I’m Tired (of Social Media)

In our modern era of social media, we love to post pics of our family, vacations, the food we ate, parties we went to, the games we played or watched, links to funny videos, and so much more. It’s a great way to share a part of our lives with our family and friends. Those of you who follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter know that I post A LOT of things about my family whom I love, my friends that I care about, the church that I pastor, and my Savior, Jesus, whom I follow by faith.

But, countless studies have linked extended use of social media to depression, not only in adults, but even more in the hearts and minds of our kids. (Here are just a couple from JAMACNN and Psychology Today).

“Adolescents who spend more than 3 hours per day using social media may be at heightened risk for mental health problems, particularly internalizing problems.” – Journal of the American Medical Association

Seeing all the exciting things that others are doing, the “likes” their pictures got, the parties we were not invited to, the vacations we can’t afford to take, the relationships we wish we had can all be discouraging, if not depressing, by comparison. Social media only reveals the tip of the iceberg of people’s lives and, usually, it’s disguised as a tropical island resort.

Perhaps I’m part of the problem. Just this past weekend, we had a great time watching our son play in his high school band during a thrilling football game. I posted pics and a video of the game winning score. On Saturday, we drove to see our daughter where she goes to college for family weekend. I shared some fun pics of our time with her, her boyfriend, and friends (#GoCru). I love my kids and wife, so I love to share what God is doing in their lives. But, I also realize that my social media posts, likes, links, and shares can give an inaccurate, incomplete picture of the reality of my life.

It’s really easy, especially on social media and even from a church pulpit, to act like I’ve got it all together. Rather than fake it, I need to recognize and admit that there are times, like David (see Psalm 34 and 1 Samuel 21:12), when I fear people more than the LORD. There are many times when the adversities of life, relationships, and ministry get to me.

To be real, I’m feeling pretty worn down and worn out right now. The weight of ministry over the years, personal conflicts with people, as well as, resolving conflict between people, and, even, personal rejection of, not just people, but friends, is a personal struggle that is a present reality. Part of the problem is that I’m tired. Perhaps social media is affecting me, too. The bigger problem, however, is that I’m fearful. Fearful of disappointing people. I’m fearful of not measuring up or meeting expectations. I’m afraid, at times, of conflict and the feelings of rejection that come with it. I’m afraid of people leaving our church because of me, something I’ve done, or not done well enough. I’m even a little bit afraid to share these things because of how some people might react. I can play the comparison game , too, and feel discouraged – even though I know that the grass isn’t greener in anyone else’s life or ministry – the manure is just different.  There are times and seasons, like today, that I’m fearful of circumstances, situations, and relationships.

Recently at Plano Bible Chapel, we began studying, meditating on, and memorizing Psalm 34 because, as a pastor, I needed to study it, meditate on it, and learn how to fear the LORD. I’m in process of learning and applying the blessings of fearing the Lord MORE THAN my personal fears. More than simply naming my fears, I’m counting God’s blessings. (You can listen to a recent sermon about this here)

“One who is righteous has many adversities, but the LORD rescues him from them all.” Psalm 34:19

Because we can experience the God’s redemption by faith in His Son, JESUS, we can praise the LORD at ALL times. When we’re afraid. When we’re broken-hearted. When we’re crushed. When we’ve failed. When we feel excluded. When our lives seem boring or meaningless compared to others. Even when we’ve sinned. The LORD rescues those who fear Him. The LORD watches over us. The LORD redeems us and saves us for an eternal relationship with Him.

So, wherever I am, whatever’s going on, and whenever I’m browsing your photos on social media, I can “bless the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will boast in the Lord; the humble will hear and be glad. Proclaim the Lord’s greatness with me; let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:1-3).

Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.

Resolving Conflict

As we gather together this week to celebrate Thanksgiving, we begin the Holiday season that provides significant time with family and friends. For many, however, the extra time with people is not a time of celebration, but of significant stress because of unresolved conflict — maybe even many years of it.

thanksgiving-fail

The easy thing, the normal thing to do when we’re involved in a conflict is to blame the other person (write them off) and walk away (either emotionally or physically or both). For me personally, nothing wears me out or weighs me down more than unresolved conflict.

How do we resolve conflict when personal disagreements arise?carnage1jpg-f75362bb0d786a9c-2

 

What we need when sharp disagreements arise and when differences have caused serious pain is for God’s Spirit to HEAL our relationships. How? 

Humble yourself before the Lord to recognize different viewpoints.

Often when we “agree to disagree”, what we mean is, “well, I’m right and you’re wrong, and you’re too stubborn to see it.” It’s easier to be objective when you don’t have a personal emotional stake in a situation or conflict, so sometimes we need someone else with some emotional or relational distance to help us see and hear what we can’t on our own.

Humble yourselves (not defend yourselves) before the Lord, and He will exalt you….don’t criticize one another” (James 4:10-11) Humility is able to say and believe, “It’s not wrong, it’s just different” It also says, “Hey, that hurts…”

Engage in conversation before jumping to conclusions.

Emotions can move us to action, but as they intensify, reasoning diminishes.  If we slow down, calm down, are able to listen, and be controlled by the Holy Spirit (rather than our emotions) we can begin to see the issue from the other side. And if we’re honest, we’ll have to admit that the conflict is really a matter of personal perspective (viewpoint) rather than who’s right and who’s wrong. If the other person has valid viewpoints, what is it that I don’t see or understand? Sometimes the picture is not as black or white as we want to see it. What we personally observe or intelligently perceive isn’t enough. We have to listen to God’s Word and His Spirit, then listen to others.

“My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” (James 1:19–20)

Recently, I was feeling unfairly criticized by a friend. I felt like they were being somewhat condescending in our conversations, and I was hurt, upset. God’s Spirit prodded me to talk to this person. So, I asked, “How are we doing? I’ve noticed…. And felt… Is there something I’ve said or done?” They were shocked and surprised. It led to a good conversation and resolved a conflict that I was feeling.

Ask for forgiveness for what you are personally responsible.

You are 100% responsible for your attitudes, words, and actions.  Most of us give lousy confessions… if we confess at all. Most of us are pretty sorry at saying, “I’m sorry.” When we do something wrong or hurt someone personally, our typical responses are to conceal it, deny it, excuse it or blame it on others. (Gen. 3:12-13). Here is some relational wisdom and key components of asking forgiveness from Ken Sande:

7 A’s of Asking Forgiveness:

  1. Address everyone involved. (All those whom you affected)
  2. Avoid if, but, and maybe, (Don’t try to excuse your wrongs)
  3. Admit specifically, (Both attitudes and actions)
  4. Acknowledge the hurt, (Express sorrow for hurting someone)
  5. Accept the consequences, (Such as broken trust, restitution, etc)
  6. Alter your behavior, (Change your attitudes and actions)
  7. Ask for forgiveness. (Say the words, “I’m sorry, will you please forgive me?”)

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity.” (Col. 3:12–14)

Perhaps the greatest, most notable difference between a believer in Christ and an unbeliever is the ability to seek and extend forgiveness. It’s when we forgive, as Christ has forgiven, that we are most like Him.

Look for ways to compromise more than seeking to be proven right.

When the conflict persists, care enough to work it out. Don’t run from it, gossip about it, rally support for your viewpoint, or stuff it. Don’t quit your job, your church, or your marriage because of disagreements. In Christ-like love, look for common ground and creative solutions. DeeDee: “When given the choice between being right and being kind, always choose kindness.”

St. Augustine prayed, “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.” Truly loving others and forgiving others requires the power of Christ who loves and forgives us even while we were still sinning against Him.

How do we resolve conflict when personal disagreements arise? HEAL: Humble yourself, Engage in conversation, Ask for forgiveness, Look for compromise.

Conflict between friends and, especially, family is inevitable. Unresolved conflict is a choice.

As you prepare to celebrate the Holiday season maybe the best gift you could give to loved ones is initiating some healing in your relationships because reconciliation is the best celebration.

People are celebrating Thanksgiving day

We don’t know how or when, but we find evidence that Paul and Barnabas and John Mark (Acts 15:36-40) were reconciled and celebrated their friendship and partnership in the Gospel.

  • (1 Corinthians 9:5–6) “Don’t we have the right to be accompanied by a Christian wife like the other apostles, the Lord’s brothers, and Cephas? Or do Barnabas and I alone have no right to refrain from working?
  • (Colossians 4:10–11) “Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you, as does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin (concerning whom you have received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), and so does Jesus who is called Justus. These alone of the circumcision are my coworkers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.”
  • (Philemon 23–24) “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my coworkers.”
  • (2 Timothy 4:11) “Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.”

Resolving personal conflicts is a work of God’s Spirit controlling the spirit of a believer in Christ. We can talk about God’s grace, sing about His love, preach the Gospel, and share its message, but it’s in resolving conflict, sharp disputes that we prove its worth and work.

In the same way God personally reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, we have been commanded (biblically) to reconcile with each other. Only God can HEAL the wounds and reconcile relationships when sharp disagreements come up, be we can’t ignore our part in His healing work in our hearts and in our relationships.

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.
Happy Thanksgiving! And Merry Christmas!

Thick-skinned

Criticism seems to be a normal part of life that we never really, fully appreciate. At an early age, we try to teach our kids to accept criticism and to grow from it. We tell them to be “thick-skinned.” We explain that they should let harsh words roll off them “like water on a duck.” There is also incredible value in finding “the kernel of truth” from any criticism. Maybe these are all just clichés that we know are right, but are still very difficult to welcome when criticism knocks on our door.

Water off a Duck's BackThe truth is that most of us would rather be ruined by praise than helped by criticism. Nobody really wants to be criticized – especially if you’re a recovering people-pleaser like me.

Elbert Hubbard said, “to avoid criticism – do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” The cynic in us says, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism” (Harrison’s Postulate). And then, there’s Oscar Wilde’s conclusion (set to verse in Wicked) , “no good deed goes unpunished!”

We intuitively recognize the difference between constructive criticism from friends and just plain criticism, don’t we? Chuck Swindoll says about critics, “When you’ve been kicked by a donkey, consider the source.” With critics, it can feel like the person only cares about how our words or actions affect them. With critics, there is usually something we have said or something we have done that they don’t like; and the implication is that what they don’t like is — us.

Accepting CriticismDuring certain periods of life we can feel the weight of criticism beginning to drag us down. And during those times we are tempted to spend more time justifying, excusing, and rationalizing than trying to understand and benefit from criticism. Most often, when criticized, we pull away and distance ourselves from people thinking that we can avoid further hurt or frustration if we’re not so close.

It’s during the moments when we are non-defensive, however, that we become painfully aware of how constructive criticism can be a real compliment to us.

“Instruct a wise man, and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man, and he will learn more.” Proverbs 9:9

Constructive criticism offers the possibility to build us up, to be better, to meet our full potential, and, in most cases, to simply grow up.

Constructive criticism, however, is easiest to swallow when it comes from people who we know genuinely care about us. We take constructive criticism far better from friends because most of the time we feel uplifted rather than beat down. Allen Frans, a long-time friend from college, often told me that “a friend stabs you in the heart, but an enemy stabs you in the back.” Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Maybe our acceptance of criticism has more to do with how we perceive the person and his/her motives. With friends, we know they respect us, love us, and want to build us up (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Could it be, however, that the truest, best constructive criticism comes from God Himself? Doesn’t He know the truth about who we really are? Doesn’t He know how we’ve personally failed? Doesn’t He know our every thought, attitude, and word (Psalm 139:4)? Every one of us has compiled a long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious life He wants for us (Romans 3:23). That’s a harsh reality that most of us prefer to glaze over in generalities or just ignore altogether. When faced with God’s specific truth about our personal sin, our lives can become filled with regret that leads to despair. But what we really need is repentance that turns us toward grace, that leads us home, that leads us back to God.

Through His Word, by His Holy Spirit, and sometimes through others, God confronts us with the truth of our selfishness – our sinfulness – to restore our broken relationship with Him. Like a true friend, God speaks the truth to us in love. As a Friend who is closer than a brother, God’s Son, Jesus, went even further to prove His love for us by offering Himself in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to Him. Faithful are the wounds of our Friend – Jesus.

ContemplatingAs a pastor, I’ve had my share of criticism – constructive and otherwise. Often, I need to be more thick-skinned. But, I also need to be open to the truth of who I am and what I’ve done, regardless of the source, to make sure I don’t become hard-hearted. God uses criticism of all kinds and from all people for us “to grow up in every way until we all reach maturity” (Ephesians 4:11-15).

When criticism comes my way, I need to listen, then ask God for wisdom, seek feedback from friends, and, where necessary, grow up in every way that the Lord reveals – regardless of the source He chooses to use. We walk by faith in God, not by fright of others or what they might say and do.

At other times, when the Lord prompts me to speak a loving word of truth into a friend’s life, I must make sure that my motive is only to help others grow up in their relationship with Christ (Ephesians 4:15). Before opening my mouth in criticism, I need to make sure that I am loving them in a way that gives them what they need the most, not just trying to get what I want or like myself. I need to make sure it’s not selfishness or hardness that they see, hear, or feel, but rather, tender compassion for them as a friend.

Heavenly Father, let harsh words of others roll off “like water on a duck.” Let truth, even when it’s painful, stick like glue. Help me be more thick-skinned, but not calloused. Help me speak truth in loving ways to others just as You have to me. Make me more like Your Son, Jesus, from the inside-out (1 Peter 2:21-25) as I follow Him.