Just Because I Can

head buttNo one likes to argue. No one likes conflict. Or at least that’s what we think. That’s what we tell ourselves. But it’s not true. In fact, often we feed on conflict. We like to argue. We like going contrary to everyone else. Why?

God has created humans in an incredible way. We are complex, full of emotion and depth that I don’t believe anyone will ever completely understand. And one of those characteristics is our rebellious side. Yes, we all have one. Even the most compliant person has a part of them that wants to resist. Rebellion makes us feel independent and strong. We’re standing against something. And in some ways, that’s really good. If that rebellious nature is channeled right, it can make us stronger and better people.

Unfortunately, there’s a downside of our rebellious side. When we find that we have the strength and gut to be contrary to others, we then start exercising that just because we can. We feel good being different and strong and independent, so we want more.

Now, this is different from a good healthy critical mind. It’s really important that we are careful about what we believe and what we think. But sadly what can happen is we can move from healthy critical thinking to always looking for a bone to pick. This has happened to me. At times I’ve found myself intentionally looking for problems in what others are saying not because I want to be cautious in what I believe and not because I want to have an intelligent conversation with them, but instead just because I want to find something wrong just so I can be a little rebellious. I want to argue just because I can.

We express this tendency in many different situations. It may be in a dinner time conversation. Maybe a text. Maybe it’s Facebook. In fact, today I was tempted to respond to a Facebook post I disagreed with. But I didn’t. And part of the reason was because I knew that deep down I just wanted to disagree because I could. It wasn’t really because I wanted to engage in a discussion on the issue. I just wanted to be a little rebellious. I might have been right about my opinion, but my motive was wrong.

Let’s admit it, it’s fun sometimes to go against the status quo. It’s fun to shake things up. But don’t let that feed you. Don’t rebel just for the sake of rebelling. Don’t start an argument (as orderly as it might be) just for the sake of criticizing. Have a purpose. And be honest with yourself. I’ve found that sometimes I’ll create a purpose for myself just so I feel good about arguing. Basically I’m lying to myself, telling myself that I have a good reason to be critical and rebel a little, but in reality I just want to argue because I can.

calvin_arguingNo one likes people who are always correcting everyone else. No one likes people who always have to bring up something contradictory whenever they’re in a conversation. Don’t be that person. Choose your battles. Choose the ones that matter, the ones that you actually care about. The ones that don’t fuel your desire to rebel just because you can.

Be the kind of person that people enjoy conversing with because you can disagree respectfully but you’re not out to disagree for the sake of disagreement. Be uplifting. Be encouraging. Be wise in choosing to be contradictory.

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Grace

For about the past two weeks, I’ve been out of town helping plan and run a national conference with an organization I’m heavily involved in. One of the themes we focused on was grace. Our guest speaker spoke about the need to give and receive both grace and reconciliation. But grace is hard. Because it means giving something up. When we extend grace and reconciliation, we give up some of our desire for justice. We forgive. We move on. And that’s hard. When we receive grace and reconciliation, we admit we’re wrong. We are humbled. And that’s hard.

But either way, grace is good. It’s powerful. It’s life-changing.

However we can’t give and receive grace without the power of Christ working in us. Grace is a characteristic of Christ. It’s in His nature. We can only give and receive grace because Christ did it first. And now, it’s our responsibility to do the same.

Extend some grace today. Receive some grace today. It will change your life.

Just a Few Sentences…

I analyze everything. I pay close attention to what’s going on around me and have to take time to think through and process things. So when it comes to making quick decisions, I don’t typically feel very comfortable. I’ve often tended to view this aspect of my personality negatively.

About three months ago, I was having a conversation with an adult leader about streamlining some different systems and processes for an event. When we came to one of the responsibilities and how to improve it, I made a passing comment about how I wasn’t very good at that job because I need to think through things and this job required thinking on the spot. And then I just made a small comment about how I viewed this part of my personality as a disadvantage. And the leader stopped me. She said, “Matthew, don’t say that. It’s important and valuable think through things the way you do. We need that!” And she went on to explain how my perspective could actually contribute to improving this responsibility. This took me entirely by surprise and completely changed my perspective!

I took away a few big lessons from this discussion with that leader.

I realized that it’s all about perspective. I looked at this certain situation from my assumption that my personality was a disadvantage, while the leader viewed it from a different vantage point. While it’s true that sometimes that part of my personality can be negative, I shouldn’t start with that belief. I should begin with a positive perspective.

I also realized how different personalities work together. If everyone was just like me and analyzed everything deeply and took time to process everything, we’d be in deep trouble. And if no one was like me, we’d also be in deep trouble because so many details would be ignored. But when people with all of the different personalities that God has created work together, everyone contributes and adds value.

But the biggest lesson I took away from this conversation actually had nothing to do with my personality, or the issue we were discussing. From this conversation, I realized just how powerful words are, if they are spoken. That leader didn’t have to stop me and encourage me and help me see things differently. She could have easily said nothing; the conversation would have continued and neither of us would have thought anything about it. It wasn’t that I thought this “disadvantage” of mine was that big of a deal. It was a “small” opportunity to encourage, but she chose to affirm me anyway. Now I wonder how often I miss out on opportunities to affirm and encourage people, not because I’m not paying attention, but rather because I see the chance but don’t think it’s really that important. But that leader thought it was important. And it meant a whole lot to me. Those couple of sentences made a world of difference.

Now, I’m inspired to do the same for others. My words have impact, and I shouldn’t ignore that. I don’t want to waste opportunities I have to be an encourager. I want to encourage and affirm, no matter how “small” I think the opportunity is. Those words from that leader blessed me, and I want to pass that on.

We never know the impact we can have on someone because of a couple of sentences in a conversation!

Deeper than Dreams

What do you really want? Really. What is it that burns deep inside your soul? Deeper than your dreams, deeper than anything else?

I’m a big believer in following the dreams God has given you. But when determining the direction of our life and the next steps we should take, sometimes I think we tend to only focus on the dreams, and not go deeper.

What if we went deeper?

What is it that drives you? What’s more important to you than anything else in the world? What values do you hold above all others? That’s what’s going to help you find where God is taking you. I have a lot of dreams. And I believe that they’ve been given to me by God. But I’m realizing that if I only focus on the dreams and only seek to fulfill them, I could get really lost. Overvaluing one dream. Undervaluing another. But when I step back and go deeper, I find direction. When I go to the most fundamental, foundational passions that God has given me, that’s when the pieces of the puzzle start coming together.

And the cool thing is that the pieces come together in ways I never imagined or dreamed! That one dream that I thought was super important and was going to look a certain way changes and become less “important” and takes on a different form. And that other dream that I wasn’t sure about at all starts taking shape.

What do you really want? What’s the deepest passion that God has given you? Find it, and follow it. Be ready for your dreams to take different shapes or change levels of importance. They might look different. But that’s the cool part. You’ll find God working in your life and orchestrating it all. It’ll be scary. But you’ll find purpose, satisfaction, and peace in life.

Go deeper than your dreams.

Giving and Receiving

I really like analyzing people and their behavioral habits. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed something really interesting about people. As a general rule of thumb, people can be classified into two groups: givers and receivers.

Givers are the kind of people who tend to invest more in other people. They’re the ones who encourage and are more focused on other people, instead of themselves. They can often come across as independent and as the kind of person that doesn’t need any help.

Receivers are the kind of people who tend to seek encouragement instead of provide it. It’s not that receivers don’t focus on other people, but they can often interact with others with the purpose of wanting to be affirmed by others. They can often come across and “needy” and less self-sufficient.

Now, the two types of people I just described are extreme examples. But I’ve noticed that most of us fall into one of those two categories, even if we’re not as extreme as what I just described. I’ve also noticed that it’s easy to view both of these types of people and their actions incorrectly.

You see, givers are often viewed as independent. But they need encouragement just like receivers do. They might seem like they don’t need anyone’s help, but they really do. They’ve just realized how important it is to be outward-focused. And receivers can come across as needy and dependent, people who only focus on themselves. But receivers can encourage others. They’ve just realized how important it is not to drain oneself and that it’s okay to focus on yourself sometimes.

Often it is easy to get caught up in focusing on others (being a giver) that we exhaust ourselves. Or we get caught up in taking care of ourselves (being a receiver) that we stop thinking about others.

So don’t be a giver. And don’t be a receiver. Be both. Be an encourager, but don’t wear yourself out. Invest yourself in others. But also be willing to receive encouragement and help from others when they offer it. Don’t be independent. Don’t be dependent. Be interdependent. Give and receive. Don’t be one. Be both.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

– Galatians 6:2

Chain. Image courtesy of Max Klingensmith on Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/mklingo/

Image courtesy of Max Klingensmith on Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mklingo/

Willing to be Wrong

I’m a very different person today than I was five years ago. And much of that I can attribute to one factor: the willingness to be wrong and the willingness to change. You see, I used to be extremely closed-minded. But I never would have considered myself as such. I thought I was a good Christian who was willing to obey God and follow Him wherever He might take me. But that wasn’t really the case.

I limited God. Not consciously. But I did it nonetheless. I held strong opinions and thought I was right. And I firmly believed that the Bible was on my side. And for a lot, that was true. But my view of the world was small, extremely limited. And so I limited God to the world I saw when in fact I was missing so much.

So when God started shaking things up in my life, I was really stubborn. I thought I was right because I looked at the world so narrowly. But slowly my perspective began to broaden. I began realizing that life was so much bigger than just me and what I could see. I started realizing that my life was just one piece in God’s amazing kingdom. And as my view of the world began to grow, my opinions on issues began to change.

I’m still in the process of realizing how much bigger life is than just me. And when I try to look at the world through God’s eyes, I see things so differently. When I look at issues from other people’s perspectives, I see things so differently.

I’m learning not to allow my perspective to make the rules. Because my perspective is just that. A perspective. It’s one way to see something. I can’t base my beliefs merely on what I see. Everyone has a perspective. And I have to recognize that.

Try it out. Look at life from another perspective. Try to see the world the way God sees it. It just might change your opinions on some things. It’s an uplifting feeling, though, because you start realizing life is so much bigger than you ever could imagine! Be willing to be wrong. And be willing to change.

 

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Choose Your Battles…… How?

The phrase “you have to choose your battles” is common. It basically means that you can’t address every problem you encounter, so you have to choose the most important ones and let the rest go. There’s a huge amount of wisdom in this. But how do you choose your battles? How do you decide whether or not something is worth “fighting” for?

Here are a few factors to take into consideration when making a decision regarding whether or not to address an issue or to let it be:

  1. Is it a moral issue? If the answer is no, then it’s most likely not worth addressing. If it’s not an issue regarding right and wrong in God’s eyes, then there can’t be an absolute regarding the issue. Therefore, to address the issue would actually be unwise; you’d be arguing using your own personal preference instead of absolutes. That’s not to say that personal preference isn’t important, but your personal preference isn’t the only one that matters.
  2. Who/what does this issue affect? For me, if the issue is one that only hurts or affects me, then I’m less likely to address it. Not because I want to be the holy martyr, but because I want to be outward-focused, esteeming others above myself (Philippians 2:3). So I’d rather invest my time addressing issues that affect others, not ones that affect myself. I don’t consider this to be a hard and fast rule, but just an important factor to keep in mind.
  3. How will this affect my relationships with those involved? This one is tough. I don’t believe for a moment that we should never offend anyone or do something that might stress or break a relationship. But a good question to ask is, “which is more important: my relationship with this person, or this issue?” Sometimes doing what’s right means breaking or straining a relationship. However, sometimes we can get so caught up in “being right” that we forget that we may hurt people in the process of seeking what’s right when it’s really not worth it and wouldn’t honor Christ.

Ultimately, though, the decision must come from God’s wisdom. Proverbs 2:6 says that “the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (NKJV). When choosing which battles to fight, pray hard and follow God. The three factors I shared may help, but won’t give you the right answer on their own. In reality, there really isn’t a clear-cut method to determining the answer apart from heeding the voice of the Holy Spirit. And that’s the way it should be.

Who’s In Control?

“‘Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? … Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” … But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.[‘]” – Matthew 6:25-27, 31, 33 (NKJV)

I love this passage of Scripture! Here, Jesus states quite clearly that we are not to worry. But although we all know we’re not supposed to worry, actually not worrying is a whole other story. I want to share with you a few thoughts on worry from the perspective of God’s sovereignty, in the hopes that it will encourage you to truly not worry and trust in God.

Why do we worry? I recently realized something very interesting. Normally, when we worry, we’re worrying about something that we don’t have any control over. If we can control it, then we don’t typically worry about it. For example, I may be stuck it traffic, worrying that I won’t get home in time for something. I can’t control anything about the situation. But if I had left late, not giving me enough time, I wouldn’t be worrying. I’d probably be irritated at myself, but not worried. If we have an alternative course of action, we normally do that instead of worry. So when we have no control, we start worrying.

But what does worry communicate? If we want to be purposeful in our communication, we ought to identify what we’re communicating when we’re worrying.

To be blunt, worry communicates a lack of faith in God. You see, since we worry about things that we can’t control, in essence we’re saying that we think we should have control in that situation. But clearly we don’t. That means it’s in God’s domain. So if we’re worrying, then we’re saying that we don’t trust God enough for Him to take care of the situation and we think we should have control instead of God.

But here’s the good news. God is in control, regardless of whether or not we see it or understand what He’s doing! Remember, God sees the big picture; we don’t. We’re humans; God is perfect. God is sovereign! He holds the world in the palm of His hand. This is where faith enters. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We can’t see the big picture, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It just means we have to have faith. We must trust in God and His sovereignty.

So when you’re tempted to start worrying, remember this: you’re worrying because you’re not in control, which just means God is in control. That’s actually a really good situation to be in!