My two oldest kids are getting baptized this summer, here’s a link to a collection of scriptures and questions for their reflection.THE-GOSPEL-and-BAPTISM
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Galatians 1:3-5)
The beginning of Paul’s letter assumes sin and conflict.
Grace** and peace are needed in every community–Christian or not–because communities are filled with imperfect people who are selfish, vain, and prideful. We need God’s grace, his undeserved favor and we need peace with him and others. Let us then not become surprised at sin and conflict when we see it. More importantly, let’s look to control our sin and keep our mouths from conflict with others.
The Gospel was always on Paul’s mind.
Thoughts about the gospel ought to be as regular as eating or sleeping or talking with others. It’s easy to leave the basics behind, but this is a poor habit. There can be no success when the fundamentals are forgotten. Make no mistake, the center of our faith is that the Father has sent his Son to save us from evil–his salvation is necessary and we are unable to attain it for ourselves.
God’s will prevails. Always.
Our freedom is real. And while this mystery cannot be solved, we know what is expected of us: we ought to glorify God above all. We glorify many things: incredible experiences or outstanding people, achievement or the accumulation of more stuff. Everything in creation is is falsely glorified when it ought to be a sign prompting us to glorify the creator.
Paul’s introduction is simple. In a way, it wasn’t very special because was similar to common letter introductions during this time. It’s easy to skip–a trap I often fall into, I’m afraid to admit. But there are great insights waiting to be discovered when we pause for a moment.
What have I missed? How is the Holy Spirit speaking to you through these few words of introduction?
**Here’s a good explanation of Grace from the Lexham Theological Workbook:
“Grace refers to the condition of being given or shown favor, especially by someone in a position to exercise goodwill by meeting a particular need. Grace can also refer to the manifestation of such a disposition of kindness in the form of material benefaction, including the giving of gifts, the approval of one’s request, the granting of freedom or mercy, and the deliverance or salvation from evil or harm.”
Ezra had money problems: he had too much. He also needed to travel a great distance–four months from Babylon to Jerusalem–which exposed him to theft. He trusted God for protection, but he also took diligent steps to minimize his risks. Ezra divided the treasures among 12 priests and said:
“Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem before the leading priests and the Levites and the family heads of Israel.” (Ezra 8:29)
Essentially, Ezra said, “Hold on to this stuff, because we’re going to count it all when we get to Jerusalem.” God graciously protected the travelers from thieves, and the 12 people were faithful in their stewardship. Once they got to Jerusalem, Ezra writes:
“Everything was accounted for by number and weight, and the entire weight was recorded at that time.” (Ezra 8:34)
The newly rebuilt temple was dedicated to the Lord, paid for by the money Ezra bought. Good times. This part of the story was great (spoiler alert: the next part, not so much).
In our lives, we have accountability for everything but the most important things. We are accountable to our parents (for their rules), teachers (for their assignments), and bosses (for our work). When we drive, we’re accountable to the law and those hidden cops who are keeping the highways safe. Society has built in accountability…for the little things.
But we’re not accountable for the big things. I’m talking about the conditions of our heart: our motives, fantasies, and desires. This kind of accountability has to be chosen, and it’s easy to ignore and fake.
Accountability makes us stronger. Eventually we’ll be held accountable to God. But for the current chapter of our lives, we get to choose it.
There are at least two aspects of overconfidence: perceived and actual.
Externally, some people are viewed by others as too confident. These people might be humble on the inside, but people don’t see it. This is a reflection of their foolish lack of self-awareness.
Naturally, some people are too confident on the inside, and their pride is a reflection of their heart.
Most of the time, internal overconfidence is expressed externally. Sometimes, people seem prideful but their hearts are humble.
Both diseases of overconfidence are inconceivably difficult to self diagnose–all those pesky self rationalizations get in the way.
Unfortunately, I haven’t just observed this, I’ve experienced it firsthand. Understanding the symptoms of overconfidence could lead to greater humility.
Perceived overconfidence exchanges inspiration with intimidation or indifference.
When we see the right amount of confidence in others, we are inspired and appreciate their passion. Your favorite singer doesn’t step on the stage sheepishly.
Actual overconfidence exchanges surrender for self-sufficiency .
Rather than trusting God, the self-sufficient place their trust in their own skills and achievements.
Are people intimidated by you? Are they indifferent and apathetic to your ideas? Who gets the spotlight in your heart, is it God or you? Talk to someone in your life to get an outside perspective.
I recently spent a little time thinking about my friendships and thanking God for their impact in my life. Fellowship is a gift! We aren’t entitled to friends, we have to be a good friend to develop significant relationships. As I was considering the benefits I receive from my close friends, the following blessings bubbled to the top:
Laughter and Fun. It’s not a surprise that being around good people creates joy. Life can be stressful, busy, discouraging, overwhelming … I need joy! Diversions seem good, but joy truly is good.
Encouragement and Support. Everyone wants to be accepted. Personally, this translates into being understood by others. This has led me to be an open person…and sometimes too open! #oversharing
Feedback and Correction. I have a ton of opinions–on just about every subject. I desperately need outside perspective. If I only live in MATT’S WORLD, things get crazy…QUICK. I need the growth that can only come when I’m around others.
Ministry and Impact. Significance is rooted in Christ, which means becoming more like him. Jesus came to serve and to help other people. Helping others is better when I do it with others. We can minister alone–which is the path some of us have to take–but there is greater meaning when I serve alongside a friend.
How does God bless you through your friends?
Father, Thank you for the gift of fellowship. I need the people you have placed in my life. Forgive me for the times I take my friends for granted. Help me to nurture my friendships so that I give and not just take. Amen.
Let’s face it, no one likes conflict.
However, conflict is inevitable. It’s never a question of IF a conflict might occur, it’s a question of WHEN. If a conflict is handled with maturity, it can lead to tremendous growth. We can grow closer to God, others, and even develop personal insight. Conflict creates unique opportunity.
There are two common responses to conflict—imploding and exploding—and neither are healthy. The “imploders” bottle up their feelings, while the “exploders” do the opposite: everyone knows how they feel.
Handling conflict poorly often leads to relational issues. The imploders may be good at keeping the peace, but are lonely because no one knows how they really feel. The exploders may be good at “keeping things real”, but others can pull away in fear of the next outburst.
Both responses to conflict offer short term solutions. For the imploder, everything eventually comes out and a conflict become much intense than it should. For the exploder, he or she may recover quickly after an episode, but everyone else the after effects linger.
“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” (Proverbs 2:11)
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” (Psalm 32:3)
No one likes rejection. It’s sting is so painful because it’s personal.
Get a black eye from an injustice and it’s because the world isn’t fair….rage against the world!
Get knocked down from a rejection and it’s because I’m not good enough….you can try to rage against the world, but you always end up attacking yourself.
How do you respond when you experience rejection? These waters aren’t fun to swim in, but the reflection is worth the effort. Here’s how I typically respond to rejection. Fair warning, this isn’t a delightful list:
Retreat—I engage my friends, but withdraw from my enemies (or “non-friends”). When I’m rejected, I retreat. I won’t even argue when I’m rejected because I feel like disagreement is a gift for my friends. (I’m so opinionated, I’ve got plenty to give! HA.). Isolation feels like the best way to minimize the painful and poisonous effects of rejection. And while this may be a common response, it’s counter productive. We are deceiving ourselves if we think life is better spent alone. For me, maturity refuses to retreat and I choose to engage.
Rage—I rage at the (apparent) injustice of not being accepted. In the universe named “Matt,” there’s no logical reason why I wouldn’t be chosen. I mean, I’d choose me, so everyone else should do the same? For me, maturity rejects ego and chooses humility.
Devalued—I create a list of all the reasons I must not be good enough to be accepted. For me, maturity shifts the focus, to seeking approval from God rather than others.
Comparison—I begin to think, “If only I was different, like someone else who was accepted, then I could have avoided the rejection.” The feelings and thoughts left in the wake of rejection are paradoxical. On one hand, nothing about me needs to be changed, on the other hand, if I was different, the rejection wouldn’t have happened. For me, maturity means learning how God is changing me rather than becoming a duplicate copy of someone else.
Flee to the familiar—This response isn’t negative. Rejection in one area of my life pushes me to the comfort of other relationships, ones that are trusted and true. This response is different from retreating because it’s a reminder of the good relationships that already exist in my life. We are called to carry one another’s burdens, and it’s ok to let the trusted carry our burdens.
Demonize—I can attack the rejector, listing out their countless flaws and innumerable foolishnesses. Some of are real, but many are imagined. Truth is that nothing clouds judgment and creates bias like rejection. For me, maturity means withholding judgement; and when this is not possible, it means withholding ACTION based on on that judgement.
Self-Praise—When I’m rejected, I’ll counteract the “not good enough” feelings (devalued, above) with all of my achievements and success—some of which are real, but many are imagined. Nothing inflates the ego like a rejection. For me, maturity means submission to God according to Romans 12:3, seeking a sober self assessment.
Re-define—Near the end of my response to rejection, I work to burry it. I re-write history by reinterpreting the rejection as ignorance. I haven’t been rejected, just misunderstood. I land on thinking, “They weren’t worth the effort of explaining myself anyhow.” For me, maturity means avoiding the pity party, and trying to understand what happened by making up stuff that isn’t true.
What an Ugly List!
Maybe you are thinking, “That’s more nasty than the scorpion at the top of this post.” Yea, I agree.
There are tons of unhealthy ways to respond to rejection. Many people try to pretend it didn’t hurt (this is one response I don’t have). Without the self-insight that comes from reflection, our rationalizations will run rampant and the self-deceptions will quickly become self-destructive.
We can’t eliminate rejection—we live in an imperfect world.
However, we can mitigate the damage done to our souls and relationships.
Let’s take our rejection to the foot of the cross. Surrendering, confessing, resting in his perfect love–a love that is utterly rejectionless.
If you felt like this post would help someone, share it. Better yet, put it into your own words and encourage someone.
Most of the time, we talk to make conversation. Instead, what if we talked to make a difference? This sermon highlights what the Bible says about going deeper with our words.
DOWNLOAD FILES (PDF and Word files with notes, blanks, teaching notes)
Everyone on staff had a vote to choose the meeting’s topic. You can download the notes to all three options below.
CS Lewis On Prayer
The Problem of Pain
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
Words are powerful! Whoever said, “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” was a liar! Or stupid. Words can build up … or tear down.
You’ve experienced the power of words–both positive and negative–in your life, right?
As parents, especially as our kids get older, we may wonder if our kids are really listening. If they were truly listening–even just a little–we wouldn’t have to repeat ourselves so often!
While we may wonder if our kids are listening, we can be confident that they are watching. They may not hold on to every nugget of wisdom–or even simple directions– but they do remember the big picture.
Think about a computer screen for a moment; the overall image is created by thousands and thousands of pixels (unless you aren’t on a Mac, then your screen probably has 20 pixels). When you look at the screen, you look at the entire picture, not each individual pixel.
Our kids perceive our words in the same way. They don’t remember every single word or each individual conversation, each if these are simply small pixels making up a larger picture. Every conversation is important! You can’t have a big picture without small pixels. But a single good conversation won’t overcome a hundred bad ones.
Consider your words from the past week or so. As you think about the things you said directly to your kids (and the conversations you’ve had with others in front of them), ask yourself the following questions:
- Did your kids form an overall picture what is wholesome?
- Did they see you building others up according to their needs?
As a church family, let’s make a commitment to using better words to and around our kids. When we choose to honor Christ in this way, not only do we build strong families, but we also have a strong “witness” to the world. People in our community will notice that we are different because of the way we speak to one another!