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February 11th- Contentment

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. -Philippians 4:12

 

Among my many problems is that I'm never content. I always need something exciting happening. I always need to achieve the next goal or get the next new purchase. Basically, I always need to have all my needs met. I call them my needs, but in reality it is nothing more than an enormous list of wants. And here is where the real problem lies. I am....I don't really want to say it...I am...I'd rather avoid using the word...I am...oh well, it won't be much of a blog entry if I don't just get on with it...I am ENTITLED.

 

bread

It is an ugly word and I hate to admit it, but it is true. Jesus told me to pray for my daily bread. I pray for my daily steak dinner. And, watch out if I don't get it; here comes a spiritual temper tantrum. “God why won't you come through.” “God my circumstances are impossible.” “God are you even there.” All the while I'm sitting at my dinner table with a nice loaf of daily bread sitting in front of me. But I must have more than just my needs met. I need my ideal home, not just a home. I need more than enough money, not just enough money. I need a conflict free job, not just a job. 

 

But what if I could learn to be content? What if I could find satisfaction in my daily bread?

 

Mark Tidd tells a great story that happened to him in college:

An old man showed up at the back door of the house we were renting. Opening the door a few inches, we saw his eyes were glassy and his furrowed face glistened with silver stubble. He clutched a wicker basket holding a few unappealing vegetables. He bid us good morning and offered his produce for sale. We were uneasy enough that we made a quick purchase to alleviate both our pity and our fear.

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February 10th- The Seven Steps of Conflict

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” -Matthew 5:23-24

 

Had any good conflicts lately? No, I don't mean any conflicts, I mean good conflicts. In other words, there was something that needed to be addressed, and, as much as it depended on you, things went well.

 

Part of the reason we hate conflict is because, generally, they go so poorly.  But maybe we just aren't doing it very well.  Below is a seven step process for handling conflict based on God's principles.  Take a look and see how it compares to how you deal with someone who has hurt you:

 

conflict

1. Have they sinned against you or did you just want them to do something differently?

 

So your upset about something, and you want to go talk to the person. But before you start a conflict, ask yourself, “Did they do something wrong?” Often we go to a person and act as if they've done something wrong when really they just haven't done what we wanted them to do. "I'm mad because you don't want to see the movie I want to see." Uh, that isn't a sin, it is a difference of opinion. Try having a conflict with someone who insists you are wrong just because you aren't doing what they want. It won't go very well. So don't be that person. Differences of opinion require compromise not conflict.

 

2. Have the courage to address the problem-directly.

 

Okay, so you believe the person has done something wrong and you need to address it. So, go ahead and address it...with them. This means you don't share it with everyone in the world except them. And it means you don't try to address it by sneak attack, passively sliding it into a conversation so they'll figure it out. If they've done something wrong, God wants you to go talk to them, directly. Try this, “There is something that has been bothering me and I'd like to work through it.” Nice and direct.

 

3. Don't sin in your anger.

Let's imagine that you are absolutely correct, this person has wronged you and you are completely innocent. So you start to talk to them. At first things are going great, you are patient but firm. But then something they say honks you off and you start calling them names.

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January 12th- Community

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. -Hebrews 10:25

 

A few years back, I picked up a strange (and often amusing) book called The Best Worst & Most Unusual by Bruce Fenton and Mark Fowler. This bizarre story about the Duke of Portland has quite a lot to say about community.

 

William John Cavendish Bentinck Scott (1800-1879), the fifth Duke of (Portland), may have been the shyest person who ever lived. For a short while he occupied his inherited seat in the House of Lords, but soon found he was too timid to participate in the debates. So at a young age he retired to his estate and devoted all his energies to the cultivation of the most beautiful greenhouses in England. Unmarried and socially awkward, he withdrew further and further into himself.DukeofPortland

 

Eventually, the Duke shut himself off in one corner of his mansion, Welbeck Abbey. He refused to receive visitors and would not even face his own servants. All communications to and from the butler and maids passed through a message box outside his door. And when Sir William went for his evening walk in the garden, the servants were instructed to stay out of sight or to avert their eyes; those who failed to do so were punished by being forced to skate on the Duke's private skating rink until they were exhausted.

 

To further guarantee his seclusion, Sir William hired unemployed miners to bore a tunnel from Welbeck Abbey to the town of Worksop, one and a half miles away. On his rare trips to London, the Duke would go down to his basement, climb into his shuttered coach, and ride through the subterranean passageway to the Worksop train station, where his coach was mounted on a flatcar. When the train arrived in London, a coachman and a team of horses were waiting to drive him to his place of business. In this fashion he was able to travel from Welbeck Abbey to London and back without seeing a single human face.”

 

Often Christians ask me why they should go to church or be in a small group. I totally understand the question, for churches and small groups are made up of people, and people can and do hurt us. It seems like life would be a lot better without them, “I'll just stick to my family, thanks.” But there are two major problems with that philosophy. One, God made us for community. And, two, left to ourselves we will grow continually more isolated.

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January 19th- Ownership

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” -James 3:13

 

Years ago, a friend told me about a Christian author from Great Briton named Adrian Plass. His books are a much-needed breath of fresh air because they poke fun at the Christian sub-culture. The following is from his book The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass. It is the January 21st account from Adrian's “diary.” (You'll need to know that Anne is Adrian's wife.)

 

“Stopped on the way home this afternoon to chat with a man working in his garden just down the road from us. Thought I'd try out my new gift of witnessing. When I said I was a Christian, he said, “Well, in that case, why don't you cut your ******* hedge back a bit, so that we pagans don't have to step into the gutter every time we walk past your house?

 

Adrian Plass

Walked on with flaming cheeks. What a horrible man! Needn't think he can tell me what to do and when to do it! Coincidentally, I did decide to have a go at the hedge today, but NOT because of what he said. Borrowed an electric trimmer from Mr. Brain, our elderly neighbor, who comes to church sometimes, and did it in no time.

 

Didn't mention to Anne what the man said. She has gone on a bit about the hedge—since last summer in fact.”

 

Like Adrian, we need to share our faith. And, like Adrian, it might be helpful if we begin by taking a look at our own yard. Christianity doesn't look that appealing if our issues are growing out of control and effecting those around us. None of us are perfect, and God knows we are a work in progress. We aren't going to obtain perfection on this side of heaven. But the key is responsibility. Adrian's real mistake wasn't that he hadn't gotten to the hedge it was that he couldn't admit he was wrong.

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December 12th- Crayon Masterpieces

“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."” (Luke 1:17)

 

My work bag is overflowing.

 

No, not with work, but with crayon-filled masterpieces.crayons

Some time back, I began taping up my children's artwork on the walls of my office. There are race cars from my oldest son, Picaso-esq villages from my middle son, and lots and lots of coloring pages from my four-year-old daughter.

 

They love to come to my office and see their pictures up on my walls. And while they all love it, my daughter is the most passionate.

 

Every time she colors a picture (and she colors lots of pictures), she asks me to take it to work and put it up on the wall. Hence, my work bag is overflowing.

 

There is an analogy there, I think.

Work is important. And, if we aren't careful, it can easily dictate (and dominate) the hours of our days. I know. Lately, I have “important” work to get finished and I have been working like a marathon runner, i.e. non-stop.

 

But, what work is really the most important?

 

Time goes so quickly. All too soon there will be no more coloring pages. In just the blink of an eye, the little-girl who wants my every attention will be more concerned with text-messages and boyfriends.

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