I Did It My Way

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James 4:1-3What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.  (NIV 1984)

Regrets, I’ve Had A Few – Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.  (Ambrose Bierce)

But Then Again, Too Few To Mention? – When faced with pressure and strong opinions, instead of adding constructive dialogue, we often look for ways to win, punish or keep the peace.

Win – We may attempt to correct the “facts,” quibble over details, and/or point out the flaws in others’ points of view, with a view to winning. The truth at all costs (even if we happen to be right) loses out over our truth at all costs. And the costs could be very high in terms of broken relationships.

Punish – As our passion rises, we may move from merely wanting to win to also punishing those who disagree.  It is no longer good enough to win, we must make the other(s) regret challenging our truth.  Why would we want to vindictively punish someone we care about?  Down deep (in the heart of the matter) we don’t.  But on the surface (in the heat of the matter) we do. And the costs could be very high in terms of the inability to eventually repair broken relationships.

Clam Up – Then there is the other extreme, we become so focused on keeping the peace and avoiding conflict, that we go to silence. We avoid making waves. As a result, we accept the certainty of bad results (which includes no resolution). We don’t have enough trust in the relationship to take the risk of hurt feelings.  And the costs could be very high in terms of relationships that do not grow.

Heart – When any of these begin to occur (win, punish, clam up), we need to refocus. What are my true motives? What do I really want, for myself, for others, and for the relationship? This helps us regain our bearings, the “North Star” on our moral compass. We need to clarify what we really want and what we really don’t want.  People skilled at moving through crucial, high-stakes issues start with the heart, in order to keep their motives pure and to stay focused. They do not allow themselves to become motivated by winning at all costs, punishing or avoiding the issue altogether. (Notes from Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012.)

My Musings – We won’t always win the argument, sometimes because we are on the wrong side of it.  But even if we are right, we should take care that we don’t win the argument and lose the heart.

My Advice – Start with the heart and stay with the heart.  Do it “His” way.

Fool’s Choice

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James 1:19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (NIV 1984)

My Musings – My dad often said we have one mouth and two ears, meaning we should listen twice as much as we speak.  We listen because the other party might be right.  It happens.  But being “slow to speak” does not mean we do not speak at all.   The other party might be wrong.  It also happens.  And if the stakes are high (not trivial), it is crucial that we do speak up.  A true friend does not withhold the truth, even if it may hurt.  But how we speak the truth (in love, gentleness and respect) is just as crucial.

Silence Matters – Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (Martin Luther King Jr.)

The Fool’s Choice – The mistake most of us make when dealing with things that matter is that we mistakenly believe the choice is between telling the truth and keeping a friend (not making an enemy), between candor and kindness.  But when it comes to risky, unpopular, controversial or emotional issues (where the stakes are high), skilled (brave?) people find a way to get all of the relevant information (from all parties) out into the open.  They dialogue (taking part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem).

Remaining silent, will rarely resolve any issue.  People skilled at dialogue do not remain silent, and they do their best to make it safe for everyone to share in the dialogue.  Even when the other’s views appear at odds with their own beliefs.  Those unskilled at dialogue, if they do not remain silent, will resort to outright attacks (sarcasm, caustic comments, verbal attacks) or subtle manipulation and passive-aggressive behavior (innuendo, playing the martyr, body language).

We begin with differing opinions, beliefs and history.  Whether we remain silent or we attack  the truth is rarely revealed and we are not being a true friend. (Notes from Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012.)

Fight or Flight, As Long As I Am Right?

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Romans 12:9-10Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:14-16Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. (NIV 1984)

Romans 12:17-18Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV 1984)
Romans 12:21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NIV 1984)
Colossians 4:6Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV 1984)
Ephesians 4:14-15Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (NIV 1984)

 

My Musings – Society (having the same root, more or less, as social) appears to be becoming anything but social (can we still call it social media?).  Why is it that as civilization becomes more and more polarized, it is becomes less and less civil?  How can we restore social to society and civil to civilization?  First, a couple thoughts from other.

  • Fear, Hate and Disagreement – Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle [views, opinions, beliefs], you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe [say] or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate. – Rick Warren
  • Crucial Conversations – A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.

It is okay to hold opposing views.  It is okay to care passionately about those views.  But because the stakes are high (relationships that we care just as passionately about), we must handle these conversations well.  People can and do disagree about important issues.  Because they feel passionately about their own views and beliefs, emotions can run high.  As a result, how we disagree matters (stakes are high) a lot.

One can either digress into threats (fight), revert to silent fuming (flight) or speak openly, honestly and effectively. The question is, when it matters most, are we at our worst (fight or flight and ineffective) or at our best (open, honest, caring and effective)?  One can handle them poorly (fight) and face the consequences.  One can walk away (flight) and face the consequences.  Or one can handle them well (open and honest) and minimize or avoid the consequences altogether.

The irony is, the more crucial the conversation, the less likely we are to handle it well and the more likely the consequences will be broken relationships. Being passionate in our beliefs and being compassionate with those of opposing beliefs are not mutually exclusive. Passion need not result in polemic behavior and compassion need not result in compromised beliefs.

Notes from Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012.

Not every conversation, not every issue is crucial.  But sometimes what is trivial to one, is of the utmost importance to the other.  For example, in 1968 and into 1969, talks to end the Vietnam nearly did not even get started over disagreements (lasting ten weeks) over the shape of the conference table.  Trivial to some, crucial to others.  Ultimately, however, the stakes (peace – the objective of everyone at the table) were very high.

Many times, there is no absolute right or wrong answer, except to the parties who cannot agree.  At other times there is an absolute right and wrong, with someone being absolutely wrong and no way of changing their mind. We cannot control what others view as crucial.   What we can control is how we engage.  We may still end up disagreeing, but we need not be disagreeable.  By the same token, we need not agree to be agreeable.

My Advice – Do not allow passion to extinguish your compassion.  Do not allow compassion to compromise your passion.  The truth is never afraid of open and honest dialogue.

 

 

 

Milestones

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I Have Something To Say – My first blog was August 12, 2017.  Since then, I have written 591 musings.  This weekend, I got my 10,000th hit.  While the U.S. has over 90% of the hits (naturally), my site has been visited by individuals in 57 countries covering six continents (still waiting for Antarctica).  Other than the U.S., my top viewers are (in order of frequency) from India, Ireland, Canada, Indonesia, United Kingdom, South Africa, China, South Korea, Nigeria and Hong Kong.  Most of the other countries (like Australia, Fiji, Iraq, Myanmar, Qatar, Vietnam,  and Zambia) had only one hit.  At any rate, people in countries from A to Z have been shared The Word at least once.  Trusting that I really did have something to say, and that it was God who really sent it, it will not return without accomplishment.  Maybe I’ll get to meet most of you on the “other side” one day.  Many of you I know already know, (like my mom who probably has 8.999 hits – just kidding, kind of).  Thanks to all of you, especially my “frequent flyers.”

While these stats might seem like a lot to some, they are pretty modest compared to many other blogs I’ve seen and are following (they are an inspiration). But, they are encouraging enough that I will keep blogging “for the Kingdom.” For a bit longer at any rate.  My biggest disappointment so far is the lack of comments from those that read my blogs.  I have had a few, but I was looking forward to a bit of “iron sharpening iron” as comments go back and forth.

Thanks again, and I leave you with a re-blog of the one that started it all.

You Are Free

Genesis 2:16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (NIV 1978)

My Musing – Freedom (“you are free”), responsibility (“you must not eat”), choice (“when you eat”) and consequences (“you will surely die“). A complete package, all present from the beginning.

Freedom is not a license to act outside the will of God. While we may choose to do so, there will inevitably be consequences if we do.

My Advice – Be responsible in how you exercise the freedom that God gives you. Make wise choices that are consistent with God’s moral laws. This way you can avoid the consequences of wrong choices.

The Devolution of Man (The Termination of the Species)

 

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Who Are You Following?

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1 Corinthians 1:10-13I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? (NIV 1984)
My Musing – It can be a dangerous thing to do, to get so wrapped up in a leader, that you lose sight of who it is that you were following in the first place.  We’ve gotten a taste of that in recent weeks and months as certain high-profile ministry leaders have “fallen,” or at least stumbled.  Where does that leave the faithful flock?  Or the “replacement” shepherd that must carry on?
We also see it on occasion, when there are changes in leadership due to retirement, pastors moving on to a new flock, or other such changes in a Church.  Some followers, leave the flock to follow the past leader to their new “pasture,” never giving the new shepherd a chance.  Others simply fall out of the flock altogether, so tied to the former shepherd to continue on anywhere.  Still others remain as “baaad” sheep, criticizing the new shepherd (“our old shepherd never did it that way”) or otherwise causing quarrels and creating divisions amongst the rest of the flock that is trying to remain faithful.  Then, there is that last group.  Staying faithful throughout the changes, some of which might be hard, uncomfortable or involve a shepherding (worship?) style they really don’t prefer, all for the sake of the rest of the flock and the shepherd they really have been following all along – the Good Shepherd.
My Advice – When changes come (some that may personally disappoint), and they will, stay faithful to the flock and to Christ.  Paul, Apollos and Cephas were all good shepherds of the flock.  But all were following Christ.  Eventually, they passed the torch to others. Paul was martyred and left his calling to people like Timothy, John Mark and Luke, also all good shepherds.   And the Church survived.   After all, who was it that was really crucified for the Church?  For you? Soli Deo Gloria!

Flight and Fight

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1 Timothy 6:11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. (NIV 1984)

My Musings – Here’s a novel thought.  How about accepting responsibility, playing by the rules, listening to your critics (they just might be right) and telling the truth.  There will be no need to redefine success or try again.

My Advice – Know when to fight and know when to flight.

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Whatever You Do, Do Not Forget This One Thing

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2 Peter 3:3-4First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (NIV 1984)

The Mayan calendar is an ancient calendar system that rose to fame in 2012, when a “Great Cycle” of its Long Count component came to an end, inspiring some to believe that the world would end on December 21, 2012. The media hype and hysteria that ensued was later termed the 2012 phenomenon.  Of course, the predictions did not come true—just like hundreds of other doomsday prophecies that fizzled out in the past. (1)

(1) http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/mayan.html

2 Peter 3:8-10But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come… (NIV 1984)

My Musings – The world did not end in 2012, “just like hundreds of other doomsday prophecies that fizzled out in the past.”  But we have come to the end of my “Studies in Revelation” series.  I hope you found it somewhat enlightening.  There is much that we still find confusing and do not understand.  Perhaps we will understand more as the day approaches.  For even while Jesus told us that the day or the hour was not for us to know, He nevertheless instructed us to keep watch and be alert for the signs that His return might be near.

Christendom has been waiting and watching for over 2,000 years now and He still has not returned.  As a result, many have become scoffers saying ““Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?”   They have relegated the Lord’s promise to the myth of the Mayan calendar and countless other false prophecies of the past.  An empty promise that fizzled.

But Peter, in his second epistle, explained why the Lord might delay (He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance),  and that delay does not mean slowness as we understand slowness (the day of the Lord will come).  The timing of HIs coming is uncertain, the fact that He will come is not.

My AdviceHe [Jesus] who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20, NIV 1984)

Want to read it again?  Click on the link below to order your copy today.

http://blurb.com/b/8427196-studies-in-revelation-soft-covers/

My approach was to try and not be too dogmatic, but rather to present the differing viewpoints in as objective of a manner as I could, although I am sure my own bias has crept in here and there. I also wanted to avoid idle speculation on some of the more confusing imagery in the book (to not stain at a gnat and swallow a camel), choosing to focus more on the overriding theme. I am sure I wandered into the weeds here and there, however.

As you read this book, I urge you to focus more on the “blessed hope” of His certain return, and less on the manner of His return. Many got it wrong on His first advent, and we do not want to be among those who get it wrong on His second advent. Watch for the signs, but do not keep your gaze so fixed on the clouds that you lose sight of the work He left us to do until His glorious appearing.

My wish for all who read this book (but more importantly the underlying book of Revelation) the blessings that are promised in the Revelation 22:7.

“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” (NIV 1984)