Category: Life theology (page 2 of 5)

11 ways to fight well, from 1 Corinthians 13

couple-fighting-on-couch

image via iStockphoto user contrails

Every couple fights. It’s a reality of living in a fallen world.

But not every couple fights well. Another reality of living in a fallen world.

Couples that learn to grow through their arguments can have some of the strongest marriages on the planet.

I know that 1 Corinthians 13, though often shared at weddings, isn’t a passage just for love in marriage, there are a lot of principles we can learn as they relate to how love acts.

Fighting well, from 1 Corinthians 13

1. Don’t fling old poo.

Stop bringing up past failures. Love keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:5)

2. Listen when the other person is talking.

Don’t just be preparing your rebuttal. Love is patient. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

3. Think before you speak.

Love is patient and kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

4. Always hope.

Assume the best about the other person. Don’t assume their motive was to undermine you. Assume they love you. Because they’ve already told you that. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

5. Don’t threaten to give up.

Constantly threatening with “divorce” and “I’m going to walk away” erodes the health of your marriage. Thankfully, God doesn’t ever threaten us like that. (Deuteronomy 31:6). Love never gives up. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

6. Stop the yelling.

Don’t yell for yelling sake. When you raise your voice and your temper and your emotions, you only escalate things. And you sound a whole lot like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

7. Always rejoice when the truth wins.

Even when Especially when the truth doesn’t land in your favor, and you lose the battle. (1 Corinthians 13:6)

8. No name-calling.

Love does not dishonor the other person by reducing them to a demeaning, offensive name. Love is kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

9. In kind, affectionate ways, touch each other.

Reach out and hold the other person’s hand. Pat their leg. Put your hand on their shoulder. There’s something disarming about physical affection. And, maybe more importantly, there’s something about physical affection that, in the heat of the moment, you don’t naturally want to do. Choosing loving physical affection helps calm your raging heart. Love does not demand its own way. (1 Corinthians 13:5)

10. Keep the details between the two of you. (and a healthy ‘accountability’ partner, if you have that)

When you fight, don’t run home and share the details with your parents. Don’t share them with your friends. Keep them between the two of you. For health sake, though, you may need to have someone safe, who knows you both, that you can share your heart with. Just make sure this is the same person every time, and that this person loves Jesus and has your best interest at heart. Love keeps no record of wrongs…but outside parties do. (1 Corinthians 13:5)

11. Pray before, after, and during.

Loving someone through an argument is something that can only happen supernaturally. It comes from God. If we’re going to love our spouse well, we must ask the One from whom we received love in the first place.

 

 

 

 

Keep fighting

wilderness-running

image credit: iStock Photo user amygdala_imagery

I try not to check my distance too often while I jog, because running is often as much in my head as it is in my feet. I tell my legs what to do…they don’t tell me.

On this particular day, however, I was listening to a podcast, not paying attention at all to how far I’d gone. Turns out I hadn’t even made it out of the neighborhood on my trek to 7 miles.

As I glanced down to see my distance, I realized where I was.

I was at the most depressing part of a jog. The part where I realized I’d just left the house, but I still had a long, long ways to go. I was at the point where you look down to see how far you’ve gone, only to realize that on your ensuing 7 mile jog, you’ve only traveled .5 mile.

The rest of the jog, which took nearly an hour, felt like it took 4 days. Every hill was tougher. Every burst of sun more blinding. Every corner with shade was too chilly. Every puddle deeper.

It was depressing. I felt unproductive. I felt like the journey ahead was too far to go. I felt like I’d never make it.

Which is why it’s never good to measure success on the first half-mile.

Don’t measure the success of your recovery from addiction on the 2nd week, when you feel like you might break.

Don’t measure the success of your small group on the 3rd meeting, when the group still hasn’t gelled.

Don’t measure the success of your new idea on the first person you pitch it to, who tells you it’s dumb.

Don’t measure the success of your spiritual goals at week 4, when you’re still struggling with wanting to want God.

Don’t measure the success of your marriage in month 3 during a fight, when you’re tempted to walk away from it all.

Don’t measure the success of the church you’re visiting on the first visit, when you were frustrated.

Don’t measure the success of your career on your first job, which you struggled to find any satisfaction in.

Success isn’t measure .5 mile from the starting line.

Success is measured at the end of the race.

Whatever race you’re running right now, keep fighting. Keep running. Keep clawing. And don’t give up.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. – Paul, 2 Timothy 4:7

 

 

What real men do

I asked this recently on Twitter and Facebook, and got some great response.

Real men _____.

I broke my list into two categories. The things that real men do that we puff our chest out about. And the things that, I believe, make us great.

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image credit: Creation Swap, Todd White

Real men (read these while grunting like a caveman)

  • Drink their coffee black
  • Drink their coffee so strong you have to eat it with a fork
  • Hate cats and thinks they’re pointless.
  • Work in the yard.
  • Occasionally grow a mustache because they can.
  • Hate ‘browsing’ at the mall. Shopping = getting what you need and leaving.
  • Prefer charcoal to gas.
  • Love tobasco on everything. Everything. And will drink it straight from the bottle if called upon.
  • ‘If it is ‘bacon-wrapped,’ it’s better.’ – men
  • Only cries while slicing onions.
  • Can drive a stick shift.
  • Yell at the tv when the ref gets the call wrong.
  • Will eat a jalapeño whole if the moment calls for it. 
  • Never owns a juicer. (Or at least doesn’t admit it)
  • Love a good steak. Medium-rare.
  • Prefer their turkey deep fried.
  • Prefer their potatoes deep fried. 
  • Prefer anything and everything fried.
  • Never eat ribs with a fork.
  • Never consider a salad a meal. 

Real men (what makes a man great)

  • Put others first
  • Play with their children (wrestle with their boys. Play tea cups with their girls)
  • Are present with their family 
  • Cherish their spouse 
  • Have deep relationships with other guys
  • Worship God in their own way. (authenticity)
  • Spend way more time with their wife and kids than they do playing video games. 
  • Ask for help when they need it. 
  • Leads their family spiritually.
  • Takes steps of faith.
  • Serves their community. 
  • Encourages others constantly. 
  • Admits they’re weak.
  • Flee sin. 
  • Cry out to God. 
  • Realize they can’t do life alone.
  • Admit when they mess up.
  • Pray.
  • Find ways to be generous with their expertise.
  • Work hard at their job.
  • Work hard to serve their family. (Not just at their job)
  • Act silly with his children, looking foolish for a good laugh.
  • Spoil their children with an extra donut when mom’s not looking. 🙂
  • Watch a chick flick because he loves his wife.
  • Goes shopping with his wife
Anything you’d add?

 

 

The Ben Nevis

ben_nevis

image credit: reypastor.org

Over spring break my junior year in college, I took a trip with a few buddies to Edinburgh, Scotland. We had a buddy who was studying there for the semester, and it made for a good excuse to travel halfway around the world to a country none of us had ever visited.

We saw the sites in London, stayed in hostels, visited the most famous golf course in the world, and climbed the highest mountain in the UK, the Ben Nevis. Standing a glorious 4,409 feet high, we knew we were going to dominate this mountain. When you’re a college student from Tennessee, that’s what you do.

My hiking attire:

  • A gray GAP, lightweight hoodie
  • Jeans
  • Tennis shoes

Between the 5 of us hiking that day, we brought 3 bottles of water, 4 energy bars, fruit we’d taken from the hostel where we’d just stayed, and a couple of handfuls of granola.

We weren’t really clued in to our unpreparedness, even though the hostel owner gave us that look, and said, “You’re going to climb the Ben in that?” Dumb, not-scared-of-anything college students, we pressed on.

About an hour into our ascent, I remember passing this couple who looked very “official.” They were decked out in North Face gear, rugged-looking boots, backpacks that could withstand a hurricane, and canteens of water that kept their water at just the perfect temperature for days. And they matched.

“You guys making it ok?” with the same look that the lady at the hostel had given us over breakfast. Apparently our “gear” gave us away. We all glanced at each other as if to say, “Don’t you say a word about how dumb we feel.”

“Yep! Ship shape!” I said. “We almost there?”

They gave a chuckle and continued trudging downwards past us.

When we finally made it to the top, we looked even more out of place. There were guys with ice picks. People donning full-face masks to keep out the cold. And guys with gloves so thick it warmed my hands just to look at them. I cinched my hoodie a little tighter around my face, and drank in the most beautiful site my eyes had ever beheld. Everywhere I turned, making sure not to slip off of the snowy ledge, I saw beautiful Scotland countryside. Mountain after mountain, separated by green valleys, sheep grazing to their heart’s content. Turns out, we crested the top on the only day that entire month where the clouds broke. It was as if God was smiling on our little ragtag crew.

All we could stand was ~30 minutes. We were all freezing. The snow had melted into my shoes, and I could feel the blisters pulsating. Time to head down. Most people gingerly and carefully made their way down the first 200 feet, which was covered with snow. Not our crew, though. We dropped to a sitting position and slid down. What took most people 10 minutes took us less than 15 seconds. I had to dig my heels in to keep from careening off of the side of the mountain (that’s no joke…I really thought I was going to be with Jesus in that moment), but we’d started our journey back.

I was miserable, but I tried to not let that show in my face.

Every person I passed, I’d give them a smile, and a quick,

  • “Hey, you’re almost there!”
  • “It’s worth the climb!”
  • “Don’t quit now!”
  • “Trust me, you’ll be glad you did this!”
  • “Just a few more bends and you’ll get the most beautiful view you’ve ever seen!”

With almost every person I spoke this to (minus the one guy that gave me the sink eye), I saw their face brighten a bit. I saw their shoulders straighten ever so slightly. They would stand up a little straighter. For some, the corners of their lips would curl in a tiny smile.

That’s what encouragement does. It speaks hope and life into places where death would love to take control. It breathes steps for someone else, and releases unknown burdens. It says,

  • This fight is worth it.
  • Don’t give up.
  • Your family needs you!
  • Your faith is worth it!
  • The prize is coming! 
  • Not much further!
  • Now is not the time to quit!
  • I’ve been where you’re going…don’t stop now!

Somebody you know needs encouragement. Right now. They’re on the mountain, and they’re about to quit. They’ve stopped for a break, and they’re not going to start going again until they hear from you. They don’t know that, just ahead, the clouds are breaking. Only you know that it’s just a few more cut backs before they reach the top. Only you know the view ahead is breathtaking.

You may not be a mountain climber. I’m sure not. But a timely word of encouragement can change someone’s life.

Who can you encourage today?

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

 

 

The inner rebel in me

There’s something in me that bucks against the grain. The tried-and-true, well-worn path of least resistance that most of us like to cruise down. When I see you cutting that path, something in me awakens.

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Show me your mean face!

When you tell me, “We’ve never done this before,” I want to do it. Here. Now.

When you tell me, “It can’t be done,” I know it can.

When you say, “It’s just not possible,” I know I serve a God who parted the seas and raises the dead.

When you say, “We don’t do that here,” I know we can…now.

When you say, “She probably won’t be ready to lead for a long time” I remind you that we serve a God who radically saves.

When you say, “I will never beat this _______” I say, “Let me tell you about 20 people I know who have.”

When you say, “I’ll never get over this fear…” I say, “God did not create us with a spirit of fear.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

When you tell me, “You can’t do it.” I say, “Watch me.”

When you say, “Not here, not now, not ever.” I say, “Here. Now. Today.”

When you say, “You’ll never make it,” I say, “Why don’t you help me?”

Anybody else feel their rebellious spirit awaken in the face of opposition?

 

 

Beautiful scars

I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament…in other words, I broke my knee) in high school. As a senior, I had to go to prom and graduation hobbling around on crutches…just how I’d always dreamed.

ACL reconstructive surgery, then 6 more weeks of crutches and therapy later, I’m left with a scar. 3 scars, to be exact. They stand out on my right knee as reminders of that painful injury.

And they’ll never go away.

image credit: CreationSwap User Jaret Benson, edits mine

No matter how much I pray, how much I wish them to, or how much vitamin E oil I put on them, they’re stuck on my knee for good as a permanent testimony and constant reminder of that injury, the surgery, and the pain associated with it all.

The most embarrassing part of the scars, though, isn’t the scars themselves. It’s how I tore my ACL. But that’s another post for another day. 🙂 I just keep telling myself that chicks dig scars. That’s still a thing, right?

Scars of a Different Kind

Lots of us, though, carry scars from different injuries. Scars not from a physical accident, but from pain of a different kind. Pain from broken relationships, broken dreams, unrealized potentials. Some have been the product of our own bad choices. Others have been forced on us without our consent. Our scars remind us constantly that we have been injured, marked, and forever changed. Behind the scars lie the most horrific events in our lives. The scar is the outward-facing result of pain we wish had never happened.

We try to hide those scars, but a pair of pants and a long-sleeved shirt won’t do the trick. So we hide behind beautiful masks, thinking nobody will notice. But they don’t go away, do they? We begin to look at the scars not as battle wounds we can be proud of, but as a mark of disgrace that spreads to the inner fibers of who we are and of the story God has thrust upon us. A reminder that life’s not fair, not easy, and that even our own stories are broken.

A deeper reality

Do you know what scars really represent, though?

Healing.

They represent that an injury is gone. You’re forever marked, but not plagued by a constantly open wound. The wound scabbed over, then scarred. It leaves you looking different, but healed.

Scars represent healing from a traumatic event. They remind us that though life was seemingly unbearable, God has mended the wound, reminding you constantly of the healing that happened.

Look at your scar as a disgrace if you’d like. As an ugly part of you that everybody stares at, questions, and judges you for.

Or embrace that as part of your story. As part of your healing and restoration. As a unique piece of your journey that God intends to use to heal others.

Life-Changing Scars

Scars will change your life, if you’ll let them. It’s someone Else’s scar that will bring you ultimate healing (Isaiah 53:5), and your own scar, as tarnished and sensitive as it may be, that God can use to speak hope into someone else’s. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

Life leaves us with ugly scars that stand out, occasionally still hurt, and attract attention.

But scars are a symbol of healing and the restoration that only God can bring.

 

 

The power of food

It was a normal workout at Crossfit solafide. Tough, but normal. Time trials get my adrenaline pumping.

image credit: Flickr user CrossFit Pulse

I blew through the 400m run. Smoked it. I felt a little more gassed than normal. “No big deal, though,” I thought. “I’ll recover.” At least I didn’t tear my quad.

Next was 100 pullups. Normally, this is something I could blaze through. But by 30, I was spent. My energy was zapped. I bumped it up to 62 by the 5 minute mark. A bit of encouragement helped.

100 situps, 100 squats. Got ’em.

But then I thought I was going to die. Right then and there, on the black gym mat that smells like rubber and sweat and stale, crusty socks.

I was staring into the face of 100 push ups.

Realize this: Cross Fit is often as much of a mental exercise as it is a physical one. And you’re not going to beat me mentally. I’m like the Evander Holyfield of mental exercises. Or, wait…that’s too early-2000s.

Turns out that this day, it was the physical side of the workout that got the best of me.

I made it through the 100 push ups, but thought that my lunch was going to join that cursed black mat.

Finally, it was a 500m row. Done and done.

Immediately afterwards, I still felt like I might get the distinct privilege of seeing lunch again. I’ve had this feeling before, but this time I couldn’t shake it. Then came a case of the dizzies. Lightheadedness. ‘I can drive home,’ said my sweet wife. “Nah…I’m ok.” Note above: you’re not going to beat me mentally.

Driving home, I couldn’t bring myself to talk much. Dizziness continued and I felt like I needed to lay down.

Then my hand cramped so hard I had to pry it open with my other hand. A few times. Then came the chills, and I had to lay on the floor in our den to hold myself together. Turns out it smells a little better than the gym floor.

It was only after I ate a little food and drank a protein shake that I began to return to normal.

I had been dangerously close to…something. I don’t know what, but I was dangerously close to it. (just hang with me…being dangerously close to something adds dramatic value, right?). All because I hadn’t eaten much throughout the day. A small breakfast, smaller lunch, and some water were not enough for me to sustain a tough workout. I ran out of gas. When I was at the bottom, I had no reserve to draw from. My tank was empty, and I still had a few miles to go.

The turn

Isn’t the same thing true for us spiritually? You get out what you put in…or what you don’t put in. Spend time away from God, and you’ll find yourself drying up spiritually. Quit feeding your soul, and when tough times come, you’ll have nothing left to give.

It’s when life falls apart that these inadequacies come to light. It’s after a few tough rounds that you realize you’re not where you want to be spiritually. Or, at the very least, not where you thought you were.

Listen to the Psalmist:

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do. – Psalm 1:1-3

Plant yourself beside the River and you’ll not wither under the burdens of life.

The way you handle life is a reflection of what you have put in to your body. And the training starts now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Now. If you wait to work on your spiritual life until things fall apart, you’ll find yourself face-down on a crusty-sock-smelling gym floor.

Want to grow up spiritually? Start now.

Want to be a better mom? Start now.

Want to mature in your leadership? Start now.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

 

 

Excuse me, your Gospel zipper is undone

The “middle” part of your salvation, what theologians call “progressive sanctification,” is more important right now than either justification* or glorification*.

Go ahead. Label me a heretic. It’s okay. You can use the hashtag #BenReedTheHeretic.

image via Creation Swap user Mirian Trinidad

It’s all talk

We tend to talk a lot about the beginning and end of salvation.

We love to (rightly) look backwards and remind ourselves of our sin and our story. Remind ourselves of our beautiful Savior.

We also love to (rightly) look forwards with hope, anticipating eternity in heaven.

But the most important part of your spiritual growth is not in looking back. It’s also not in looking forward. It’s in what you’re going to do now. 

In looking back on who Jesus is, what He did, and growing to understand his love and grace more doesn’t propel you to live differently, what good is it? ** If this dreaming back doesn’t leave you more generous, loving, forgiving, and full of grace, then has it done anything?

Looking backwards isn’t as important right now.

 

In looking forward with great hope in the second coming of Jesus, to the day when there will be no more tears or crying or pain, doesn’t mean you take more faith risks, then you’re just an idle dreamer. If you’re not consistently breathing hope into the life of others with your forward-reaching dreams, if you’re not progressively becoming more loving, more gracious, more hospitable, and less bitter, then what good are your mere daydreams? They’ve become a sort of twisted self-pleasing fantasy.

Looking forward isn’t as important right now.

The Glorious Middle

What’s important right now is the “glorious middle,” that part of your salvation that’s overlooked because it’s not sexy. It’s sexy to talk about what’s coming. It’s sexy to talk about what has passed. But what’s now is what we’re all experiencing, the doldrums of existence on earth. It’s picking the kids up from school. It’s being late for work. It’s getting sick. It’s dealing with loss and pain. It’s being financially strapped. It’s dealing with difficult relationships. It’s not ever having enough time.

It’s in those, shockingly normal activities, to which Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) How do I know that Paul’s referring to the mundane, everyday life here? Because he follows this command with, “Do all things without grumbling…” (Philippians 2:14) Nobody grumbles about heaven. Nobody grumbles about the great sacrifice Christ paid on our behalf. Either of those will get you kicked out of a deacon’s meeting faster than if a couple of poker chips were to fall out of your pocket.

Think deeply on who Jesus is, the depth and filthiness of your sin, and the glorious forgiveness that God offers us in Christ.

Think deeply on the promised life to come, eternity spent in the presence of God.

But don’t neglect the “glorious middle,” the glorious, yet unglamorously normal life that God has called you to right here and now.

That’s more important.

Don’t leave your Gospel zipper undone.

* justification – the moment when God declares you “just” before him, as a judge declares a criminal just and free. This happens the moment you place your faith in Christ.

* glorification – this will be your nature after death, where you will be made whole for eternity, in heaven with God.

** I’m not advocating salvation by works here. Salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone. I’m talking about ongoing, progressive sanctification.

 *** image via Creation Swap user Mirian Trinidad

 

 

Dat cool, Daddy?

Photo Credit: Back Drop Express

My son asked me to go outside and play football with him yesterday. Mind you, he’s 3. So football for him looks a lot safer for me now than it will in a few years.

We were throwing the ball back and forth, and he was loving every minute of it. I’d throw it as high as I could, and he’d watch it come crashing down to the ground and bounce strange directions. He’d mimic me and watch it bounce again.

He’d say, “Daddy…watch me!” And I’d watch him throw the ball up in the air and hear him squeal with delight that he did it.

Of course, when he would, I’d go nuts, making a big deal and encouraging him that he threw the ball.

Then one time, unintentionally, I didn’t encourage him. I didn’t tell him he did a good job. I watched him throw the ball, then walked over to pick it up and continue the cycle.

It’s not that he didn’t do a good job…I just didn’t tell him that he did.

And he asked me a question that caused me to stop mid-stride:

Dat cool, daddy?

He wanted to know if he was still doing it right. He wanted validation from someone who knew the ropes, and knew what a “good throw” was supposed to look and feel like. He wanted to hear from his dad that I thought what he was doing was cool.

Don’t we all have a bit of that longing inside of us?

We all want to be validated by someone who knows the ropes. By someone who’s been in our shoes and walked where we’re going. Who can shed a little light on our paths to make the journey a little more navigable.

Older leaders: we need your encouragement. We need your ‘atta-boy!’ We need your wisdom and insight. We need your gut-level response to our gut-level response.

Don’t give up on us. We need you.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

*Photo credit: BackDrop Express

 

The Quiet

The Quiet

In this room, The Quiet is victorious.

It’s heavy and loud and visible.

Nervous laughter and fond memories

open the gate that’s quickly shut

as once again the conquerer is

The Quiet.


The Quiet beckons to let life go.

The room hangs on every breath.

and for a brief moment hearts grasp for life.

The exchange of slow breaths for open eyes

quickly give way, yielding to

The Quiet


Gaining strength with every vacuous breath,

Stealing hope and drawing water from eyes,

One force dominates through stress,

multiplying fatigue, frustrations, and pain,

Growing stronger with every moment:

The Quiet


Until The Quiet loses ground.

Hope bursts forth as life slips

and tears sprout a tension of joy and

sadness.

The battle is over.

Eternity begins.


 
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