Tag: communication

For Those Skeptical Of Prayer, You’re Not Alone

Prayer—a popular part of the Christian life.

Perhaps for you, prayer is believed to “change everything.” Seek Jesus with all your heart while plugging in the right spiritual algorithms and prayer becomes a powerful tool to influence God towards your desires and unlock His. The measure to which God is working in your life is in direct proportion to your prayer skills, faithfulness, and persistence. God gives the gift of prayer as a way for His followers to open the heavens, learn of His specific will, and unlock the blessings and capacity of God to benefit your life, pursuits, and those for which you pray. From prayer warriors to prayer chains, the accessing of God, moving Him to do the miraculous, or simply wrenching a blessing out of His hands are all just prayers away for those who crack the code. In fact, don’t expect to hear much from God or land the key to His blessings if you aren’t seriously getting on your knees and prioritizing purity. Pray more and pray better, get more and live better—it’s that simple. To those who believe differently than you and do not share your same prayer experiences and vigor, a simple answer is ready to thwart their reservations—”If your prayers aren’t working, the issue isn’t with God, the issue is surely something with you.”

Or maybe for you, prayer is more complicated and mysterious. You love Jesus, feel a responsibility to pray, and sense it’s probably a good thing. But, how it works and whether it works is, at times, certainly uncertain. When things are clicking in life and all the pistons of firing, prayer feels awesome and is rendered such a powerful experience. Yet, when the chips fall and the ground crumbles from underneath, prayer is met with suspicion and secretly questioned to be a spiritual gimmick that can’t be trusted nor can the God to which it is directed. As a result, prayer becomes a kind of protection from being caught with your pants down. You do it, not necessarily believing it really works, at least not consistently, but because you don’t want to take the chance of not having checked it off your spiritual “to do” list. So, you go through the motions, just in case God’s in a good mood or it’s your special day. In the presence of your doubts and lukewarmness toward prayer, your Christian friends and church leaders encourage you to adjust your methods, strengthen your faith, give God the benefit of the doubt, be more patient, and remember “God works in mysterious ways.” Yet, when all is said and done, in your mind, if you are honest, prayer is hit or miss—perhaps even a bit misleading, cruel, and unfair.

Well, no matter where you are in the spectrum, chances are you have been taught that prayer is a transactional exchange.

That is, we are down here, God is up there—and prayer is largely how we connect with God, access His mind, and move His hand to work from there to here on our behalf. Prayer is that which bridges the gap, the disconnect, and the distance believed to be present between us and Him. It’s a kind of life-line, necessary for communication and the delivery of His will, blessing, guidance, movement, and favor from His world into ours. Without prayer, only the autopilot default interactions between God and humanity would be possible, filled with significant limits, disconnects, static, and separation. Therefore, prayer is what opens the flow of the divine spigot so that God can greater move in response to our greater movements of faith, faithfulness, and asking—it’s all transactional.

With that as the popular Christian view, no wonder why you’re skeptical of prayer and I gladly join you at the table—you’re not alone.

For if prayer is transactional in any way shape of form, then God is an unfair, callous, inconsistent, limited, humanly codependent god, and prayer is a scam and scheme of the most diabolical flavor.

For I have witnessed repentant Christ-worshipping alcoholics desperately pleading with God to be released from their addiction, only to be tortured with a life of unending vigilance and unequaled burden. I have watched humble Jesus-loving sacrificial pastors begging God for revival in their church only to be unfairly sent to the curb by the Deacon Board who is there today and gone tomorrow. I have watched good-hearted Christians ask God to bless the food on the church picnic table only to spend the next three days knee-bent at the porcelain altar. I have heard the despair of Jesus-worshipping church-attending parents who pray day and night, week after week, every year of their children’s adolescence only to see them grow up and face severe tragedy or embark on unyielding rebellion. I have observed numerous believers pray in and around their local schools, only to have them fall victim to devastating violence and murder. I have seen my fair share of faithful Christian fathers and mothers praying in tears for the cure to their child’s cancer only for their son or daughter to tragically die months later.

I know, I’ve heard it all before—God is going to use the death of their child, their addiction, their termination, or their misfortune to work out greater things in their life or that of others, and besides, He was focused on meeting their “needs” not their “wants.” Really, that’s how prayer and your god works? God is impotent to prosper people without pain, death, and difficulty, and everything He gives is predicated on stinginess? The same Jesus who fed the multitudes with a few loaves of bread can’t afford the healing of a cancer-stricken child? I know, “His ways are not our ways and His timing is perfect.” Really, for who?

If that isn’t enough, I’ve also witnessed countless people who couldn’t give a rip about Jesus, God, or their fellow human, seemingly blessed at every turn and miraculously spared of tragedy. In fact, the only explanation to their success, deliverance, and good fortune is to attribute it to the Divine, though they would surely never acknowledge it. If God truly “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” then this transactional understanding of prayer is the child making a Christmas list of hopes, dreams, and wishes with a special note of their love for Santa, all while the evil Parent has already determined what they will and won’t get—love letter or not.

For if this is the sum and true essence of prayer, and God gives it to us in hopes of convincing us of His love and goodness, then He surely has a funny way of going about it, and you are not alone in questioning it.

Thankfully, our relationship with God and the essence of prayer have been widely misunderstood—the truth is so much better.

Thank God almighty, the truth is so much better.

First, because of Jesus and the cross, there is nothing transactional about our relationship with God. Any needed exchanges and transformations between us and God were completed at the crucifixion on our behalf. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant it. The cross obliterated any distance, conditions, and transactional kind of relationship present between us and God. All of those are now relational relics of a covenant long past.

In fact, truth be told, we really don’t have a relationship with Jesus at all—certainly not in the conditional, transactional, distanced, and compartmentalized way we think of it. No, what we have is so much better. For we are nothing less than perfectly interwoven into the Trinity having full communion and union with God. He is us, we are Him—His life is our life, our life is His life. This is the power of Grace sealing us indistinguishably and irrevocably together with Him in a divine togetherness that is impenetrable and irreversible.

In fact, everyone you see, including yourself, is a walking Trinity in the flesh. As Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit are One, so are we with the Creator of the universe.

This is the mind-blowing cosmos-shaking reality the biblical writer Paul tasted on his lips when He penned,But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” It’s the same Grace-bomb Jesus desired to explode in our understanding when He announced, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” Notice, according to Jesus, our inclusion and infusion into the Trinity was a past reality already established in the heart and mind of God that He longed for us to awaken to in the present. This is why Paul could confidently declare we “lack no spiritual blessings” from God. For God extends His generosity as far as possible in fully giving Himself to us, to be us, with us, as us—living, breathing, walking Trinities sharing completely in everything He is and possesses.

Are you ready for this?

Therefore, the true essence of prayer must reflect the true essence of our inclusion and infusion with God.

Prayer isn’t the inferior language of a transactional, conditional, and distance-ladened relationship with God, it’s the divine language of our full union and unconditional communion in, with, and as the Trinity Itself. It’s the voice and echoes of our heart reverberating with His in the living mystical chamber of our inclusion into the fellowship of the Trinity. Prayer as a life-line is rendered woefully obsolete as He is our life, and our life is His—inseparably.

Prayer is the longings of our heart in conversation with the Father, Son, and Spirit within and all around, with every word continually recalibrating our soul to the unstoppable, fully capable, and beautiful human we are in Him, lacking nothing in capacity to face our every moment.

It’s not a pleading with a distant God to receive something we don’t already possess or He might not give, but our words, feelings, and thoughts being shaped and sounded into faith by the Trinity within and all around—convincing us that everything He is and has is already ours—self-sustained Trinities with skin.

It’s the gaze of our insecurities into the Trinitarian mirror dwelling inside and out, showing us who we truly are—whole, righteous, divine, loved, affirmed, inseparable from the Father, Son, and Spirit—popping and sparking with life.

It’s the every step we take, not into the divine or in pursuit of gaining closer proximity to His presence, but rather as the divine and as His presence in this world—this is prayer, for you are the Trinitarian conversation that changes everything.

It’s the crying of our heart that is met with the shared tears of the Father, Son, and Spirit when our divinity interacts with the insanity of an insane world.

It’s the rage of our anger that is met with the shared angst of the Father, Son, and Spirit when the Trinitarian chord of justice indistinguishably interwoven into our being is sought to be silenced and defeated by the darkness.

It’s the desperation in the depths of our soul that is met with the shared compassion and passion of the Father, Son, and Spirit within, when unfairness seeks to devour the perfect sufficiency of Grace that fills us and all things.

It’s the fierce and courageous solidarity we express that is met with the shared unyielding inclusiveness of the Father, Son, and Spirit within, when discrimination, inequality, and condemnation seeks to undermine the Kingdom of Love we are and bring.

It’s the thanksgiving we feel welling up in our hearts when the Trinity within assures us there is no distance nor lack from God to us in any way or anything.

It’s the asking, seeking, and desiring that is supplied and resolved instantly and effortless without pause, not with pithy answers, clear paths, miraculously changed realities, and instant Jedi powers, but with nothing less than an awakening to our complete seamless inclusion into, with, and as the Trinity Itself—together navigating life on planet earth as One.

No more wondering, have I been heard?

No more questioning, has God turned His back?

No more doubting, maybe I’m not good enough?

No more believing God is inconsistent, distant, callous, stingy, and downright unfair and un-trustable.

For the more we pray the more we realize, God is moving in, through, and as our lives, not because we pray, but because it is who He is and who we are with Him.

Living in the Trinity, as the Trinity, the ultimate unstoppable force in a forceful world.

 

Grace is brave. Be brave.

10 Relationship and Leadership Standards to Live By

Relationships and leadership go hand in hand. And to be sure, navigating both can be complicated and difficult at times. We all want healthy relationships where we can love and be loved in return. We also want our workplace relationships and endeavors with people to filled with harmony, fulfillment, and happiness.  Yet, some of the time, we find our relationship and leadership experiences falling short.  What we hope for is not exactly what is actually happening.  Conflicts, challenges, and change (to name a few) find their way in and make relationships and leadership more messy than we would prefer.

As a pastor, I am certainly not perfect. On any given day, I probably make more mistakes than I do in getting things right. Yet, these 10 standards have definitely helped in improving my leadership and relationships, if for no further outcome then enabling me to have an inner sense of assurance and calm in the midst of times when leadership and relationships are not so easy. But well beyond that, I have found these standards to go a long way at fostering healthy relationships and leadership for all involved.

The good news is, these standards reflect the Christ that lives in you and the new person you already are in Him. You are already fully capable of living these out as God has graced you with His mind, a new heart, and His power. These standards are not about things to strive for, but rather aspects of who you are already. Believe that these standards are already within you, because they are!  As you believe it, you will live it in your relationships and leadership.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #1- never handle conflict through email, texting, or fb.

If you can’t deal with it face to face, don’t deal with it until you can. No, we shouldn’t avoid dealing with conflict, but handling it prematurely through ways that avoid or delay face to face dialogue can be highly problematic. What about a phone call or Skype? That is a good option “b” when getting your bumpers in the same parking lot is impossible or highly difficult.  60-70% of communication is non-verbal, and people often take a much different posture towards issues when they are face to face then when they can hide behind the distance and disconnect email, texting, and social media provide. If you want people to respect you and your leadership you are going to want to handle conflict personally and relationally through means that bring you face to face as much as possible. Every one brings two pails to issues of conflict, one is full of gasoline, the other full of water. Whether or not gasoline or water is poured on the issue will largely depend on how personally the issue is handled.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #2- when receiving criticism, don’t take it to heart without first carefully considering the source.

Criticism can be very valuable, but also destructive. One of the determining factors is the source of the criticism. The main question I have when discerning the source of criticism is, “Does this person have my best interests at heart?” If I conclude they don’t, my willingness to open the door to taking their criticism to heart diminishes. Helpful criticism usually comes from people who genuinely care about you. Does that mean we shouldn’t consider all criticism as having potential value? Of course not. Good criticism can come from bad people. But be very careful how you receive it and what you do with it. For sure, though all criticism should be considered, not all criticism should be taken to heart. Furthermore, not all criticism deserves your response or your action.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #3- assume the best about people and focus on their goodness, but entrust them in steps, not leaps.

There is goodness in everyone. People are a gift from God. Focusing on what is good about people and their strengths is a powerful way to live. Unfortunately, we often fill in the blanks about people and their actions with the most negative conclusions. We think this protects us, but it often serves in depressing us and missing out on the value of people. Assume the best about people.

However, this does not mean entrusting people in leaps and bounds. It does not mean turning off common sense and fair discernment. You wouldn’t give your car keys to a 10 year old. Neither should we entrust people beyond what they are ready and capable of, even if they believe otherwise. This is a disservice to them and you. Entrusting in steps is key.  Those who are faithful with a little will be faithful with much. It’s important to see what people do with a little before you give them much. This will benefit them and you in the long run.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #4- don’t waste your time trying to drag people into or keep them caring about you and/or your vision. If they can walk away, let them walk away.

Oh, how we want to be liked and loved. Unfortunately, not everyone will like and love us.  It’s our insecurities that attract us to people who aren’t good for us or who aren’t interested in us.  We somehow think we need to get them to be interested in our lives to prove that we are lovable and worthy.

Yet, trying to drag people into our lives and keep them caring about us and the things we care about is a royal waste of time. People will walk into and out of our lives for various reasons. You will likely only have a few over the course of a life time that will truly be “with you” for the long haul. If people can walk away from you, they were never really “with you.” They may have been “with” aspects of you, but not you as a whole. If you find yourself having to drag people along to be interested and involved in your life, stop wasting your time. Do your best to be a person of reconciliation and lasting relationships, but if they can walk away, let them walk away. Spend your time nurturing relationships of mutual love and respect.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #5- connect the tubes of your identity, emotions, value, and merit to Jesus. Connect the tubes of your giving and blessing to people.

One of the keys to healthy relationships is to not turn to them for your everything, especially for you value, merit, and identity. Only Jesus can supply your deepest needs and fill your emotional tank. We run into trouble when we turn to people for what we should be turning to from God.

With God it is best to receive, with people it is best to give. Let God be your supply, and people, the recipients of your blessings.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #6- Be generous with forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean what they did is now somehow o.k, or that the relationship is automatically back to normal. Forgiveness is emotionally releasing the person of the debt that they owe you, for your sake and potentially theirs.

Forgiveness makes sure we don’t write people off, but it doesn’t mean we automatically write them back in. Reconciliation and restoration are totally different from forgiveness. Forgiveness is what makes reconciliation and restoration a possibility not a guarantee. It takes two people to reconcile, it takes only one person to forgive.

Being a forgiving person means not hold grudges or harboring bitterness, but always keeping the door open (however slight) to the possibility of reconciliation.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #7- Love negative people from a distance. Don’t stop loving, but don’t let their negativity stain your outlook or the outlook of others.

Some people and relationships can become highly toxic. People who are negative to a fault certainly fit into that category. Unfortunately, negativity is highly contagious, and can even rub off on ourselves if we are not careful. Many negative people love attention, and have for whatever reason, decided that utilizing negativity is their best (and maybe only) way to get attention or control.

Not everybody who has an opposing view or points out problems is negative. We need people who are willing to look for challenges and speak the hard truth we don’t want to hear. But negative people thrive on problems, drama, gossip, bad news, and things that could go potentially wrong.

Sometimes, as hard as we try, we cannot inspire them away from their negativity. The best we can do is to love them from a distance as we pray for God to do what only God can do in their lives. Allowing them too close to you and those around you in terms of having a voice, gaining an audience, or spraying their negativity around can be highly problematic. At times, loving them from a distance can even mean taking measures that remove that person from a project, group, or team as the best context to help a clinically negative person is outside of the context their negativity feeds upon. However, usually politely communicating that you have heard their views, but ignoring them in your mind and in your decisions will take the wind out of their sails for you and those around you.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #8- with people, exchange the ideal for the real. Nobody is perfect. Surround yourself then with people who truly care about being in relationship with you. Nearly any imperfection can be worked through in that context. Mutual love is the glue to relationships, not perfection.

Love covers a multitude of things in relationships. Love everyone unconditionally, and draw people close to you with whom mutual love and respect occurs, not perfection. Some of my closest relationships are with people with whom I have differing views and beliefs. Furthermore, I and they have made numerous miscues in the relationship. The glue that holds it all together is mutual love and respect. Mutual love and respect in a relationship brings the ability to agree to disagree, say “sorry” when sorry is what is needed to be said, work through misunderstandings, and just about anything else.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #9- When confronting a conflict or issue with a person, do it face to face and begin with questions. Questions like, “Help me understand, I heard…” or “Would you be open to some feedback about…” or “Maybe you could help me clarify something, what was your thinking behind…” etc. etc. Clarify first with questions that don’t accuse.

The worst blunders we make when confronting issues come from either confronting them too soon without all the facts, or never confronting them at all, no matter the facts. The solution is to confront with the mindset of an investigator, not a judge. Then, when all the facts are in, people have had their voices heard, and you have had time to seek wise counsel, then begin to make decisions about how to move forward. Rarely, do we need to press the accelerator when confronting conflict, most of the time, what is needed is to apply the brakes. Slow down, be thorough, objective, and gracious.  And remember, face to face!

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #10- Don’t make a big deal about figuring out and living some great plan for your life. You becoming the person you already are in Christ is God’s big plan for you. In Him, you are already big and anything you do and pursue is big. The significance and magnitude of you and your life has already been taken care, God wants you to simply enjoy it. Life is God’s great plan for you.

The purpose of your life is to awaken (through faith) to the Savior (Jesus) who has already saved you, become the person you already are in Him, and live the life He has already given you… filled with power, authority, significance, and divine celebrity.

In Christ, anything you do, pursue, create, or endeavor is filled with perfect purpose and divine power and significance.

Enjoy your life, and live it. That’s the plan.

 

How to Have Hot Sexy Sex

One of the vogue things to do in contemporary church world is to give some kind of shock-and-awe type message series dealing with SEX, complete with a highway billboard sign and public relations plan to deal with the controversial nature of the series, usually aimed at drawing a crowd and grabbing attention to a church’s ministry.

Isn’t that what attracted your eye to this article?  Ruh, roh Scooby!

I get the whole desire to “reach people” and be “edgy” and “draw a crowd.” But more and more, I think people are becoming wise to cheesy, spiritual church gimmicks.  Did I just use the words “cheese” and “sex” in the same article? Yikes, my bad!

Obviously, the issue of sex is important to God, and God has a lot to say about it. To be sure, segments of our culture have taken God’s gift of sex and trashed it.  The Church needs to share the Gospel and its relevance to every area of our life, including sex and sexuality.

Yet, at the same time, I wonder if we are selling ourselves short and appearing a bit desperate to our culture when we play the “SEX” card to fill seats, even if we have a side-kick intention to seriously apply God’s counsel to an important issue.

Yes, I am sure for some who have traveled down this road, that their primary intentions were good and well planned, and had every heart and desire to see people reached and lives changed for Christ. Furthermore, I am sure their event or message series may have even been effective and life changing for some. Obviously, no matter what you do, someone will find fault with it. Everybody who knows me, knows I love to push the envelope just as much (if not more) as the next guy.

Finding fault is not the intention here, rethinking our “best practices” perhaps is. Not because we have gone drastically wrong, but because maybe there is room to do better. My humble opinion. This, from a guy who has been known to push things a bit beyond the creativity and controversial limits of what probably would have been more effective, and learned the hard way because out it.

Maybe what is best is to make sure to be “gimmicky-free” in our ministry planning and marketing.  You can be humorous, edgy, and highly attractional without being gimmicky, it just takes a bit more effort, carefulness, and creativity. Who defines when you cross the line? Not me, for sure. But I think common sense and listening to gutt checks can go a long way to discerning well. So often, when we get creative and cavalier, we minimize the voices of common sense that don’t want to crush our ideas, but just craft them a bit for the most potential effectiveness, short-term and long-term.

O.k, that’s it, end of sermon. Oh wait…

So, that you are disappointed… here is how to have HOT SEXY SEX!

1) Get married first

2) Lovingly serve your spouse with respect and humbleness (all the time)

3) Stay loyal and true to your spouse

4) Discover and meet their top emotional needs (highly recommend “His Needs, Her Needs” book)

5) Be open, honest, and show up emotionally

6) Communicate well

7) Take care of your body and appearance

8) Find a Christian counselor to help deal with any deeper issues

9) Do 1-8 consistently and the HOT SEXY SEX will take care of itself.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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