someone who has perfected it. I’m a work in progress!)

Inviting breaths into a conversation isn’t just about you. Invite breaths for the other person, too. When somebody pauses to think of a word or finish a thought, wait with them. You might anticipate what you think they’re going to say, but respect them enough to let them finish. It’s nice to be known well enough that someone can finish your thoughts, but it’s also nice to be given the space and time to finish your own thoughts.

Conversations are not a race; they’re an opportunity to engage in relationship. Invite the nourishing rhythm of breathing into your conversations today.

I will be in them and you will be in me so that they will be completely one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you loved them just as much as you loved me. (John 17:23)

God’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? Welcome to Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

God Says What’s Best. (It’s Not About You.)

healingthehurtWe’re not the center of the universe.

While this statement might not surprise you, we can easily slip into a me-centered way of thinking. It’s not just about selfish, demand-what-we-want-when-we-want-it thinking that’s selfish. You can certainly find someone who is a bit more selfish than you, so you don’t see yourself quite as selfish. Me-centered thinking is more sneaky than the obvious me-statements, whining, and high expectations for people to tend to personal needs and whims. Me-centered thinking is in every single one of us, and it particularly begins to decay the health of church families when we begin with ourselves as the foundation of plans, judgments, and assumptions.

“Well, I know that happens to some people in some churches, but people in my church are much more mature as believers than that. We know the dangers, and we’re cautious never to put our individual selves above the church.” It happens more often than you might recognize, and refusing to consider how me-centered thinking is impacting you as an individual or the church as a whole is negligent and deters you from spiritually growing as God intends.

Even when we know God is sovereign and accept him as all-knowing and all-powerful, our behavior often contradicts our beliefs. Because we can’t understand everything about God, we make some assumptions. We start with what we do understand and make assumptions. We project our limited understanding onto what must be true about God.

We experience fear, and we know God’s Word refers to fear, so we infuse our experience of fear into our belief of what God means when he refers to fear.

We hear a particular Scripture verse taught in a way we’ve never considered before, and without checking the context of the verse or keeping the context of the teaching, we begin to expand the application into areas God never intended. We make our own rules because they make sense to us without checking to see if God says our rules are necessary or God-honoring.

We’re confident God guided in a specific direction in one situation, so when we’re in a similar situation again later, we assume God wants us to move in the same direction.

God’s will is unchanging, but the specifics of how he wants us to respond changes across situations. He desires an ever-deepening relationship with us, which means we must rely on him through every moment of every situation. He guides us to stand up, speak up, speak up, and shut up, depending on what he knows is best in each situation. If faith was as simple as “If A, then B…If C, then D,” we wouldn’t have to rely on God’s leading on an ongoing basis, because we would live within the bounds of legalism. It’s obvious through Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees that legalism is not the same as a thriving relationship of faith with God. He’s not interested in legalism. He wants sacrificial dependency that spurs us toward bold obedience.

When we want what is best, we can become so passionately invested that we place blinders on our eyes, causing us to miss some important truths God. We need to invite God to reveal the situation in which we’re starting with what we most want and projecting our wish lists onto what we’re proclaiming as God’s will. Faith is yielding to God. It’s dying to self to live in his will, which isn’t a one-time decision. It’s an ongoing commitment. We need to set everything of our own wills to the side—our assumptions, wants, relationships, and much more—in order to hear clearly from God. Only declare his will when your confident it’s founded in God’s Word and not in your own.

Trust the Lord with all your heart  and don’t depend on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

God’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? Welcome to Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

Are You a Building Block or a Stumbling Block?

healingthehurtCome to the Lord Jesus, the “stone” that lives. The people of the world did not want this stone, but he was the stone God chose, and he was precious. You also are like living stones, so let yourselves be used to build a spiritual temple—to be holy priests who offer spiritual sacrifices to God. He will accept those sacrifices through Jesus Christ. The Scripture says: “I will put a stone in the ground in Jerusalem. Everything will be built on this important and precious rock. Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.” This stone is worth much to you who believe. But to the people who do not believe, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (1 Peter 2:4-7)

In these verses, Peter is encouraging believers to be like the stones used to build a holy temple for God. In order for the building blocks to do what they needed to do to fit together with other building blocks, they needed to be carved, molded, and placed together. In order for believers to fulfill individual and collective purpose for God, we must be willing to let God shape us and place us where he wants us to be. That means we don’t decide who we sit alongside. We don’t decide our exact shape. We don’t decide how we serve within the building. We don’t get to decide how pretty our rough edges are or how smooth is smooth enough. God does all that. It’s not about us; it’s about God’s building. It’s about unity. However, in order to come together to make what God intends to make, each piece has to be worked on and fitted together. Each has to be yielding in order for the building to be sound and holy.

We have another option other than yielding. Instead of being building blocks, we can be stumbling blocks. When we don’t allow God to shape us into the right shape for the right fit into the building, we will become displaced. We’ll fall to a place we’re not intended to be and create a stumbling hazard for those around us.

You get to choose which you’ll be, so ask yourself, “Am I a building block, or am I a stumbling block?” Avoid quickly giving the Sunday School answer. Think about specific situations you’ve been involved in recently. Of course, we all want to believe we’re building blocks. We want to believe we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do, but are we…really? Have we checked with him before we’ve proceeded, or have we moved forward in the direction that makes sense, responding first, then asking him to bless the process once we’re in motion? The popular adage “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” isn’t a biblical principle.

In order to fit well within a body of believers, you must invite God to shape you in order to fit where he intends you to fit. You don’t decide where you fit, then reason through why you’re such a good fit. You don’t decide you were made for such a time as this. God decides the time and place. He decides the process. You seek. You trust. You obey. You can certainly be stubborn about it, but when you don’t allow him to place you where you’re supposed to fit, you’re not just impacting yourself and your purpose. You’re impacting the body of Christ.

So, are you a building block or a stumbling block?

I beg you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with each other and not be split into groups. I beg that you be completely joined together by having the same kind of thinking and the same purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

God’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? Welcome to Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

Replace Assumptions with Questions

healingthehurtWe want people to know us so well that they read our minds. We don’t want to have to share what we need most or what we prefer, because we want those close enough to us to already know. We play many games, such as “I shouldn’t have to tell you. You should already know.” No matter how great we think we are at anticipating others’ needs, we are not capable of reading minds. We might get it right every now and then, but we won’t get it right all the time. We make assumptions. Sometimes we’re right, and sometimes we’re wrong. Sometimes we look like we’re genius, and sometimes we look like we’re clueless.

We can simply stop the game and communicate with more clarity, so we’re more consistent. Instead of responding out of assumptions, we can simply ask someone to clarify a detail or situation. We can gather information and weed out misinformation. And here’s an important detail when it comes to our church family: we need to ask the right person to clarify a detail or situation. We need to choose well, going to the source of the information. We can go to someone who might have some of the information, but the more people it goes through, the more distorted the information gets. If you go to someone who has the information third- or fourth-handed, it’s like playing a game of Telephone. What is told to you and what you tell others is not going to match the original message.

We must be careful in how we pass along information. If we’re not sure, we need to not speculate. If it’s something we need to know, we can search for the source of the information. If we hear discrepancies between what we know from the source and what others are sharing, we need to clarify. We need to replace assumptions with questions, always inviting a search for the truth. We need to be open to challenges of the assumptions we make. We need to ask, “Is it true?” of everything in our lives. Our search for truth isn’t driven by distrust. It’s not a response away from something. It’s a drive toward something. God is truth, and he wants us to seek and know him. God isn’t just in the big things of life. He’s in every small detail. He wants us to know the truth of his creation and his eternal plan for our lives, and he also wants us to seek and know the truth of a chat we have with a friend, information taught in a small group, or message preached in a worship service. God wants to purify everything, revealing his truth, and he invites you to bring everything to him.

God invites you to ask him. Be inquisitive. Let your inquisitive relationship with him drive your inquisitive approach to living in a biblical community. When your inquisitiveness is driven by your own agenda, ambition, or opinion, you might rationalize you’re getting closer to God simply because you’re in a biblically-based community, but being inquisitive in church doesn’t mean your inquisitiveness is biblical. It’s only biblical inquisitiveness when God is in the center of it, orienting the direction, weeding through the falsehoods, and revealing the pure truths of every situation and relationship.

God’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? Welcome to Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

Cope with Criticism

healingthehurt“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” (Aristotle)

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” (Winston Churchill)

If you’re not encountering criticism, you’re not building relationships, because relationships should involve value-driven discussions and daily living, which will cause friction among individuals. Of course, the friction should be handled in God-honoring ways. We should respect one another even when we disagree, but how often do we think respecting each other is refusing to disagree? How God-honoring are we when we’re on the receiving end of the criticism? Do we take it personally and have difficulty as we think someone no longer likes us, or do we callously respond as if we don’t care because we’re going to be who we are regardless of what anyone says or thinks of us?

What do you learn from the following verses?

Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again. But be careful, because you might be tempted to sin, too. (Galatians 6:1)

In everything you say and do, remember that you will be judged by the law that makes people free. So you must show mercy to others, or God will not show mercy to you when he judges you. But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment. (James 2:12-13)

I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other. (John 13:34-35)

Accept into your group someone who is weak in faith, and do not argue about opinions. (Romans 14:1)

God certainly gave his children guidelines for criticizing others. We must be loving, gentle, and merciful. We are not excused from criticism; we are simply directed to criticize within God’s standards with his provision. We are to accept and respond to criticism in the same way—within God’s standards—even when people criticizing us are not adhering to the same standards. Just because another Christ-follower is bending God’s rules does not make it okay for us to bend God’s rules, thus, fighting fire with fire.

We cope with criticism with the same standards by which we’re to give criticism.

  • Be loving—by God’s standards.
  • Be gentle—by God’s standards.
  • Be merciful—by God’s standards.
  • Be forgiving—by God’s standards.

Responding to criticism by God’s standards is not the same as hiding feelings. It’s setting aside feelings for truth. God gave us feelings to enhance experiences not to distort the truth of a situation. Let God reveal the truth of a situation. You don’t need to know the person’s motives. You don’t need to know how the person will respond. All you need to know is…God. God is truth, and when you invite and trust him to guide, your motives will become God-driven and your responses will become God-guided. You will cope with criticism with God and for God. He is at the center of your life and your relationships, including criticism. Let him lead from the center.

God’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? Welcome to Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.