Two Essential Truths for a Fulfilling Life, Part 2

I have found that many of the relationship problems I face relate in some way to incorrect or incomplete communication. I do not say what I need to say, or when I say what I am thinking I say it unkindly. When someone else speaks to me I do not hear them clearly or I assume what they mean rather than truly understanding them.

Communication is key. As John Mayer says, “Say what you need to say.”

So why do we fall short in this area so often? If we know what the problem is, why can’t we fix it?

The Core of the Matter

Ever since Adam and Eve sinned the first time we have been born flawed. We are sinners, without hope on our own. As God says in Isaiah 53:6, “We have turned—every one—to his own way.”

We mean well. When we see a problem we dig in to fix it. We read books, talk to counselors, journal, change what we say, talk more and listen harder.

Sometimes we see improvement. If we do it is usually short lived; then we return to a version of who we were all along.

We cannot make these kinds of changes on our own. We need Gospel, good news, that only Christ can give us, but we still try to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” We are Americans. We are self-made people, or so we think.

True Change

If we cannot effectively change ourselves, how do we change?

  1. Accept Christ’s solution. Christ suffered, died and rose to break the sin-curse. The sinless Son of God died for our sin and rose to break the power of sin. You must first surrender your life to him in order to break the chokehold of sin.
  2. Accept Christ’s love. You need to realize that God loves you just as you are, in all your faults and sin. You do not need to change to be loved.
  3. Accept responsibility. Confess to God and to whomever else has been affected your failure and struggle to communicate or listen well. Own your part of the problem.
  4. Accept help. Ask God to change you, then read the books, visit the counselor, journal, and have someone keep you accountable. The difference is that you realize God has to change you at your core in order for the change to be permanent. You are doing what you know to do, but God is doing the heart work to make your work stick.
  5. Rinse and repeat.

You are still a flawed human being and you will make mistakes, so you will have to do this process repeatedly. You will sin again because you are not perfect, but you can know you are loved and that God is working in you and that God will ultimately make you perfect when he returns.

We, as believers, have hope. We can truly learn to “Say what we need to say,” with God’s help.

Are you still trying to change yourself, or have you asked Christ to change your heart?

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Music Preference in Worship: Name It and Claim It

Recently I wrote a post on musical style and the response was astounding. In almost two years of blogging that post received the most hits. Why is that? Why is style such a hot topic in worship?

The answer is an often-reviled word: preference. 

The word “preference” is often spat out rather than spoken. In arguments “their” preferences are pitted against “my” preferences, “they” get preferential treatment, and so on and so forth.

Preference is getting a bad rap. The truth is, we all have preferences, and that is a God-given gift.

Think about it. If Adam had not had preferences, how would he have named all of the animals?

God: “Adam, go name the animals.”

Adam: “Nah. I want to lay out and catch some rays. You go name the animals. I don’t care.”

Really? Take a moment and name all of the animals you can remember. Listen to the incredible diversity of sounds coming from the different names. Listen to how each name describes the animal owning that name.

Then God created Eve and Adam immediately gave her a name, as he had done for every other creature on earth.

Adam cared, and he had preferences from the beginning. You and I also have preferences.

Here are some of mine:

  • I prefer to live to eat rather than eat to live.
  • I prefer to stay up late.
  • I prefer contemporary and modern art over representational art.
  • I prefer Betthoven and Prokofiev over Bach and Mozart.
  • I prefer steak that is medium to medium rare.
  • I prefer congregational songs with ranges from c-d1.
  • I prefer U2, Coldplay, and Norah Jones.
  • I prefer worship services brimming with art, media, music, and stories.

Does this mean I limit myself to these preferences? Absolutely not. I limit my eating, try to get to bed at a reasonable time, listen to many styles of music, eat meat as long as it isn’t crawling off my plate, and enjoy leading worship and visiting churches even when very little art is present in worship

What are your preferences?

Every human being has preferences, and the sooner we become comfortable with our preferences the sooner we can move on to more meaningful discussions.

Discussions such as:

  • Who has God called us to be as people and as a church?
  • What is my role in this church?
  • What is my role in the world?
  • How can I reach the next generation?
  • How can I love the older generations?
  • What can I set aside in deference to my younger or older brother or sister in Christ?

The evil one likes to take the very things God has given us for our good and turn them against us. Instead of letting the evil one get the best of us, let’s reclaim preference for the beautiful description of individuality God meant it to be. Let’s not use preference as a weapon.

List some of your preferences below. Keep the language factual and not argumentative.