Category Archives: H2H

Worrying or Praying, Praying or Worrying

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(This is the fifth in a series of posts from Philippians 4 on dealing with church conflict).

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Do I need to come up with a poignant illustration to remind you that these are anxious times in our country and in the world?  No, I didn’t think so.  And for church leaders, it rarely gets more anxious than when there is divisive conflict going on in our church…particularly when it seems to be swirling around us personally and our leadership.

Indeed, I have been in many churches where worry and anxiety are the normal state…if they happen to stumble on a season with nothing to worry about, they somehow feel stagnant and they honestly do not know what to do.  In our “I want it all and I want it now” culture, anxiety has become the new normal.

worrycropHere is what Paul understood about worry: it is a behavioral pattern.  Like abusive conduct or overeating or road rage or fingernail biting, worry is simply a behavioral pattern…one which can be broken with the type of “renewing of the mind” of which scripture speaks.  Changing a behavioral pattern just requires changing our perspective, i.e., how we see the thing.  It also helps a great deal to replace the wrong behavior with a right behavior.  In this case, it means replacing worry with prayer.

I have had “Gethsemane moments” in my prayer life, moments when I thought the anguish would overcome me and …

I Am Syzygus

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(This is the second in a series of posts from Philippians 4 about church conflict)

Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Philippians 4:3

Have you ever thought about your name and wondered how it has shaped you or influenced you as a person?  I have…

syzygusMy name is Syzygus.  It is Greek.  There really isn’t a good English translation of it, but “yokefellow” comes pretty close.  It’s a bit of an embarrassing name, actually, because it is a reference to oxen in a yoke.  I have no idea what my parents were thinking.  But today, looking back on my life, I’m glad they named me Syzygus.  When I think of how God worked in my life, it fits.  I suppose it refers to a co-laborer wearing the same yoke as you, pulling along with you.  If there is any truth to the old adage that names do reflect something about us, then I am a true friend who has walked along with you during good times and bad times, never leaving your side.  I am a person who has been coupled with you through difficult service together.  I have grown to trust you and you have grown to trust me.  I am your “yokefellow”.

I suppose I was not surprised, then, when Paul called me out in his letter to my church in Philippi.  I had been yoked with him in ministry and had been yoked with Euodia and Syntyche as well.  I knew them …

A Legacy of Conflict

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(This is the first in a series of posts from Philippians 4 on dealing with church conflict).

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Phil. 4:2

Have you ever noticed that people don’t tend to name their daughters after these two particular New Testament church members?  I mean you’ll find plenty of Peters, James’, Stephens, Philips, Lidias, Priscillas, and even a few Dorcas’ and Cornelius’, but you’ll have a hard time finding a child named after Euodia or Syntyche.  That is because parents tend to name their children something that is positive or that has a strong legacy behind it.  Most parents do not name their children after people with a bad legacy.  And that is exactly the kind of people Euodia and Syntyche were.

We know practically nothing else about these two women except for the fact that they apparently could not get along.  They may have been critically important founding members of the Philippian church.  They may have had sons who went on to become wonderful pastors or teachers.  Who knows, they may have been teachers themselves.  They may have been wealthy contributors to the work of the church or key figures in the women’s ministry there.  They may have been beloved prayer warriors or wise members of the personnel committee.  They may have been any or all of these things, or perhaps none of them at all.  We simply do not know.  But forever and ever, as long as the kingdom of God is around, everyone will remember Euodia and Syntyche for one thing and one thing only: they could not get along with each other.

How’s that …

Unity and Uniformity…Two Very Different Things

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

Biblical unity is not about agreeing with each other all the time.  In fact, the more I read about the New Testament church in Paul’s letters, the more I see that disagreement played a fairly significant role in the early church and I believe it still does today.  There has always been disagreement in the church.  As long as we “see as in a mirror, dimly”, there will be disagreement in the church.  That disagreement grows us, stretches us, humbles us, and keeps us accountable.  It is a positive thing.  It is not something to be feared.

In that sense, the diversity in the church may well be one of our true strengths.  Our ability (or inability) to embrace and manage that diversity will either grow us and move us forward or it will end us (locally, I mean, not globally…not even the gates of hell will prevail against the church globally).  Biblical unity assumes there will be disagreement and insists that we find healthy ways of processing it.  It assumes you and I are living in relationships where your understanding of God actually informs, shapes, and (gulp!) changes my understanding of God.  We live so as to be intentionally influenced by one another, especially by our differences.

Yes, scripture calls us to be “like-minded” and yes, there is a place for doctrinal purity and truth and a clear sense of right and wrong.  Unity doesn’t compromise the truth.  It just calls us to a level of humility in our grasp of truth, a healthy understanding of what it means to “see as in a mirror, dimly”.

But despite the value of doctrinal purity and truth, in talking about the church, …

The Ultimate Power Source

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17b-19

The love of Christ may be the most awesome, profound, world-altering source of power ever known or experienced by creation.  And it is available to any of us as a free gift.  Paul taught about it, wrote about it, and prayed for it.  The church has been teaching about it and, in some very limited sense, demonstrating it for centuries.  The stories about it abound by the millions over the last two thousand years.  Creation itself speaks of it.

The Bible says it over and over and over again in no uncertain terms.  There is no substitute for it, no limit to it, and nothing else that even resembles it.  It is easy to spot, easy to desire, and relatively easy to access.  It gives meaning to everything.

It is the only “pearl of great price”, worth pursuing at any cost.  Millions have died for it, either for the right to proclaim it or trying to defend it.  Entire empires have stood because of it and have fallen because of it.  Its power is indescribable and immeasurable.  It is the source of life itself.

It is stronger than any government, deeper than any ocean, more expansive than the ever-increasing universe, and more valuable than knowledge itself.  It is why the church exists, why Christianity exists, and why I (as a Christ-follower) am still on …

There is Nothing Natural About Reconciliation

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

I am pretty sure there is nothing at all natural about confession and forgiveness.  I think that, among the Spiritual ramifications of the fall of man, there is this part of the human condition which makes saying “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” difficult words for us to form.  It feels almost counter intuitive.  It doesn’t come naturally to anyone.

So, I’m reading the story of Joseph and his brothers and how they sold him into slavery and then told his father he had been killed.  He eventually got resold into the house of Pharaoh and later would rise to become second in command for all of Egypt (o.k., I skipped some of the story).  It is now many years later when he sees his brothers for the first time.  An ironic twist in the story is that they do not recognize him.  He sends them back home without disclosing his true identity and keeps one of them in prison while he awaits their return.  We don’t know how long they’re gone, but it is at least “seasons”, all the while he is keeping one of his brothers in prison.  Eventually, after they return to him, he discloses his true identity and he forgives them.  It is an awesome moment in the scriptures, one of my favorite stories.

Joseph is such a lovable and nearly perfect character, one might easily miss the fact that it took him a pretty long time to choose forgiveness.  He kept one poor brother in his prison the entire time he pondered his options.  It was not a choice that came naturally for him.  He had to draw upon something else to come to that conclusion.  …

Trusting God’s People…Again

I’m posting this under the category, “Books that Changed Me”.  When I created that category, I didn’t intend it to be for books I had written.  But I suppose it goes without saying, every book you write changes you.  This one was certainly no different.

trusting_vFINALlowDepending on whose statistics you use, anywhere from 15% to 40% of Christians today would say they have been wounded deeply by other Christians.  Think about that.  That is an enormous percentage.  If there are 100 million Americans today who claim to be Christian, that means that somewhere between 15 million and 40 million would say they have felt genuinely betrayed by their Christian brothers or sisters.

That betrayal coming at the hands of the church is among the deepest emotional and Spiritual pains imaginable.  After all, the church is supposed to be a safe place for us, a place where we are genuinely loved and accepted even with all our flaws and shortcomings.  When betrayal comes from there, it comes from the last bastion of Spiritual safety we know.  It cuts deeply and it renders us Spiritually (if not emotionally) incapacitated for a season in our life.  You may be one of these wounded saints.  If not, the chances are high that you know one.

The question this raises: what is the church’s responsibility for responding to these dear friends?

The reality is that the pews (or chairs, or benches) in your worship center are often filled with people hurting from this very pain.  They were hurt deeply in another church and left there and are now in your church.  And they brought all that baggage with them.  What they want most is to just sit in the back of the room and be invisible for a while.  They’re fairly certain they will not …

Learning to say, “I’m sorry”

Tuesday re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(Read this post in connection with this previous post on Learning to Say, “Ouch”. They belong together, because that is what happens in reconciliation. )

Remember when your little brother did something really mean and hateful to you or to your stuff and you “told on him”?  And remember how your mom grabbed him by the ear and dragged him over to you and literally forced him to say the words “I’m sorry” under threat of some unspeakably horrible punishment?  Do you remember how you felt after that happened?

WAIT!  …o.k., you felt like you got your revenge and you enjoyed seeing him nearly get his entire ear ripped off the side of his head…but what about the apology?  Did it make you feel reconciled to him?

Of course it didn’t.  Because that is about as poor as apologies get in terms of actually bringing any healing to a situation.  But what if you could actually learn to express regret in a way that adds value to a relationship?  After all, feeling genuine regret in your heart is one thing, but learning to express it in a way which heals a broken relationship is another thing altogether.  If there were some practical things to learn, some skills to perfect in terms of communication, some things that would help you make a positive difference in your relationships, would it be worth your while to learn them?

We have an amazing example of the kind of apology that brings healing in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Luke 11:21).  Using the prodigal’s apology as a kind of model, here are some things we learn about how to express regret in a relationship:…

Learning to Say “Ouch”

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

I am a serious Dallas Cowboys fan.  From Don Meredith to Craig Morton to Roger Staubach to Troy Aikman to (then a whole bunch of dark years I’ve tried to forget) to Tony Romo, I have been a fan.  From Tom Landry to the evil empire, I have stuck by this team.  I realize I may have just lost half my readership with this confession.  If you will check back with me from time to time, I will work hard to earn your trust again.

Interesting Troy Aikman story…I don’t really know it is true for sure (I wouldn’t even know where to start researching it), but it is a story I have heard from a number of different sources.  When he first reported to training camp as a rookie, Aikman threw the ball really, really hard…often too hard.  His receivers in training camp had to have the trainers tape their fingers together, because his passes were causing their skin to split in between their fingers.  Of course, over time he learned that he didn’t always have to throw the ball quite so hard, that, in fact, it was sometimes a good thing to throw it with some “touch”.  After all, completing the pass was the objective, right?  O.K.  Is this the truth or just a football legend?  It doesn’t matter, because it’s a wonderful illustration for those of us who want to learn how to express pain in a way that will grow a relationship.

Every reconciliation (i.e., every genuinely healed relationship) begins with an appropriate expression of pain…one person saying to another person, “Ouch, this hurt.”  The church today is littered with broken relationships because of our own unwillingness …

Forgiving is Not Forgetting (but maybe it should be)

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

I used to have a great memory, especially for numbers, directions, and tunes.  For names and faces, not so much, but for sports trivia and other such unnecessary stuff, I was a memorizing machine.  It seems to me that the older my girls get, the more my memory comes into question.  I really hate that.

So, now I’ve started devising little tricks to help me remember things.  I’ve programmed birthdays and anniversaries into my computer and my phone, I’ve found important locations in the house and the office to put things so I know I’ll see them.  I am finding more and more ways to “tie a string around my finger” these days.

One thing I’m still pretty good at remembering, though, is pain.  When you do something that hurts me, whether you intended it or not, I have a remarkable ability to remember it for a very long time.  I’ll bet you’re like that too.  What is it about painful circumstances that seem to linger in our memories forever…long after we have expressed forgiveness?  And more importantly, does that mean we haven’t really forgiven?  After all, when God talks about forgiveness, He promises, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:34.  And we are commanded to forgive just as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32).  So, if I have truly forgiven, why do I still have these painful memories of times I was wounded?

I don’t have the answer to that question.

But here is something I do know: forgiveness and forgetting are not the same thing, at least not for us (and don’t get me started on the question of how a God …