Critical Correspondence & Conversation

Life changesI am not a big fan of conflict, but there are times when conflict just can’t be avoided. I do believe there is a right way and wrong way to handle conflict. The person initiating the conflict doesn’t always surprise the other person. They could probably feel the pressure rising. There are other times that the person confronted is blown away that they’ve caused someone else harm by their actions or inactions. I read a great book recently called “Crucial Conversations” and was super informative about this topic.

The Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Corinth what seems to be a follow-up conversation to a recent letter that engaged in criticism of behavior that was ungodly. He is affirming the changes that he is hearing about. It’s not really a “conversation” as much as it is correspondence.  Check this out….

I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. 10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. (2 Corinthians 7:8-10 NLT)

There are times when correspondence can set up a “crucial conversation”. There are times when I advise one person to sit down and write to the person they are in conflict with. I want them to be forthright and honest. I don’t always want them to send the letter, but it gives great clarity to their main issues. I think writing things down sometimes reveals that there is pettiness and selfishness. When I write things down on paper, they seem very real and concrete.

The other thing I love about this passage is accountability. I need someone who will hold me accountable for my words and my actions. The church can provide accountability if I submit to it. My wife provides accountability. My business partners provide accountability.  The end goal of a critical correspondence or a crucial conversation is change. Change is always happening. Ironically, change is consistently changing. Change often equals growth. The Lord is after my heart to keep changing to become more like His. I have tremendous pressure to become self-centered and inward focused. The Lord is calling me to a life of love, compassion and generosity. I must meet the Lord with godly sorrow for my self-centered, self-serving ways. His Word calls me to repentance for sure. Repentance is critical to my spiritual journey with the Lord. I welcome critical correspondence and crucial conversations that are sent from the Lord to help me grow.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Intense Prayer

Little boy prayingI pray a good bit without ever saying a word. I talk to the Lord all throughout my day when I face various situations and feel an angst in my soul. I believe that this type of prayer is what the apostle Paul is speaking of when he says: “Never stop praying” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT). The Lord hears my heart before a word is ever on my lips. I am learning to pray about EVERYTHING. If things are going well – grateful prayer. If things are not going well – desperate prayer. I heard recently of a good friend going through a deep crisis in their family – desperate prayer on their behalf.

I still remember when I was a young student pastor and gathered in a prayer circle and this guy prayed for the first time. It was refreshing to hear a grown man who “didn’t know” how to pray in public. His opening greeting was “Good evening Lord” and his simple prayer was a conversation as if he was sitting on the front porch having a conversation with the Lord. I realized that even in my public prayer, I need to be authentic and real not “showy” for others. I do think public prayer is leading others with that prayer, but it still needs to be genuine from my heart.

Jesus was about to be crucified and He had just celebrated the last supper with His disciples. He was in the garden and I can feel the angst in His heart as a human. I can tell He’s deliberate though as the Son of God to follow through on the Father’s plan. Check out His intense prayer….

36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” (Matthew 26:36-41 NLT)

Jesus prayed for rescue – Yet, He wanted the will of the Father accomplished.

Jesus heart was crushed with grief about what was ahead.

Jesus asked for prayer from His disciples.

Jesus reminded them that prayer empowers them in the face of temptation.

I am inspired and encourage in my prayer life as I see Jesus (humanly) in anguish and suffering. I know suffering and struggle. I know anguish. I know heart break. Jesus’ prayer was not full of beautiful metaphors and meaningless words. He got right to the point and bowed before the Father in prayer. I began my morning with a prayer of gratitude. I also can’t get my friend and that whole situation off my mind. I remember hearing that sometimes “Prayer is the least and the most I can do”.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Timing Is Important

Pocket watch with timing signI’ve done things that were the right thing at the wrong time. Timing is an important piece to any puzzle or procedure. There are steps that need to be completed at the right time. Sometimes timing can be sequential. If I complete step 7 without completing steps 1-6 the project could be a disaster.

The Jews who lived in captivity in Persia were scheduled to be destroyed and wiped out – men, women and children on the 13th day of December led by Haman, the kings right hand man. Queen Esther had asked her people to fast (and pray) for three days. She got the courage up to go before the king without an invitation. The king welcomed her in and asked what she wanted. Check this out…

4 ‘If it pleases the king,’ replied Esther, ‘let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.’

5 ‘Bring Haman at once,’ the king said, ‘so that we may do what Esther asks.’

So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. 6 As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, ‘Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.’

7 Esther replied, ‘My petition and my request is this: 8 If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.’ (Esther 5:4-8 NIV)

I think Esther was reconnecting with the king. She had previously told her uncle that it had been 30 days since the king had summoned her. She was insecure for sure. She did wait until after the three days of fasting to have the courage to go see the king without an invitation.

I also like her strategy to connect with the king on a quick invite to lunch today. I think everyone has to eat and sometimes sitting down to a meal takes pressure off of the conversational topic. I’m sure Esther was anything but relaxed as she had lunch with the King and Haman. Esther was strategic with her timing. She needed to renew the connection she had made with the king when she was selected as king. This part of her plan was critical to a good outcome.

I think I could learn some principles from Esther.

  1. Relationships are very important.
  2. Connecting relationships are vital to discernment.
  3. Keep the conversation going.
  4. Don’t jump into the hardest topic first – lay some groundwork.

I see wise timing along with great discernment on the part of Queen Esther who is fairly young. She is showing great wisdom beyond her years. I think she also shows great patience and poise. She will be heard for her request – in the right time.

Relationships and timing are very important to the success of any mission.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Up Close & Personal

Child speaking out loudI see myself as a fairly warm and engaging person. I will speak when spoken too and I will often initiate the conversation if I’m acquainted with you. I won’t get into your personal space though – that has always been weird to me. I’ve had people over the years that get a little too close when simply having a conversation. Seinfeld labeled this person the “close talker”. The only time I’m comfortable with the close talker is when they are whispering a secret and others are nearby. Otherwise there is a three – five foot space where most conversation are comfortable. The other issue with a “close talker” is the bad breath issue. I’m always concerned that my breath is going to knock them down if they are too close.

In the Old Testament, the Lord only allowed Moses to come near Him for conversation. Moses would write down everything the Lord said and then speak to the people. Check this out….

1Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, 2 but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.’

3 When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, ‘Everything the Lord has said we will do.’ 4 Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said. (Exodus 23:1-4 NIV)

When God sent His Son Jesus to earth, we all were given the privilege to be “close talkers” with God. I don’t have to go through the high priest to speak with the Lord. I can go directly to Him. In fact, He loves conversations with me. I’ve welcomed the Lord as a “close-talker” in my life. He can speak directly to me and there are no secrets that He’s unaware. I’m not worried about bad breath issues with the Lord. He wants deep conversation that is up-close and personal with me. When Jesus died on the cross, the conversation with God and His people changed forever. The veil in the temple that separated the most holy place was torn and that place was forever accessible to God’s people not just the leaders. I serve a God Who wants to be “in my space” and He wants me to be “in His space”. I’m thankful that He knows me deeply and intimately and loves me still.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Unexpected Hospitality

 

Friends enjoying coffee togetherThere are times when another person goes above and beyond to show me a warm welcome and hospitality. In fact I believe that some people have a gift of hospitality. They can make you feel like royalty in their presence.

Josephs brothers are going back to Egypt a second time to buy food because of the severe famine that Egypt was prepared for thanks to Joseph. Their older brother Simeon had been in custody the whole time they were gone. Joseph had made it clear to them that they are to bring their younger brother back when they came. He had also put their money back in the sack with the grain they came to buy the first time. They were really on edge about this Egyptian ruler. They had no idea he was their brother whom they had sold into slavery so many years before.

When they show up the second time, Joseph prepares to have them over to his home for a meal. They are a bit nervous and paranoid that something bad is happening. They reach out to Joseph’s steward whom I think knows something is up. Check this out….

19 So they went up to Joseph’s steward and spoke to him at the entrance to the house. 20 ‘We beg your pardon, our lord,’ they said, ‘we came down here the first time to buy food. 21 But at the place where we stopped for the night we opened our sacks and each of us found his silver – the exact weight – in the mouth of his sack. So we have brought it back with us. 22 We have also brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in our sacks.’

23 ‘It’s all right,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.’ Then he brought Simeon out to them.

24 The steward took the men into Joseph’s house, gave them water to wash their feet and provided fodder for their donkeys. 25 They prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon, because they had heard that they were to eat there.

33 The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. 34 When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him. (Genesis 43:19-25; 33-34 NIV)

I am amazed at Joseph’s cool, collected behavior. It is obvious that he loves his brothers and misses his family, but he is playing his part well prior to the big reveal. He is obviously drawn to his kid brother, with whom he had a special bond.

I find it interesting that he invites them to a meal in his house. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed some of the best, heart felt conversations over a meal. It’s crazy when we have guests over and we just talk and share over the meal, but when we move to the more comfortable living room, the conversations are not as intimate – or so it seems. There is something about share life-giving resources with one another that makes for good conversation. I’m impressed by Joseph’s behavior toward his brothers who meant to harm him so many years ago. He had obviously forgiven them. I can learn from this type of forgiveness and love that leads to restoration.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Prayer & Conversation

Abstract Silhouette PrayingI don’t always put these two words together, but it seems to me that Paul did that on purpose.  I’ve always thought of prayer as conversation with God. Another angle to explore is praying prior to conversation. I’ve also prayed for a “heavy weight” conversation that was difficult. I should really pray over every conversation so that the Lord can speak clearly through my everyday conversation as well as heighten my listening skills. As I get older, my hearing has dropped off, (too much loud music) but my listening skills have improved – go figure!

Paul also urges that in prayer I should watch and be thankful. Check this out…

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:2-6 NIV)

 

I’m a devoted student of the Word. I now need to be a devoted prayer warrior. I do pray every day, but I’m not sure I’m devoted to praying. As I’m praying I need to be watchful and thankful – talk about multi-tasking! I do believe that spending time in the Word of God has changed many conversations as well as deepened my prayer life. I also believe my study has heightened my awareness of God’s Power, His Purpose and His Presence! My time with the Lord can enhance my conversational abilities. I can be thankful as well as notice non-verbal conversation and communication. The Holy Spirit can prompt me on something that needs to be said at just the right time. Prayer and conversation do work together and compliment one another quite well!

Pressing On!
Dwayne