The Communication Gap

Today, we live in a world that is infinitely connected, yet farther away from one another than ever before. I have missionary friends in India that I can video-chat with via a variety of platforms, yet we find it difficult to communicate honestly, heart-sensitive issues with close friends, family, or coworkers, in a face-to-face, interpersonal setting.

Why is that?

It seems the majority of my peers would rather text than talk on the phone. Enduring the occasional ‘awkward’ silence and carrying on a conversation have become complex, laborious tasks that we would much rather avoid, if at all possible. And if we have to endure such a hardship, they better by golly know that we love them.

This mindset baffles me. There are many reasons behind the veil of communicative safety that we place ourselves behind, and I get it, to some degree. As an apt conversationalist, with a primarily extroverted personality, it is much easier for me to talk to anyone I want to, and much more difficult for others. I’m aware of that. I’m also aware of the ways in which I will often attempt to separate myself from any concrete connection to the words I speak, for fear they will not be fully accepted, or taken seriously. An example of this would be discounting a rather bold statement with nervous laughter afterward, or saying something along the lines of, “that’s JUST my opinion, anyways.”

Is this an acceptable and healthy way for us to live and interact with one another?

I argue that, “No, it is not.” There is nothing safe about trapping all of your innermost worries, burdens, desires, aspirations, dreams, crushes, and the like. Precautions should be taken to protect your heart. Absolutely. However, I believe that we are in an era that must call the twentysomethings and older to a higher standard of boldness in communication. After all, we are adults, and there is no reason to behave as passive-aggressive children anymore.

So, how do we bridge this communication gap that permeates the deepest levels of our culture?

If I were to have to choose between a bite-your-lip-and-keep-it-all-in communication style or a just-say-it mentality, I would choose to just-say-it, every time. Sure, it’s messy. Sure, you’ll say something stupid. Sure, someone might get hurt. Yes, you’ll make mistakes. But guess what? You’ll be living! You’ll have actual, meaningful relationships with actual, real people that probably actually care about you, because they’re still taking the time to talk to you, aren’t they? And we’ve already discussed just how difficult that is.

A just-say-it culture would be entirely different from the passive communicative setting we currently have ourselves used to. It would call for men to honestly state their feelings in relationships with the opposite-sex; it would require a bolder scope of dialogue; it would mean a lot more communicating, and a reciprocal level of increased community. Suddenly, an increasingly isolated, lonely, confused generation would be pressed closer together, because they’d be going deeper with one another.

I don’t think people should be so afraid to be themselves. One of America’s most revered freedoms is the ability to express oneself through the freedom of speech. Are we really free if constantly pressured to avoid entire honesty due to exterior pressures like the government or interior pressures like family, the church, and work? I’m an advocate of being yourself. Opposition to this idea would say that this encourages bad-behavior through word and deed, because that sort of freedom can lead to rebellion. My counterargument is simply that people will always do what they want to do; I simply think it is time we say what we want to say, and learn to productively, lovingly, and humbly deal with the consequences. Whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’, at least we will be brave, rather than cowardice, living rather than dead, and in communication rather than isolation.

But, these are “just my thoughts” (remember what I said earlier?), what are yours?

Brief Thoughts on Loneliness

satan wants us to believe we are alone – we’re not. If anything, Christ is always with us – we simply ignore Him far too often.

The (sometimes) lonely state-of-the-church is caused by a host of factors – one of them being it’s ‘safer’ to gridlock our hearts – or so we think. Our pride prefers not to be subject to spiritual authority, our sinful hearts prefer not to be exposed, and our impatience prefers not to invest in relationships that have the potential to fail (because so many others have) and that take time to cultivate.

We NEED each other, though, and as much as our egos hate the idea of dependency upon another, or even upon God, we must grapple with that reality, bury our pride in the grave, and truly dig into Christ and community.

Jesus called 12 Disciples together, not one. You can’t “cowboy”, or “lone-ranger” your way thru Christianity. You can try, but it’s not the real deal – it’s not “The Church”.

Real church is real people really digging into each other’s lives and hearts – that means conquering the messy sides of people (their pasts, their current sin-struggles, their broken/confused hearts, etc.), bringing it to God, and letting Him heal! And doing it all with joy found in Christ and hope only found in the promise of an eternal Kingdom that is to come – free from suffering.

Outside, Looking In: A Short-Story

He was at it again. The crazy street-preacher simply couldn’t keep his mouth shut. “The fire of Hell will rain down on you! REPENT! REPENT!” he shouted. A few interested onlookers watched as his “message” continued, while I managed to squeeze myself through the throngs of people in the city square. Rush-hour it was, and on time as usual, was the man who couldn’t stop preaching.

What was it that drove him to proclaim so boldly what he thought to be truth? Christianity was one of those things that was difficult to understand; so many versions, so many rules that could either bend, snap, or vanquish altogether. Heck, from the conversations he had managed with a few of his “believing” friends, it sounded like they didn’t even know what they were talking about.

What were they talking about?

It stumped his mind for hours. The endless tweets and status-updates about righteous living, conferences every so often that they would come back from “on fire for the LORD” only to fizzle out a few days later to be found in their same old hypocritical habits. At least he stood for what he stood for; the 3 G’s; Girls, Guns, and Grub. The women he slept with, or attempted to anyways, the guns he shot, and the food he ate made up who he was, in his eyes.

From a young age, he had heard his Mom say, “you are what you eat, which was true for Alex, a doughy, full-bodied young lad, who just so happened to eat a lot of pizza and drink a lot of beer. His nickname was “The Tank” and everyone in the neighborhood would cheer him on at the local bar during chugging-contests, because the kid could PUT. IT. AWAY. Goodnight to anyone who tried to beat him at his favorite sport, drinking.

Walking home now, Alex came up to the spot on the hill where the local church was gathering for “First Fridays”, the Friday evening Bible Study where young Christians spent the first Friday of every month together reading Scripture and praying. But who on Earth went to church on Friday night? Didn’t they know that was for Sundays and the rest of the week was for living, especially Friday night!

Tonight was different, though, he had nowhere to be. No parties to attend, girls to seduce, or movie to watch in his ‘bachelor-pad’ apartment. And curiosity was getting the best of him.

Sitting down at a bench across the street from the church, he sat down to people-watch. Outside, looking in, he had the perfect vantage point.

One thing was certain, the girls were sure cute, for Christians. What does that even mean, he thought to himself, surprised at his own confused thinking. For Christians? Alright, they were attractive, period.

But what made them so special? What was it about the men within this church that kept them at least attempting to seek out purity and mentor relationships, or what did they call it–discipleship?

The service was obviously about to start, as the line of people entering was dwindling down and the doors were about to close. Contemplating his options for the evening, he realized it couldn’t hurt to at least check into this so-called, “community”, and to see what they were truly all about. Rising up from the bench and taking the few awkward steps across the street toward the greeters, Alex made his way into the church…

What would Alex (a fictional-character, by the way) have been invited into if it had been your church? How welcoming are you to outsiders? It’s incredibly easy to become wrapped up in the communities we already have. Sometimes, an opportunity to reach out to an outsider is at hand, and we just have absolutely no idea. I sure hope that Alex would not have been ignored, no matter how many questions, or how much “baggage” he may have brought into the situation. Because let’s be honest, you were Alex at one point, in your own way, and so was I.

In the same light, what if the story goes differently, as it often does, and Alex decides to continue onward in life without ever visiting a church? What are you, The Church, doing to reach out to him, meet him where he’s at, and let him know that he is undoubtedly loved, despite [insert everything here]…?

Consider this a simple reminder for you, for me, for everyone to continually seek out way to be others-oriented in the way we “do ministry”. Dealing with personal struggles is certainly important, but please do not forget the outsider, the foreigner, the stranger. One day it was you and one day it may very well be you again. Be gracious, inviting, and loving hosts.

Empowerment

Self-help books are a prominent part of the American culture. I wish that I could cynically make fun of them to the degree that I would like to at times, but I cannot deny my occasionally glancing into one at the bookstore. Titles such as, “How to Lose 20 lbs in 2 weeks” (I’m making up the title) grab the attention of the generally overweight American population quickly; I’d be among the ranks of individuals that would love a quick-fix to an issue that likely has deeper roots than that. So, where am I going with this? (Excellent question!)

I’d like to give you a brief two-part lesson on what the LORD has been teaching me over the past few weeks…

Part 1

Arguably, we should not attempt to fix ourselves by ourselves. We desperately need community with other Christians. Particularly for men in the Western hemisphere, it is seen as particularly unmanly to be in need of help, or to admit shortcomings in such a way that place us in a reliant state. Obviously, men should seek to become independent and able to lead a woman and family, according to the LORD’s will. But when it comes to matters of the heart, sin, lifestyle, and the general pursuit of holiness; there is no way to obtain it without admitting our need for help from other brothers in Christ to come alongside us in our pursuit of the Father.

Running is not my forte. But I’ve trained before. The reality is that you can run a lot further, longer, faster, and harder routes when you have someone running alongside you. You have the comfort of knowing someone else is enduring and overcoming with you. You are not alone.

Part 2

You are what you claim to be. Identifying yourself with a certain negative characteristic is paramount to giving the enemy control of that area of your life. Essentially, you are giving Satan permission to continue taunting you, pointing out your every flaw, leaving you in a state of hopelessness that will continue to persist until you call out the lies. Allow me to further illustrate this by giving an example from my personal life. A deep calling that I have felt placed upon my life is to be a confident and competent leader. Many have assured me of my competence, which is certainly appreciated, but what they cannot affirm for me is my own confidence (that is pretty much my end of the bargain to uphold). Why is this an issue? Well, I begin to use statements like, “I’m just not a confident guy”, “I cannot see myself being good enough in this position of leadership”, etc. While I may feel a general lack of confidence at the time, making such a declaration, as “I am not confident”, leads to solidifying that truth in my heart and perpetuating the effects of that becoming a reality.

Application

What is the lie that lies within your heart currently? Is it that you are not good enough? Is it that you are not beautiful/desirable? Is it that you cannot overcome [insert any and every obstacle here]? Friends, you may feel this way currently but that does not mean that is your identify. Refuse to identify with such a negative construct of reality. You are so much more than you realize and you are certainly not a failure. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 37-39, bold lettering mine) 

Now that you know who you are (more than conquerors), it is time to place such thoughts into action. The issue here will lie in your nature tendency to believe what you have always been taught; that you can do it on your own. “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is something you may have heard your grandfather say and while you should certainly not sit idle, you will need others. It is prideful for one to think they can live out their faith without the help of other brothers and sisters in the faith coming alongside them and lifting them up in their times of need from time-to-time. That reality plays a role in their lives as well and if you are willing to admit your need, then they will be much more likely to feel comfortable admitting their heartbreaks and needs as well, leading to a deeply intertwined and Christ-centered community forming that can truly call itself The Church and make a monumental impact in each other’s lives and among those that witness their faiths. 

In conclusion, you are not to walk out your faith alone. Community is absolutely critical and being reminded of this truth is just as important. We are a forgetful people. In the same regard, you are what you claim to be. You choose what reality becomes empowered; discontinue agreeing with the lies and replace it with truth from Scripture. Therefore, I am not a man lacking confidence. That is not who I am. I am a confident and competent man, created by the LORD to impact the lives of others via exhortation, encouragement, prayer, and writing/speaking in ways that reveal a transparent heart, willing to disclose all, that others may meet the King.

Who are you? You are now empowered by truth. Walk into it.

Where Is the Life Change?

Chances are that if you walk into a coffee shop, grocery store, café, music hall, school, or even a local church, 80% of those people or more will claim to be Christians. If you were to take a survey and ask each of them, they would claim that they were saved. By doing so, they would be claiming that they are followers of Christ. After all…it’s in the name….CHRIST-ian. My question is does that 80% of the American world really know who Jesus is? Besides the stories you’ve grown up hearing in Sunday School about the cute and cuddly baby Jesus, or the Jesus shepherding the fluffy sheep, and inviting the kids to come and sit with him, do they REALLY know who Jesus is? Do they KNOW who their Lord is? Do people even understand the weight of Jesus Christ being Lord?

In medieval times the title “Lord” was given to individuals who typically owned a large amount of land and had a particular amount of power. They would provide the citizens of that community with protection and the resources necessary to stay alive and in return the citizens would pledge their loyalty to the Lord and serve him in every way required of them. So is Jesus Christ REALLY the Lord of your life?

So back to who Jesus is….not only is He the Lord, but he’s THE Savior! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came down into the world and took on the human form. He lived in the same body that you and I live in and experienced the world in which we live in. He faced temptations, felt pain, tasted fruit, breathed the air, spat into the dust, and loved. The incredible part about the story though…is that unlike EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US, Jesus Christ of Nazareth NEVER sinned. Not once did he break one of the 10 Commandments. Not once did he waiver from the will of His father. He lived a perfect life for 33 years and in the end was flogged, nailed to a cross, was crucified, died, and was BURIED for YOU!!! His flesh was torn apart because I sinned. He winced in pain as whips lashed his back because you live a life of sexual immorality.

The crazier part…He ROSE FROM THE DEAD three days later, conquering death, so that we, the sinners, the ones that deserve NOTHING short of death can be saved and can have the opportunity to enter into a relationship with Him.

Which brings me back to that social gathering place where 80% of those there will claim to follow this Man, this God, this Lord, Savior, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. How can they claim to know Jesus Christ and then continue living their lives in the same ways that they always have? Why is it that there have been times in my personal life where I’ve gone to youth group and then that VERY SAME afternoon logged online and started viewing pornography, making me guilty of adultery, directly disobeying the Lord. Maybe sexual immorality isn’t your stumbling block….maybe it’s anger. Or maybe you’re prideful and refuse to be humbled, maybe you’re selfish. But my question once again is HOW can you claim to KNOW GOD and NOT live a changed life?

Galations 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of Man, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

I spent hours this summer thinking about this verse and examining my own heart and relationship with Christ. I asked myself, “Do I wake up everyday and decide to die to who I want to be and who I am, so that Jesus Christ can live in me? Does the life that I live reflect who Jesus was and is? And most importantly am I living by faith? Do I BELIEVE that God can do HUMONGOUS things and change the world through ordinary, imperfect people like myself?”

Here’s THE CHALLENGE: Chances are that YOU are in that 80%….chances are that you have claimed to know Christ. Please, I beg you, examine your heart and ask yourself the same questions. Can you look back on your life and pinpoint the moment where you decided to TURN from the ways of this world and TRUST in the Lord, therefore SURRENDERING your life to Him?

James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

My hope and prayer is that you will choose to make the decision to turn from the ways of this world and trust in the Lord and then you will begin to apply Scripture to your daily life, making you CHRIST-like! Isn’t that what it’s about anyways? Having a personal relationship with Christ and becoming more and more like Him as your personal relationship becomes more intimate. Similar to how you pick up some of the mannerisms, catch phrases, and other various characteristics of your close friends…

I’ll leave you with this…Paul Washer often says to “new believers” this…”Do you have a new relationship with sin? Because if you have a new relationship with Christ, you better have a new relationship with sin!” Meditate on those words and by the Grace of God may you die to yourself and LIVE in Christ’s name! I will be praying over every single person that is to come across and read this.