Dangerous Miscommunication

October 8, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

Have you ever been fuming mad at someone, only to find out you totally misread the conversation? In our world of rapid-fire communication, faulty perceptions, and misunderstandings, it’s easy to get our wires crossed. Sometimes this is funny. Other times it’s downright painful, and has the potential to destroy relationships and lead to bitterness. If not dealt with.

“For Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech.
They must turn from evil and do good;
they must seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:10-11, NIV).

What do you think of when you hear the word peace? What does it mean to “seek” and “pursue” it? Does this mean avoiding conflict? Holding our tongue? Is peace at all cost truly peace? In our effort to seek peace, are we smiling on the outside while our insides fester? And if so, how long before those bottled-in and swallowed-down emotions blow?

I believe biblical peace runs deeper than a ceasing of war. Biblical peace speaks of wholeness, of restoring things to how they should be.
Biblical peace implies authentic conflict resolution. Honesty, not superficiality. Speaking the truth in love and getting to the root of the issue. When deep hurt has occurred, this may take time. We may even need a third party to help us out.

Other times, we may find that what we thought was an issue wasn’t really an issue after all.

A while back, I received an email from someone I had hurt. Twice. I hadn’t intended to hurt them, wasn’t even aware I had … until I read the email. We realized it was a misunderstanding—a misreading between the lines. The person felt silly for sending me the email, but I was so glad she did. Had she not, her hurt would’ve remained, creating disunity. By honestly expressing her feelings, she gave me the opportunity to apologize and explain.

Afterward, my daughter, her friend, and I had a lengthy conversation on communication errors, and they shared with me similar stories. Times when someone they cared about hurt them deeply. Unintentionally. Only many times, they hadn’t gotten to the truth until weeks or months later–after weeks of hurt, of disunity. We decided it’s best to communicate openly *before* forming our conclusions, giving the “offending” party the benefit of the doubt.

We decided to “seek peace.” The kind of peace that holds tight to relationships, seeking restoration and intimacy.

It is so easy to read between the lines, to assign feelings, judgments, and conclusions to words and actions. But what if our interpretations are wrong?

Let’s talk about this. When have you unwittingly caused someone pain? When have you been hurt by someone else, only to find out you assigned faulty meaning to their words and actions? How can we avoid this communication jumbling?

How Effective is Gospel Tract Saturation?

August 18, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

Hyper-Calvinism says all we need to do is share the gospel, share the gospel, share the gospel and zap, the Holy Spirit reaches down and brings man to salvation. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s some truth to that in that apart from the working of the Holy Spirit, man cannot come to Christ. However, this approach, what I like to term gospel tract saturation, fails to take into account human reasoning. And a great deal of the Bible.

I believe the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with the intellect, penetrating through the darkness that keeps man in rebellion against God while illuminating truth. Belief is assent at a heart and intellectual level. Taking both aspects into account strengthens our message.

Effective evangelism occurs in relationship

Dropping a gospel tract at countless doorsteps won’t cut it. Oh, sure, perhaps five percent of those visited might make a confession of faith, but likely because someone already laid the groundwork, and you just happened to be there to reap the harvest.

Notice Jesus’ instructions to the disciples when He sent them out in Luke 9:4

Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town.

When they reached a new village, they were to stay in one house. I believe this was to establish community. Perhaps we need to spend as much time relationship building as we do proclaiming.

Effective evangelism adapts to the listener

One of my favorite examples of this is in Acts 17. When speaking to the Romans, Paul reasoned with them, displaying the coherency of God.

“While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:16-17 NIV).

And notice what God says in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (NIV © 1984).

Throughout Scripture, we see the Holy Spirit working through human logic. This is not to say the gospel message is adapted, but instead, how it is presented is. To be effective, we must take time to learn the unique barriers to faith held by each individual so we can prayerfully and patiently address those barriers.

Effective Evangelism Takes the Time to Understand Their Audience

Notice the passage in Acts. When Paul entered the city, he observed the culture of the people around Him. He noticed their idols–their barriers to faith–then addressed those barriers in his message, demonstrating the superiority of the gospel message.

Have you ever talked with someone and felt like they didn’t hear a word you said? Or asked a question only to have them provide an irrelevant answer? Does it make you want to hear more or walk away?

Effective evangelism speaks with humility

No one wants to feel stupid. No one wants to be cajoled into faith. Truly, most people want to feel as if they’ve arrived at the conclusion themselves. Our goal then is to gently guide our listener or reader into discovery, asking thought provoking questions and pointing them to the truth of Scripture. In essence, we walk beside them, ever alert to their pace and committed to the journey regardless of how long it takes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you agree or disagree? What are some effective ways you believe to reach others for Christ?

What Happens When God’s Late?

June 30, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

Have you ever felt like God forgot about you? Maybe you’re caught in an impossible situation with nowhere to go, searching for the lifeline that never seems to come. Perhaps your rope got stuck in the parcel post or passed through one too many hands along the way. But it doesn’t matter. You’re in a bind and you need God. Now. But then, when you least expect it, God does show up, and contrary to your panicked thoughts, the world doesn’t end. In fact, once the storm passes and you take a step back, you realize God was there all the time. And He really did know what He was doing.

I’m always in a hurry—on constant overdrive. Not because I’m terribly ambitious, but because I can’t let go of the reigns. I expect things to get done a certain way and in a certain period of time. When they don’t, I’m tempted to panic. And I could rationalize it a million ways, but ultimately it comes down to lack of trust. It’s like I forget that God is bigger than His creation, which includes my tiny little role in it.

Which is why I love the Bible passage about Martha and Lazarus. Martha and I would have been great friends, or at least a highly efficient team. Although I suspect our anxious thoughts and frantic behaviors would have given us both a migraine.

In John chapter eleven, we are told that Martha’s brother is sick. And what did you do in first century Palestine when someone you loved fell ill? You sought out the Healer, of course. I imagine if He was a close family friend, as Jesus was to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, you’d expect a rather quick response. But what did Jesus do when he learns of Lazarus’ illness? He tarried, on purpose. Didn’t He love Lazarus? Verses five and six say He did. “So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, He stayed where He was for the next two days.”

When He finally arrives at Lazarus’ home in Bethany, it’s too late. Lazarus is dead. Martha is distraught, and even accusatory.

John 11:21, “Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if only You had been here, my brother would not have died.’”

Translation: God, You’re too late.

Lazarus had been dead for three days. Martha’s faith and hope had come and gone. She’d gone from fervent prayers to mourning.

Jesus’ response? I’m bigger than that, Martha.

John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Many of us know the rest of the story. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and God’s power was revealed. I’m sure when it was done Martha felt silly for her lack of faith. Just like I frequently do after a premature pity-party But the account of Lazarus has a way of bringing me back to reality. The God that made me, saved me, is bigger than anything I could face. And His timing is always perfect.

So what happens when God is late? Now that is a question without a logical answer, my friend. The more rational question would be—when is God late? And my response would be never, even if it appears things have regressed to the point of decay.

Guarding Date Nights

May 28, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31 NLT).

Early in our marriage, my husband and I made a commitment. We decided we’d place our marriage first. We’d sit beside each other in the restaurant even though our daughter tried to wiggle between us. We’d schedule date nights and hire babysitters even though it would wipe out our monthly budget. We’d go on annual trips, just the two of us, even though leaving our daughter left a knot in my gut. Sixteen years later, our love is even stronger than on the day we said I do. I believe our commitment to guard date nights played a major role in that.

I’ve learned if I want an intimate relationship with my eternal Husband, Jesus Christ, I need to do the same thing. This can be hard, especially when you become involved in ministry. There’s always a hole needing to be filled, a study to attend, a person in need of prayer. But if we’re not careful, our business can steal our needed time with God. Sometimes we have to say no and leave the results–and other people’s expectations–to God.

For me, my day is Sunday. It’s taken a few years for my family to catch on, but on Sunday, I let the laundry lie. I let the dishes set, and I grab my iPhone with my Pandora and head for a nice long walk—by myself. It’s my special time with Jesus. Sometimes it lasts a few hours, other times it extends all day, but I always come back refreshed and recharged.

What about you? Have you and Jesus set aside a “date night?” This date will look different for everyone, but I believe we all need it. I believe we all crave it. Spend a moment with God and ask Him what day and time He’d like you to set aside for Him. For the two of you to get away. Then ask Him to remind you and help you follow through.

Equally important, we need to encourage and allow other people to do the same.

Fan into Flames

March 27, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

When we lived in Southern California, a massive fire ravished the San Gabriel Mountains, destroying 1,000 homes and forcing many to evacuate. Rumor had it the fire was started by a cigarette casually flicked. Others said the fire was started by an arsonist. Regardless the source, the initial spark turned exponential until it devoured 90,000 acres, becoming the largest fire San Bernardino County had ever seen.

Fire is a powerful thing. When fed, it grows to unquenchable proportions, its heat radiating for miles. We’ve all heard stories of raging forest fires started by a single match. I’m sure we’ve also all experienced the frustration of trying to set kindling ablaze.

I’ve been on a handful camping trips, and try as I might, I can barely ignite a few measly twigs. I’ll use matches, gasoline and crumpled paper. I’ll blow and fan the air. I’ve tried leaves and straw, which initially catches only to smolder into a puff of black smoke. What’s the difference between my efforts and the 2004 forest fire that raged through Southern California?

Both started with a spark, yet one grew while the other dwindled. The difference, I believe, is the forest was ripe, ready to combust. We’d had little water and intense heat, so it didn’t take much to set the trees ablaze. Then came the wind, fueling the flames with a steady supply of oxygen until the entire forest blazed.

This image came to mind when I read 2 Timothy 1:6. “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (NIV).

Paul tells Timothy to “fan into flames” the spiritual gift God gave him.

In essence, Paul was saying, “Lay it all on the line, Timothy. Don’t let anything hold you back from full surrender. When others pull away, step up. Burn like a wildfire!”

Note, he wrote this letter to Timothy, a man Paul loved like a son, from a prison cell. During a time of extreme persecution, when many might’ve been tempted to slip into hiding, Paul told Timothy to step it up.

I believe God is calling us to do the same. If we’ve accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we’ve got the spark of the Holy Spirit burning within us. But our heart is much like the trees in a forest. We share the same flame, but some trees are more combustible than others. Some are doused in flame-retardants—sin, distractions, and all those temporary fillers that steal our time and dull our hearts—others are ready to ignite.

What’s your heart like? Is it prepared to be set on fire or have you allowed it to smolder? If the latter is true, will you fan your heart and your gifts into flames?

Each time we draw near to God, each time we dig into His Word and spend time in heart-felt prayer, each time we use the gifts He gives to serve others, our flame grows. Every time we squelch our flame with sin, selfishness, and those temporary fillers that distract us from our true need, our tiny flame smolders.

The match is lit. Let it burn, my friend!

Let’s talk about this.

I’d love to hear from you. What do you think it means to fan our spiritual gifts into flames? What are some practical steps we can take to ignite our passion for Christ? What can threaten to “douse” our passion?

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