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The Anatomy Of A Fight

Last week I shared the things that I feel lead to a fight. All of us have seen at least one of those things lead to conflict or a fight in one of our relationships. We have seen minor things escalate into something that should have never been; things that could not be taken back or recovered. Sometimes all that is left behind is hurt and pain that remains for days, weeks or even years that we cannot seem to heal.

What if we could recognize where something was headed and stop it before it became a fight or a major conflict? I believe that if we know how things escalate and evolve, it will help us identify what is happening and hopefully help us avoid some of the pain or frustration that is experienced. Here is what I call the anatomy of a fight.

Disappointment or Misunderstanding
Usually everything starts with a misunderstanding or a disappointment. Something does not happen the way we expected it to. We take something one way when it was meant another way. The right thing is said at the wrong time or in the wrong way. Suddenly, we have a misunderstanding or we are disappointed. Almost every conflict in our marriage could be avoided if we could correct it at this stage. If we could overlook a disappointment or if we could clarify a misunderstanding we would not proceed to the next stage or end up in a major conflict. Most of this is dependent upon us to take the necessary steps to deal with it immediately. The longer we wait, the more likely it will escalate.

Tension
You know what I mean. As they say, “you can cut it with a knife”. Nothing is said at this point, it is all attitude. As a matter of fact at this point very little is said. Tension is that way. This is often the place where one person is attempting to get the other person to recognize there is a problem. Though it has gone a little farther than a disappointment or misunderstanding, it is still solvable and certainly an avoidable major conflict. This requires us to be self-aware of our own actions and considerate of the other person involved and their feelings. Unresolved tension will only grow until the silence is gone and the words are unleashed.

Unnecessary Words or Actions
Up until this point there has been the opportunity to move on and avoid a fight. Once this place is reached, a major conflict is close at hand. Once the silence of tension is broken, there is rarely any turning back. We have usually rehearsed and recited the incident, and possibly a few others, in our mind while the tension has been building. Often there is a trigger that pushes us over the edge and once that first word is breached, we can’t seem to help ourselves. Not just any words; they are usually hurtful and unnecessary words. We may even act out in ways that raise the conflict to a higher level. This is usually met with more of the same from the other side. It is at this point if we do not become aware of what is happening, long term damage can be done by something we say or do.

Anger
You might be thinking when you read this one word that you were angry well before now. I am not talking about being angry. You can be angry and get over it. However, when we allow the emotion of anger to settle in our hearts toward another person, it is not resolved easily. Usually this is the place that over time causes people to walk away from relationships. They no longer care what you say or do to work towards reconciliation – they are just over it. Anger is so very dangerous. It is one of the few things listed in the Bible that gives a foothold, or a place, to the devil in our life. It is not just dangerous for the relationship or for the other person, it is dangerous to us. Anger can destroy us before we even know it. Almost every situation is repairable, but at this stage, it will require work.

Fights are not uncommon. We all have disputes and conflict from time to time. A little awareness though can make that a little bit easier to manage and possibly even avoid. There is nothing like looking back after a conflict and thinking how much time and energy was wasted by simply failing to clarify misunderstandings or overlook a disappointment.

Things That Lead To A Fight

Every relationship has conflict. Some people call it fighting. Other people call it a disagreement. Whatever name you call it, there is still conflict in relationships. This is nowhere this is more evident than in marriage. I have had a few married couples in my lifetime try to tell me they never have conflict. I heard one speaker respond to this by saying, “then one of you is unnecessary”.

Sometimes conflict is necessary especially when there is an idea that needs to be refined or an issue that needs to be addressed. However, there are many times when we have conflict in our marriage that is unnecessary and could be avoided. It is the unnecessary conflict that I usually have the most regret about. Time lost. Words spoken. Things you can’t take back and usually over something very insignificant.

What leads to that unnecessary conflict? There are a lot of things that can cause a fight or dispute, but here are four of the most common things that will lead to unnecessary conflict in your marriage.

Unspoken Expectations

Everyone has expectations. We have expectations for our relationship and our spouse. The problem is that many of those go unspoken. Just because you have said it does not mean they have heard it. Thinking they will remember or follow through on something that you said in passing or when you were frustrated is probably expecting too much. If it is important, you should take the time to share with them when it is not an issue and at a time when they can pay attention to you. Many of our expectations we never express. We just go through the relationship frustrated because we have expectations that are not being met yet have not been communicated.

One of the most common unmet expectations deals with sex or intimacy. During premarital counseling, one of the questions I ask is “how many times do you expect to have sex each week?”. It is a little awkward, but the reality is they both have an expectation. If her expectation is once per week and his is three times per week then they have sex two times per week, she thinks she is exceeding expectations while he is disappointed and she doesn’t understand why. Verbalizing what your expectations are can help you avoid conflict in just about any area of marriage.

Assumptions

This connects to unspoken expectations. Often we assume they should know. In our mind, since it comes natural to us or it is important to us, then it must be important to them as well. Nothing could be further from the truth. The things that are naturally important to me are not so much so with my wife, and vice versa. If either of us assume the other will do what is important to us, then we will constantly have conflict. There is nothing more frustrating than to make an assumption about something that is important to you only to find out they were completely oblivious to what needed to be done. You have probably heard some form of what happens when you assume. If you haven’t, Google it. It is true way too often.

Attitudes

Another common thing that leads to unnecessary conflict is our attitude. When our spouse’s attitude is not quite right, we take it personally. We think it is directed toward us or is about us, when often that is not the case. When our attitude is wrong it doesn’t take long for everyone else to get theirs out of sorts as well. Sometimes, we are not aware of the way we are speaking or acting. Other times we do not work as hard on our attitude with our spouse as we might at work or in other public settings. The tone of our voice. The expression of our face. The body language that we have. All of this sends a message to our spouse and they are responding to it. When our attitude is off kilter we may say something that leads to an unnecessary conflict.

Timing

Just because it needs to be said or done does not mean it needs to be said or done now. Just because it is true does not mean the timing is right to say it. There are a lot of factors that should be considered when saying something to your spouse or taking an action, but timing has to be at the top. Have you ever said exactly the right thing at exactly the wrong time? It was true. It needed to be said. It was something that should have been addressed. But the timing was completely wrong and it had little or no positive effect. If anything, it had the opposite effect. Timing matters in relationships. Too many unnecessary conflicts have happened in marriage because our timing was off.

What things start unnecessary conflict in your marriage? I suspect these four make your list. Maybe you have some insight into some other things that lead to a fight. If so, share them with us in the comments section. If we can be more aware of these things, it will reduce the time we waste in conflict that is unnecessary.

How Do I Prepare A Sermon?

One of the questions that I commonly get asked is, how do I prepare a sermon? So today,  I want to give you a look into how a sermon comes together. It is not just a one-step process. Rarely do I have a stand alone sermon. Almost everything is connected to something else in some way. Let me take you into my world for a few minutes and share this process with you.

The Big Idea

Most series ideas are brainstormed in a group setting with the church staff as we talk about what we feel are our biggest needs, where we believe God wants to take us and what He is wanting to say to us. We will discuss broad themes as a group and nail down 5-6 things we think are needed for the next twelve months. Occasionally we will deviate from this process. Last year I felt a real desire to preach through the Pentateuch, so that was the focus for 2018. These themes are usually discussed at our semi-annual staff retreats, with series titles usually being decided as we get a little closer to that date.

Options

After we have a big idea, I begin the process of fleshing out the options within that framework. If there is a specific topic, I look at as many verses and stories in the Bible that relate to that topic as possible. I prefer stories instead of single verses as it is easier to explore an idea in a story without abusing context. Recently, my assistant Tyler has taken the role of sorting through many of the stories and verses. For example, for the Pentateuch this year, Tyler went through and divided each book into about 20 sections to make it easier for me to sort through. From there I choose which ones we will preach from on Sunday.

 

Theme

Once we have our options, I begin looking for a theme or an approach that ties the stories or topics together. In a recent series on Joseph, it was clear to me that there was a tension in Joseph’s life with every blessing that he received. So every sermon in that series examined a blessing and a tension.

Basics

On my weekly task lists, I have a portion called “sermon basics”. Essentially, it is dividing up the week’s sermon into the main points I want to tackle during delivery. It is a basic outline. Essentially, this is what will go on the screen for everyone to see. It usually includes titles and verses. I try to be two or three weeks ahead with this portion of sermon preparation. This allows our campus pastor at Bertie, or one of the other staff members who may be preaching, an opportunity to begin to get their thoughts around a sermon ahead of time.

 

Reminder

On Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. I read the sermon basics several times so that I start the week thinking about the next sermon, not the last sermon.

 

Outline

I preach with an outline on my iPad. Some people use manuscripts. However you choose to take on this portion of preparation is fine by me. By the time I preach it, the outline is mostly for reference to a quote or statistic. I try to have a the full outline completed on Tuesday evening prior to preaching on Sunday. Usually there will be changes throughout the week, but this will be the meat of what will be said on Sunday. This allows me to begin to think through how this should be delivered every day that week.

 

Outline Touch Up and Quotes

Saturday morning, the first thing I do is make sure the sermon is polished. I highlight any quotes I want to make sure are mentioned and I send those to Alyssa, our media pastor, for social media. I take out things that don’t work and adjust things that need improvement. I read through this a few times Saturday morning.

Read It Again

The last thing I do before I sleep on Saturday and the first thing I do when I wake on Sunday is read through my outline. This ensures it is the one thing on my mind while I sleep and while I am getting ready. I want that to be the only thing I have to think about on Sunday morning. I protect Sunday morning by doing simple things like setting out my clothes the night before. It is the only day I do that. It is simply to keep my mind clear.

So there you have it; a little peek into how a sermon makes it to the stage on Sunday. It doesn’t just happen. I would guess before a sermon is preached, there is at least 30 hours put into it as a group or individually. Maybe this insight will help you while preparing for something you are doing. Delivering a sermon is one of the highlights of my life, but it takes work to get there. But that is true with anything we want to do well.

3 Ways To Identify The Call Of God

Recently I preached a sermon on “God’s Call and Our Resistance”. You can watch it here or listen to it on iTunes here. We looked at Moses’s resistance to God’s call to lead the people of Israel to freedom. Moses offered several excuses as to why he could not carry out what God wanted him to do.

There is a tension that accompanies the call of God because our natural tendency is to resist. One of the reasons for this resistance is because we cannot stay where we are or continue to be who we are. There are other reasons why we struggle with the call of God on our lives. At times it brings some uncertainty. We may not be sure it is God. We do not feel qualified. The job may look overwhelming. The list could be endless.

But there are some things that seem to always be consistent in the call of God. Things that happen no matter where God call us to or what He has called us to do. These things seem to be universal in almost everything that God will call us to. Whatever God has called you to, here are three things that you can expect to be a part of that.

It Stretches Us

One of the sure things you can know about the call of God is that it will stretch you. In the story of Moses, one of his objections was rooted in his struggles to speak yet God was calling him to communicate at the highest levels of government. If you struggle with verbal communication and the thing you are being asked to do is speak to the most influential people in the world, it can be frightening.

Anything God calls you to will stretch you. It will be out of your comfort zone. You will be asked to do things you are not sure you are capable of doing or tasks that you feel you are weaknesses. Stretching is uncomfortable. The older I get the more my doctor tells me that stretching is good for me. My body needs to be stretched so that it stays healthy and less brittle. God knows that we need to be stretched from time to time. It creates flexibility in us that will keep us from becoming so easily broken.

It Transforms Us

The call of God will always include transformation. The Christian walk is a journey of transformation. There is clear change in our lives as we follow the call of God on our life. In the journey of Moses you can clearly see some of the transformation that takes place. His walk with God becomes more intimate as he sees God face to face. His confidence grows in speaking as he speaks both to Pharaoh and to the people of Israel. His leadership capacity grows and he learns things like delegation from his father in law. As we follow the call of God in our own life we will begin to see transformation take place that would not happen otherwise.

It Helps Others

If your purpose in life does not include other people, you have not yet found your purpose. Moses clearly did not need freedom. He had already escaped. But the Hebrew people who he was related to did need to be set free. If it was only about Moses, he had no reason to go back. But the call of God on his life was about helping and serving others. Whatever God is calling you to, one of the clear ways to identify it, is that it will benefit and serve other people. You may already have what they need. That may very well be the reason God is calling you. God’s call will always help others.

Maybe you are wrestling with something that God is calling you to do. Maybe you are uncertain. I hope these markers will help you find some peace in the call of God on your life.

3 Things That Affect Timing

I tell people that knowledge is knowing what to do and wisdom is knowing when to do it. Timing is everything. It affects whether something is a success or a failure. It provides acceleration or it slows you down. We often struggle with patience to wait for the right time. John Maxwell wrote these important things about timing:

  • The wrong action at the wrong time leads to disaster.
  • The right action at the wrong time brings resistance.
  • The wrong action at the right time is a mistake.
  • The right action at the right time results in success.

 

There are many things that affect timing, some of which are out of our control. There are a few things that once we are aware of them, can at least make our timing better. When the right time is matched with the right action there will be success. Here are three things that affect timing.

Strengths

There are things that are your natural strengths. Things that you have been gifted to do or that you have honed over a period of time to develop some proficiency. You will usually have better timing in your area of strength. For example, I am a public speaker. I do it multiple times per week. It is one of my few strengths. In those moments, I usually have pretty good timing on what subject to talk about or how to deliver a particular line in a speech. It might be an important point I want people to remember or the delivery of something humorous. Irregardless of the content or intent, timing is critical when I speak. It is much easier to get timing right in places where I have a strength. You will find that timing is much easier in your areas of strength rather than your areas of weakness.

Need

One of the places where we most often get timing wrong is in an area of need. It may not necessarily be an area where we are normally weak, but need creates problems with timing. If we are hungry when we go grocery shopping we will buy things we don’t need. If we are lonely, we will often get into unhealthy relationships. Need will cause us to overlook important things that affect timing. When we need something we will overlook significant consequences to satisfy an immediate desire.

Counsel

We may have natural inclinations in our areas of strength and feel confident in our timing, but there are areas of weakness for all of us. There are also areas where we have limited information. The counsel or advice that we seek will play a significant role in our timing. First, we should seek advice from people who are strong where we need help. Before seeking someone out for advice, make sure they have some success in the area. Second, we should be careful not to seek people just because we think they will confirm our position. The advice you receive will often dictate the accuracy of your timing.

Remember, it is not enough just to make the right decision or take the right action. It is important that you do those things at the right time. Timing is everything.

Royal Weddings and Real Marriages

In just a few days the world will experience a royal wedding. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will wed and the world will watch. Prince Harry is the son of the first royal couple that I recall catching the world’s eye. I remember watching as Prince Charles and Diana Spencer wed in 1981. I had just finished my 9th grade year and our family was moving from Wake Forest to Washington that summer. I was in Charlotte at a summer Bible and Music Institute put on by the church denomination we were a part of. People talked about the wedding and even woke up early to watch it. It is estimated that over 1 billion people watched that wedding.

Why are we so enamored with a royal wedding? Some of it has to do with the fact that most people see it as some sort of fairytale. It is one of the few times in real life that we get to use the word prince and princess as actual titles for a real people. Another reason for our affinity is that most people want their wedding to be a fairytale. They actually want their marriage to be a fairytale, which is where the tension evolves. What is the difference between a royal wedding and a real marriage? What happens between the wedding and the marriage? Let’s see if we can identify what some of the traps are and why our marriage may not resemble our wedding day.

Royal Weddings

On our wedding day we want everything to be perfect. We have worked tirelessly to make sure that everything is exactly like we want it. We search for the right venue, the the best caterer and the photographer with the best eye. Usually there is some form of premarital counseling. We choose the right people to be in the wedding and our family plays a prominent role. The groom tends to be very agreeable to whatever the bride wants and everyone works to support them. We practice before the big day to make sure everyone knows their role. We pray that everything will come off perfectly. The ceremony is centered around love and God’s word. There are many people doing many different duties to make sure everything works perfectly. So many hours and so much energy goes into making that day the best that it can be. Months of preparation culminate into a 30 minute ceremony that seems to pass in seconds and then we are married. We soon find our marriage does not match our wedding and we wonder what happened.

Real Marriages

For all of the effort that goes into the wedding day, that same effort begins to wane after we get married. Instead of looking for the best, we just get by. Instead of being agreeable, we start to want our way. Instead of spiritual things being at the center of everything it gets moved to the borders of our life. We avoid counseling and often resist the help of friends and family who want us to succeed. Instead of making sure our lives are filled with just the right people we allow less than positive influences into our lives. We make decisions independently and don’t take time to run through the process first with those who are involved. We spend hours on our jobs, our hobbies, parenting and a myriad of other things while our marriage gets the leftover time that we have. Then we wonder why our marriage is not the fairytale that our wedding was. It is because we do almost everything opposite in our marriage as we did for our wedding.

If we could carry over the effort, energy, planning and preparation to our marriage that we have for our wedding, we might find that our marriage looked more like the fairytale that we desired. As a matter of fact, I would encourage couples to be intentional about making their marriage great and accept a wedding that is less than perfect if necessary. The wedding lasts for moments. We want the marriage to last a lifetime.

Why Am I Not Successful?

One thing is for certain, everyone wants to be successful. Every single person wants to feel like they have accomplished something significant with their life. We want to feel like we are living with purpose and achieving the things we were designed to do.

Most people do experience many successes in their lives, however, they would tell you they are not successful. If you asked them why they did not feel successful, you would probably not get a very clear answer. Some of that is because we don’t want to be arrogant or assuming. But there are several more reasons why people feel like they are not a success. Here are three common reasons why people feel unsuccessful.

We Have a Limited View of Success

Culture often dictates what we view as success. Much of what culture views as success is centered around money, power and sexuality. If we have achieved what we consider to be a lot of money or a lot of influence or we are noticed for the way we look, we feel like we are successful. The problem is these three areas are so limited. Certainly there is value in having resources, influence and being desired (at least by our spouse), but they are not the only measures of success. Living healthy is success. Having a good marriage is success. Having peace in our life is success. Living out our purpose is success. I have seen people make plenty of money but lose their family only to realize the money was not a good measure of success. Success involves so many things and often power, money and sexuality play only a very small role in it. Broadening our view of success will help us to see the areas where we are successful.

We Have Not Defined Success

Even when we are sure of the areas of life that we consider to be important for our personal success we may not have defined what success looks like in that area. We struggle with two words: “more” and “enough”. If money is our measure of success, what is enough? There seems to be the pull to always want more. If power is our measure of success, what is enough? We have some confidence with how we look, but want to look better. Our marriage or children are never good enough. I am not talking about personal growth or continual improvement. These should always be a part of our lives. What does success actually look like? Have you given yourself a clear definition of what success looks like? Or are you chasing some fuzzy goal that you can never seem to achieve? Do you constantly say “One day I will get there”, only to have no idea where “there” is? Defining success for our lives will relieve some pressure, give us direction and help us know how we are honestly doing.

We Are Measuring By Someone Else

One of our struggles is that we compare our lives to someone else’s and then don’t feel like we have accomplished all that they have. They may or may not be successful, but their definition of success may also be different than yours. One of the magnifiers of this problem in our culture is social media. We view everyone’s highlight reel while living out our entire movie. Based on those comparisons, we think we are not doing as good as they are. Have you ever seen a movie preview and thought that it would be a great movie only to find out when you watched the whole movie that all of the good parts were in the trailer? If you saw everyone else’s entire movie, you would feel better about your own. Live by your own definition of success and don’t allow comparison to trap you.

All of us can be successful. When we have a correct, defined view of success in our lives we will feel better about our own situations. Live out your own life of success, not what someone else has decided success is for you.

5 Ideas for Overcoming Jealousy

There are a number of emotions that can creep in and test us. Things like an anger, selfishness, fear, hopelessness, insecurity and arrogance are just a few. One of the most dangerous emotions we can experience is jealousy. Jealousy usually involves personal relationships which makes our response even more critical. The Bible addresses jealousy in Proverbs like this, “Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.” (Proverbs 27:4 NLT). Jealousy is more dangerous than anger and wrath.

When we are struggling with jealousy, we cannot seem to think about anything else other than the object of that jealousy. Those thoughts consume every idle moment we have. We typically don’t want this to be the case, but can’t seem to find a way out. Here are some helpful suggestions for the times when we find yourself trapped by jealousy.

Know Who You Are
One of the struggles with jealousy is that we are not confident in who we are. We are aware of our own flaws and shortcomings yet only see everyone else’s highlight reel. Comparison is dangerous. Most people are a little too hard on themselves and struggle with overall self confidence. This is not true for everyone, but most people try to avoid being arrogant which will often cause them to avoid confidence. Everyone is a 10 at something. We cannot be like everyone else, but we can live with confidence in the talents and abilities that we already have.

Shift Your Focus

One of the problems with jealousy is that we are often looking at the wrong thing. We focus on what we feel as a slight or a mistreatment when we could be focusing on what good things we have or what good things may be happening. We may be focusing on one small event, conversation or action and not taking the entire picture into account. As the old saying goes, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Improve Who You Are

There may be times when we have a deficiency that is creating the tension that leads to jealousy. We truly may need to step up and raise the bar in our own life. This may be taking a course, practicing our trade or getting assistance from someone who is ahead of us. Personal growth should always be a part of our life, but sometimes it requires intentional focus on a particular area to help us escape the jealousy trap.

Practice Trust

Sometimes you have to trust people even when they have not earned it. It is easy to trust those who have earned it, however, those people are usually not the object of our jealousy. How would your situation change or look differently if you gave someone the benefit of the doubt? What if you chose to believe them even when it was difficult? I do not mean we should place ourselves in harm’s way, but we can put trusting others into practice everyday. As we do, trust grows and jealousy wanes.

Be Generous

Selfishness is a sign and usually a precursor to jealousy. We are only thinking about how we feel in a particular situation. Practicing generosity is one of the greatest cures to selfishness and jealousy. One of the best ways to be generous is in our praise of others who are getting what it is we want. Cheering the blessings in other’s lives helps us overcome jealousy as effectively as anything we can do.

We all struggle at times with jealousy. Knowing how to overcome it effectively will allow us to quickly move on and not find ourselves in a situation we regret. Jealousy is dangerous. Don’t allow it to linger.

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.