Blogs written by Joshua Sklar for PurposeCity.

Friend

What To Do When a Friend Hurts You

I don’t think I need to ask if you have ever been hurt by a friend.  Being hurt is common to the human experience.  Each of us, at one time or another, has been wounded by someone that we have allowed to be close to us.  Sometimes, the wounding has been necessary to help us become what God intended us to be.

As part of our trusting relationship, a friend may see something in our character that needs to be addressed.  These “woundings” fulfill what we see in Proverbs 27:6a;  “The wounds of a friend are faithful…” And, the reason for these times of pain is to help refine and purify you and to help remove that which stands in the way of God and your relationship. 

In the same way that we are wounded by friends who are trying to help, we have all been wounded by friends who are trying to hurt.  For whatever reason, those we have viewed as friends may run roughshod over our emotions and leave us reeling and broken.  When the wounds of a friend aren’t faithful, how do we respond out of our own pain and disappointment. When wounded, it might take some time to work through it, but here are a few rules of thumb I have learned over the years:

First, I have found that it helps to clarify the issue or issues.  Many times misunderstandings and confusion create conflict and wounding that was never meant to be. In an electronic age, where email has replaced face to face conversations, one can’t hear tone or read the nuances of body language.  Being able to resolve a misunderstanding through clarification can lead to healing and restoration before a bigger rift occurs.

Secondly, know and understand that “hurting people hurt people. ”  Often, the wounds that you receive actually have nothing to do with you.  Perhaps there is pain in the life of the one who is lashing out at you.  Maybe there is a break down in some other area of their life and sadly you have caught them at the wrong time, in the wrong frame of mind, and you take the brunt of their anger.  At these times it is easy to lash out and hurt back, but remember again from Proverbs 15:1,  “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Seek to be understanding and compassionate.

A third thing to consider is that often times people don’t have a clue about the true impact of their words.  Their idea of what is acceptable may vary greatly from yours. Letting people know how they have made you feel in a gentle manner can go a long way towards restoring relationship  Use expressions that do not fix blame, but help them understand the impact of their words or actions.  For example, I have learned to confront others with expressions like,  “When I heard ___________, I felt _____________.”  Fill in the blanks with the words that were directed at you and the emotions that they brought on. Hopefully, through using careful words and patient understanding, healing can occur.

The goal of each of these last three ideas has been to heal and bring restoration.  Indeed, in all our relationships God calls us to love and care for others and to walk at peace with others. (Romans 12:18)  This needs to be our end goal that we work towards. That being said, this is an end goal that works better if two people work towards it together.  If we are in a relationship where we are constantly being wounded by an angry and spiteful person, we need to understand that by allowing them to continue to wound us and the others around us we are actually empowering them and giving them authority over us and our own well being.  Often in times like this, the best way to have any relationship what so ever is to put limits on how often you are in contact with them and to limit what goes on in those times.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list on dealing with toxic relationships, hopefully it gets your thinking about how to have healthy and life bringing friendships.

What about you?  How do you deal with a situation where a friend hurts you?

Inviting

Why Inviting People To Church Is So Hard

Have you ever considered why Churches grow? There are actually many Church growth models out there. A Google search for the exact phrase “Church Growth Strategies” returned 98,400 results. Almost all of the results were tools of evangelism, i.e. sharing your faith with people who have not yet experienced Jesus. There were even some incredibly creative and diverse ways to share your faith I found. But if you look at each and every one of these programs and strategies, they all have one thing in common – they require an invitation.

Both the old and new testament are filled with invitations from God to His people. For instance, Psalm 34:8 invites us to experience the goodness of God and to accept His blessing as we rest in Him,

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Jesus invites us to come and enjoy rest in Matthew 11:28,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

In the book of Acts, we see how the Spirit of God brought 3000 new believers into the Church on the Day of Pentecost. Peter, filled with the Spirit, stood up and preached the gospel, boldly proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ and inviting people into the Kingdom of God:

“Repent and be Baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins.”

For many years, the number one reason cited for people not going to Church is that no one ever invited them. Can you believe that? And still today, according to Michael Harvey of Back to Church Sunday,  80% to 95% of people in our Churches have no intention of ever inviting someone to Church  and, by extension, into a community of faith where they can encounter the risen Christ. There are many reasons for this, but it generally boils down to a rather simple one: fear. Fear of rejection, fear of messing up a relationship, fear of not having the right words to say, the list goes on and on of things that we fear when we invite others into Christian community.

Now, as a example, I want to simply throw out some things for your consideration. Have you ever thought about other areas in our lives where fear ought to exist but it doesn’t deter us? People have fears of car accidents, yet we still drive. People have fears concerning the world that our children are born into, but we still keep having them. So why do we let fear govern our mentality about faith?

Joshua 1:9 states,

“Have I not commanded you? Do not be terrified, do not be dismayed. For I the Lord your God am with you where ever you go.”

We have a God who is bigger than all of our fears, who is with us no matter where we go and who is asking us to be the means by which others are invited into relationship with Him. We have a wonderful opportunity to share the love of God and extend that invitation to others everyday, but simply need to overcome the fear which holds us back. Remember the old adage, “Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to act in the presence of fear.” You have the ability to act and to live in the invitation that Jesus gives you to be a part of the Great Commission – to go and make disciples in spite of the fear that you may feel.  And as you live out the ability to act in the presence of fear, the fear grows less and loses the hold it has on you.  You can defeat this fear and make an incredible difference for the Kingdom of God. And as you do, you will strengthen your faith and be encouraged as you see God at work in and through you.

So what will it look like for you to take the risk and invite someone to Church? How can you step out and believe that God is bigger than your fear? What are ways of inviting people into faith that work for you?

One Church here in the north has seen an incredible growth through using the simple phrase, “I would like to invite you to my Church.” A simple statement which allows you to put out feelers and see if there is an interest in spiritual things – a question that paves the way for the actual invitation (if there is a positive response). If they balk at the idea of being invited to Church (and they might) there is no harm done and you can continue the relationship without it being awkward or uncomfortable. If they say yes, you make the invitation and find a time for you to bring them to Church. It is not complicated and it works!

While we may face a few (or many) “No” responses to our invitations, I think God is just waiting with a few “Yes” answers to truly surprise us and show us that He is with us and that He can and will work through us. I encourage you to take a small step out from behind the fear and see how God might work in your life using this rather simple exercise.

Church

What Should Church “Look Like”?

Has you ever been asked what Church looks like? When most are asked this question,  they talk about the physical aspects of a building.  Gothic cathedrals to modern theatrical spaces, tiny white clapboard buildings to movie theaters and rented halls – we all have an idea of what Church ‘should’ look like.  Perhaps our ideas are shaped by our upbringing or by personal preferences.  Whatever the reason,  if you ask three different people in Church what it should look like, you might get four different answers. 

Too often, I find that we measure the success of the Church by the way it looks.  If we have a building that looks like what we think Church should be, the Church is a great one.  But what if we stopped looking at the physical aspect of the building and started to consider the spiritual ones?   Instead of thinking in terms of bricks and mortar, let’s think instead in terms of God’s people accomplishing the mission that was given to them by Jesus.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20

To be a Church, the first thing we need to consider is: do we reach out to others with the love of Jesus?  As a group of believers, do you prioritize  reconciling our world with Jesus?  One of the benchmarks of a healthy Church are how many new people come to faith and if there is a growing body of believers who are being baptized into the Kingdom of God. 

Is the Church not just growing bigger numerically, but is it growing deeper spiritually?  Jesus calls us to the messy (but joyful) work of making disciples as we teach them to obey His word.  We need to be about the business of helping others to be transformed into the image of Christ.  While we might have a great building with an abundance of programs, but the end goal needs to remain the making of disciples.

Finally, a healthy Church recognizes the power of Christ being with them.  They take comfort and direction from Him, striving to live out the mandate that He has gave us in Matthew 28. A healthy Church relies on God for His provision, magnifying Him through the worship of their lives, and giving Him the honor and glory for how He works in and through them.

In my own life, I have had to learn to let aspects of Church life that I enjoy go, all for the sake of the mission of the Kingdom of God.  So like me, what do you need to re-evaluate in light of our mission?  What is there that you might need to let go to be faithful to the call of the Great Commission? Personally, I am working at scaling back to a simple focus on that which brings God joy and fulfills what He calls us to.  And in that, I am learning to find peace.  Why don’t you join me on the journey as we realize that the Church is not a building or a place, but a way of life.

Speak

Watching How We Speak To Our Kids, Spouses, and Others

Week in and week out I take the time to pray Psalm 19:14.  It is a verse that asks,

“May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

And I always pray this simple prayer, a Psalm of David, just before I teach His word at a church service, a retreat, or a conference.  This has been part of my pre-speaking routine for years.  And I think that this is a good thing as I desire that the words of my mouth, and the thoughts of my heart, are acceptable to God when I teach.

But recently, I have been convicted about the many other words that come out of my mouth when I am not speaking in the public eye.

The words that I speak to my sons, Josiah who is 12 and Elijah who is 8, have given me pause for thought.  Both are growing and need words of life spoken over them.  Both need words of affirmation about who they are as young men and words that lift them up and give them an example of Godly living to aspire to.

I have thought as well of the words that I have for my bride, Anna.  She is an incredible wordsmith herself, therefore she sees the world through thought and expression that is the written word.  Do I bless her with what I say?  Do I demonstrate love for her by only speaking blessings into her life?  I tell her often that I love her but do I contradict that with words that would show the opposite?  At times my words have lifted burdens and caused joy for her, but I know at other times they have wounded her deeply and caused pain and frustration.

We need to recognize the true power of our words.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:29 that we should not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths but only that which is helpful for building each other up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  So I ask myself, and I ask you, “Are the words of your mouth and the meditations of your heart acceptable in God’s sight?”

Do your words:

  • Build others up or tear them down?
  • Provide help or a hindrance?
  • Encourage others or cause them pain?
  • Glorify Jesus or glorify yourself?

Taking the time to really listen to yourself as you speak might be an eye opening experience.  Pray that God would open your heart and mind to what He wants to do with your words today.

 

Idol Worship

21st Century Idol Worship

Talk to a dozen different people and you will see what they think is important.  One couple searches for and discusses travel plans for their next trip constantly.  Business folks consistently talk about the next big deal or a project coming down the pipe.  Enthusiasts of every stripe will regale you with tales of their hobbies that fill their lives.  But for the follower of Jesus, the question we might do well to ask ourselves is, when does this job, past time, or hobby become an idol worship in my life that keeps me from experiencing the fullness of God? Matthew 6:21 is very clear that,

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

These words can simply remain in Matthew (and Luke 12:34 for that matter) as a wise saying or we can take the time to figure out what it is that we truly treasure.  But how do we do that?  How do we discover what we treasure? The simplest way to figure out what your treasure is to see what you measure.  The old adage, “What gets valued gets measured” rings true for us and we need to take the time and reflect on what we are keeping track of.

  • Do you spend an inordinate amount of time looking at your bank statements, investment accounts, and 401k’s?  Then money could be your treasure.
  • Are you constantly shopping for new clothes, seeing stylists, and working out to stay in near olympic shape?  Your treasure might just be the image you portray.
  • Is there an unrestrained need to spend on a hobby, travel, electronics, or sport?  More and more folks today are finding the need to gratify themselves and that is where their heart is.

“But Josh,” you might say, “none of that pertains to me. You are way off base on this one.”  To which I simply say, measure what is in your own life.  The three bullet points mentioned above are by no means an exhaustive list of the things that we can fill our lives with.  Take the time to ask yourself these simple questions to see what it is that you treasure:

  1. Where do I spend most of my time? (both work and free time)
  2. What consumes the bulk of my mental and emotional energy?
  3. Where do I invest my discretionary dollars?
  4. How are the relationships with the people that God has placed in my life?
  5. How often do I communicate to others what God is doing in and through me?

If any one of these questions makes you feel uncomfortable or downright guilty, there is something in your life that you need to re-evaluate in light of God’s word.   Take whatever it is that came to your mind to God and allow Him to focus you on the things of Heaven and take the fresh start He offers you today.

 

Center Stage

Putting God Center Stage

I don’t know about you, but I have a pretty vivid imagination.  As a child, in my mind, I won numerous Stanley Cups in overtime and lived out an incredible life in covert ops.  As I grew older, my imagination changed to six figure salaries and global travel.  My imagination took me on journeys filled with wonder and excitement.

When I came to faith, my imagination began to take me on missionary journeys and evangelistic trips to global locations.  It allowed me to easily figure out what I would do for God if I knew there were no limitations.  Ministries would be started, kids would be fed, the gospel would be shared all over the world.  All of dreams are not just great things – they are great things that I would love to see happen.  They are great things that I think Jesus wants to see happen.  And when I think of these great things happening, I always imagine myself having a crucial role in the process, making great things happen for God.

But what if the very thing that is keeping those great things from happening is me?

What if it is me that is the bottle neck in what God is trying to do?  What if He just wants me to give my time, resources, and efforts to something that will only ever serve to make Him glorious (something I will never receive any recognition whatsoever)?

In Ephesians 3:20-21 Paul writes,

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

As vivid as my imagination is, I think it puts a limit on what God can do in and through me because I keep forcing myself into it.  When I feel the need to have the starring role in what God is doing, I take Jesus off the throne.  But when I use the gifts He has given me in the way that He is calling me, the glory goes to Him.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as we move ahead this year:

  • Have I somehow been limiting what God wants to do in and through me by putting myself center stage?
  • What is God trying to do around me that He is calling me to be a part of?
  • How can I make Him glorious?
  • What story do I want my life to tell?

It is not about me; it is about Jesus and Jesus alone.  So let’s take ourselves out of the equation and see what God can do.