5 Invitations That Lead To Healing From 2020

Hello SNC brothers and sisters!

Everyday this week I will be sending you a series of short articles I want you to reflect upon with me. Each article will share an invitation to join me in pursuing during this year.

Why… Because 2020 was a slow-motion train wreck.

We watched our society live in toxic soup, unraveling and splintering; tearing itself apart. For nearly a year, we have endured COVID quarantine, riots, and the Presidential election. All along each of us have marinated in a culture gripped with fear, sadness, bitterness and rage. I’ve become convinced that it is not just we as individuals who’ve been affected by all the poison around us but we as the church have been impacted as well.

This is one of those areas where we, as the Body of Christ, CAN and MUST shine as a light to our darkened world. How can we stay united even while we hold different opinions on things? The world around us doesn’t seem to know how to do this. This is a powerful way to reveal the goodness of the Gospel. Being a church made up of radically different people united by Christ, seeking love over power, understanding over assumption, respect over labeling, humility over pride, and forgiveness over revenge. I’ve never seen it more clearly than this past year: The world around us is profoundly talented at disintegration; we cannot follow its example.

Our church needs to be a place of healing, not division. A place of safety, not gossip, assumptions and attack. How do we, as a family of believers, heal from 2020? That’s what these 5 invitations are about.

Every day this week I will send out a different invitation for you to ponder. Please consider joining me in pursuing these. And please consider praying for these invitations, that our church would take real steps away from the pull of division and towards healing and a united push forward… Together. 

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Invitation #1: Stop and ask what’s going on?
 

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

I’m not being hyperbolic when I say, “This pair of verses has literally changed my life.” They teach concepts that have deeply and profoundly blessed me, not just with God, but with others and myself. These ideas have come to inform an approach I have to my life and while this hasn’t always been the easy road for me- it has been one of wonderful healing and blessing.

Let me break down for you some simple things this psalm teaches:

· God will search my heart with ME- if I let Him.

· My anger and anxiety ought to be explored (tested).

· There can be an offensive way in me no matter how righteous I think I am.

· God will lead me in His way everlasting- If I let Him.

Our culture is outstanding at reaction. We are professionals at it. Unfortunately, this year we’ve begun to see we are like Nuclear “Reactors”: the coils begin to heat up, the temperatures begin to rise, something goes wrong within the system and soon you’ve got a meltdown. If we could take a moment to explore our reactions, we might learn some stuff about ourselves, and avoid our own explosions.

James wrote: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry“. I’m going to explore this more in the 2nd invitation, but look at what James seems to be implying here about anger. It seems anger is something that doesn’t happen right away. It is a reaction to other emotions. Psychologists call anger a secondary emotion, whereas feelings like fear, pain, discomfort, and isolation, are more primary emotions. In other words, something occurs in our life that knocks us off balance, and we react to our discomfort with anger. Could it be, that much of what we see on the news these days, or on social media, is actually fear being reacted to angrily.

In the psalm we read above, David had just finished a section of, boiling-hot passionately righteous indignation. He’s mad because he loves God and it breaks his heart to see others who hate Him. David invites God to search his heart. Even if his anger is well placed, David could still have destructive things going on in him.

My invitation: Let God search your heart. Acknowledge when you are angry and ask God to reveal why. Admit those places in your heart that still look to the things of this world to make you feel ok about yourself rather than looking to God. Admit that you are as desperate for God’s cleansing, healing and forgiveness as anyone else, even that guy across the political aisle from you. Will you be brave enough to ask God to show us the truth of your heart? It’s not easy, but it is worth it.

Thank you everyone,

I’m looking forward to 2021 with all of you.

Pastor Ryan
 
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Invitation #2: Seek To Understand
 

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” James 1:19-21

My father in law used to say: “Don’t ever assume, because when we assume it makes an ass of you and me.” Coarse language aside, this statement makes a very accurately placed point. How many times have we assumed something of someone else – jumped to conclusions – only to find ourselves a little embarrassed at how we reacted?

Folks, we see and interpret the world around us through our own pair of glasses. We all have our own and nobody’s is exactly the same.

Why?

Because we all come from different life experiences,

different families,

different journeys.

We all have been wounded and developed ways to survive in a broken, dying world. Each of us have learned powerful life lessons in unique ways. What this means is: we all interpret life differently. It might be helpful for us as a family of believers to expect difference rather than sameness.

James makes several challenges or callings to us in the verses above:

· Listen first. Ask questions! Don’t just seek to understand what they believe or why someone has done something. Seek to understand how they arrived at that belief, why they feel so strongly, and where you may have common ground.

· Think before you speak. It is believed Mark Twain once said: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” The Bible agrees and tells us in Ecclesiastes: “Many words come with the speech of a fool.” If I’m going to speak, how can I do so in a way that will be understood and heard without provoking a nuclear reaction. If I’m telling someone I think they are an idiot, it’s likely they will get my message, but it’s not likely they will accept it.

· You can control the anger. James assumes with his words that we can slow down, or even stop anger. He’s not saying we should not feel it. He’s saying we should be slow to let it consume us. We should fight it. Anger is not a healthy state to live in. We need to fight against it. Now, James is not talking about righteous anger, because we see in the next verse James contrasts human anger with the righteousness God desires. They are not the same thing. Human reactionary anger is something we must fight against! It is a doorway to what’s really going on in us. We cannot let anger have the final say in our lives!

So, today’s invitation is to seek to understand. Ask questions. Really try to hear those at our church we disagree with. Yes, we disagree on things. This isn’t a surprise. Can we listen and fight to understand each other in the middle of this, and not let anger have the last word?

May God’s grace be with you,

Pastor Ryan
 
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Invitation #3: Let Us Seek To Edify In What We Say

 

Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

My friends, this must be our goal in conversations, both with one another and with those outside our church. How do we build one another up with our speech?

Do you see what Paul is doing here? He is comparing and contrasting 2 things we can do with our mouth. He is contrasting Unwholesome talk with helpful strengthening talk.

I used to think this verse was God telling me I cannot cuss, or say dirty jokes, but it goes beyond that. There’s a greater principle at work here. This, once again, involves us thinking about the impact of our words.

If I say a certain thing to my wife will it serve to build her up according to her needs, will it benefit her, or will it tear her down? That group of people at church are labeling someone else because that person voted differently in the last election than they did. They question this person’s salvation behind their back. Is that edifying for anyone involved? If I go up to someone and tell them exactly what their problem is with no kindness, gentleness and respect, have I really edified them?

To live this kind of advice, it requires us to stop and think about HOW we say things, and not just WHAT we say. It requires us to consider WHY we are saying something. Am I communicating this because I’m mad at this person and I want to punish them in some way? Do I want revenge and am getting it through my words? That’s not speaking with edification at its heart.

Folks, I’m going to be as clear as I can. Gossip is NOT edifying. Labeling someone else as anything other than a person created in God’s image whom God dearly loves is not edifying. Speaking truth without love is not edifying.

As a church body, when we are with one another, it’s absolutely ok AND NECESSARY to say: “Hey guys, this feels like gossip to me and I’m not comfortable going there. Can we talk about something else?” Or maybe: “Hey, I know we disagree with this person, but we cannot say the things we are saying about them, they are our brother/sister. We cannot talk about them like that.” Will we protect each others’ dignity? The world is great at shaming other people, just watch Facebook, or go on the news. Shaming is everywhere. We cannot be that way. We must protect each others’ dignity and seek to build each other up- even when we are in conversations behind their back.

This is not easy for me. I have a deep liking for juicy gossip. I must admit I do. It’s a weakness of mine, something I’ve got to fight and something I’ve had to apologize for when I’ve slipped into it.

My invitation to you today is to let this be our prayer and goal: Oh Lord, let me seek to build others up with my words and conversations.


May God’s grace be with you,

Pastor Ryan
 
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Invitation #4: Find Common Ground
 

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” Matthew 7:12 ESV

I’m going to speak frankly here and step into the mud with you. We often have much more in common with the people we disagree with than we think.

I grew up in a mostly white suburban neighborhood. We didn’t have too many kids in our neighborhood who were African American, or Latino. I had one friend who was walking home from school one day. Imagine a highly intelligent, well dressed, handsome, amazingly talented young black man, walking down the street to go home when a police car stops him and makes him sit on the curb. They search his backpack, and pepper him with questions telling him, “You don’t belong here. What are you doing here?” As he sat there, kids from our high school, who were his friends, drove by to see him in trouble with the police. My friend was humiliated. The officers found nothing in his backpack, because he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was simply profiled by those police officers, frightened and humiliated by them.

Now, I’m not trying to make a political statement about this, and I’m certainly not trying to indict the police, please do not misunderstand me. This past year, I’ve repeatedly seen these conversations spiral down into name calling and accusations with an intent to control someone else through bringing shame upon the other person. We have so many disagreements about all of this. But what can we agree upon?

Can I agree with my friend that this has never happened to me? Yes. Can I agree with my friend that if it did happen to me I’d be furious? And if it happened to my child, I’d be outraged? Oh you better believe it! Can I see that this experience was deeply humiliating and painful to him? Yes.

Ok, so now we’re listening to one another, aren’t we! Deep inside us as human beings, we all have similar needs. We want to be treated with kindness and respect. We want to be given the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, when we disagree, the best thing we can do is to try to find common ground, and a way to move forward.

This is true with the race discussion and also true with political discussions. This happens often with the pro-choice/pro-life discussion. We don’t agree and so we resort to labeling and shaming. “How dare you vote that way! Don’t you see how many people have been hurt by people like you?” The irony here is how often I find we actually have more in common with those we are labeling as villains than we think.

Will we take the time and try to find those commonalities? We may arrive at different conclusions and really have no way to fully reconcile but if we fight to find what we share, we can better understand and that leads us to feeling like, even though we disagree, we are treated with respect, and we are safe. Someone has gotten to know the real me who exists beneath my opinion rather than treating me like I AM my opinion. Folks, let’s try to find common ground, this is how we heal.

May God’s grace be with you,

Pastor Ryan

 
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Invitation #5: Set Your Minds on Things Above
 
 

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” Colossians 3:2

“If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next [world]. Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you get neither.” CS Lewis

We need to view everything in this world through the lens of Jesus Christ. This may be a strange statement but it is true to what Paul is saying in Colossians 3:2.

How do I view all that has happened in the political sphere? Maybe I’m broken-hearted about it, but if I view things through the lens of Christ I also see that nothing that happens is done apart from the knowing and allowance of God, and nothing is beyond His redemption. So, I am renewed to pray for I see this world through the lens of God being Actively Present.

When my friend disagrees with me do I see it as my job to fix them, or to protect the world from them? Does Jesus even factor into my vision of this? He should. We need Him to be the lens through which we view everything. If I realize I cannot fix anyone, that’s not my job or something I even have the power to do, because I’M NOT JESUS, then I’m seeing things through the lens of Christ.

To set my mind on things above is to reflect on the great truths of my salvation, my identity in Christ, my wonderful inheritance and my relationship with Holy Spirit, and yet it goes even further than this. When I set my mind on Christ, it means my thoughts are governed and guided by and through Him. I think about my job as a place to serve Christ and build His kingdom. I also see my job as His great provision for my family and me. I think about my marriage not just as a place to get my needs met but as a wonderful gift God has given me, and when it’s hard, a place I can learn to die to myself as I serve my spouse for the glory of God. When I disagree with someone, I can view this as a negative experience, and a weakness my friend has, that they desperately need me to fix for them or I can see this as an opportunity to learn how to love in the path Christ walks. Are you seeing this? Everything starts with – and all roads lead back to – Him.

My friends, part of the reason why we can find ourselves tearing each other apart is because our minds get full of earthly noise. We spend more time watching the news and YouTube videos rather than simply sitting with the Bible and being in prayer. We get all riled up by this talk show host, or that speaker (or preacher) and ultimately they are just working to get us feeling more and more hopeless and angry. That’s not helpful friends. We spend time on social media arguing with people who will never change their minds, or spinning round and round with people who agree with everything we say getting each other more and more angry.

What if we started limiting all the noise? What if there is actually nothing I can do about the conspiracy the talking head on CNN or FoxNews is telling me about, and it’s all serving to make me more and more angry? What if I turned them off tonight? How am I supposed to be a peaceful presence with others, when I keep giving my peace away to people who don’t know or care about me?

My friends, we desperately need the Fruit of God’s Spirit, that is what heals a church and a society. We don’t get that Fruit yelling at people on Facebook. We only get Fruit of The Spirit, by walking in step, in relationship with The Spirit. How do I walk closer to Him? Let me invite you to consider this final invitation.


May God’s grace be with you,

Pastor Ryan