Saturday, August 16, 2014


Conversations are Key to Relationships

Conversations between human beings whether they are face to face or social media are valuable for creating a bridge.  A bridge allows two separate people to come together and maybe create something simple or something sensational all because they communicated.  The number seven in biblical numerology has to do with completeness and perfection, but that is not the case here.  There are a lot more than 7, but getting through seven is probably enough for the time being.  Let’s see.

Number 1: Maintain a Healthy Heart

Physically, of course, that is really helpful for conversation unless it is conversation with a cardiologist.  For this process it is the inner person, the essential operational soul of the individual.  The real you and me.  We are bodies with spirits we are spirit beings with temporary bods.  Maintain a healthy heart right down in the core.  Jesus said it this way:
A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45 (NLT)
Conversations come out of our mouths and sometimes our brains are engaged in them as well, but Jesus says the heart is the source of what you and I say.  Think about it.  Sometimes that would be good and hmmm…sometimes not so much.  It would be key to keep a healthy heart so that what comes out is good.  How can that be done? 
David in Psalm 19:14 offers some help with that. 
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
The person who keeps God first and seeks to think on and about those things that please God will alter their heart from evil to good.  That kind of meditation effects the words of the mouth because they are flowing from what is in the heart. 
Starting with a healthy heart and good words conversations can begin to build in a whole new way. 

Number 2: Build on Blessings

Beginning with a healthy heart the approach to other people can be quite different.  Jesus challenges His followers with this statement:  Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Luke 6:28 (HCSB) 
We are not equipped naturally to do that.  It takes a supernatural infusion of the Spirit of God to accomplish such a thing.  That is what is happening in our healthy hearts.  We can with God’s enablement bless those who curse us.  It is better than the rotten attitude we often run around with that is filled with contempt and a readiness to snap at others.  Let it go.  The wisdom of Solomon says it is a bad deal to show contempt, and if you aren’t quite ready to bless at least keep quiet. 
Whoever shows contempt for his neighbor lacks sense, but a man with understanding keeps silent.
Proverbs 11:12 (HCSB)
Beginning with a healthy heart and an attitude tuned to bless rather than curse we are moving forward in building conversation. 

Number 3:  Establish Limits

Limits to good things is good.  Enjoying the sun is great, but too much sun and you get burned.  There is a time to say, “Enough said.”  Jesus knew His disciples needed what He had to say, but was wise and loving enough to stop talking.  He told them they couldn’t handle it all right then so they would get more later.  What about us?  Sometimes we just keep on talking.  What is the problem with that?  According to Proverbs it can lead to sin.  Sin is taking a turn, getting off track, missing the target, keeping God out and it doesn’t help build bridges.  The solution seems to establish limits. 
Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. Proverbs 10:19
A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Proverbs 17:27 (NLT)
It may require practice for those who use a lot of words.  They may have to practice being focused on the reason for the conversation and the good it will bring the other person.  It may require a set limit of 2 paragraphs worth of information.  Having a set limit forces conscious thought as to the point and how to make it. 

Number 4: Spotlight the Other Person

This is far from being a new idea.  But it is worth revisiting.  A famous passage on love in 1 Corinthians is surrounded on both sides by Paul dealing with spiritual realities and human relationships.  If you will allow me some latitude in a Bible study let’s look at 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul deals with tongues and prophecy. 
First, it is noted that “A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally” (v. 4).  Let us look at the tongues speaker not in a spiritual gift sense but just as a person in a conversation who is talking about their interests, activities and thoughts.  That person is strengthened personally, but there isn’t much love of the other person in that.  By comparison in verse 4 there is the one who speaks a word of prophecy and strengthens the whole group. The “prophecy” is not telling the future, but according to verse 3 does this: But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them. That is part of spotlighting the other person.  In my conversation I have the opportunity to focus on me or how to strengthen, encourage and comfort others.  Proverbs points us away from ourselves in our conversation. 
Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth— a stranger, not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2 (NLT)
For people who are at ease in conversation and those who are not it is good to spotlight the other person.  Engaging another human being in conversation may be the very thing God desires you to do at that time.  Here are some starters to consider. 
Ask them about their hobbies or a book they’ve read or a movie they like.  Try to find common ground.  You might ask their advice on something or offer a recommendation on a restaurant or ask them for one.  Find something to complement.  Enter into their world with confidence, honesty and real interest. 
Watch what happens when you practice spotlight the other person. 

Number 5: Manage a Magnetic Field

Magnets are made up of positive and negative fields.  Put one way two magnets brought together will push one another apart.  Turned around the two magnets attract and have a bond.  Each of us have to manage a magnetic field so that we do more bonding and less repelling. 
Try this one on to see how it works. 
Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9 (NLT)

Forgiveness brings a bond.  The person who is holding on to something someone did to them repels.  Dwelling on the failure and repeating it over and over again breaks down closeness.  Have you ever been in a heated discussion and somehow the current situation opens the door to all the hurts you have ever caused and all the failures you have brought into the relationship since day one?  Yeah, that separates close friends.  Managing the magnetic field means turning that around.  Bonding not repelling. 
Another way to repel and not bond is to assume things without really listening to what is really going on. 
Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. Proverbs 18:13 (NLT)
Here is another common area that needs to be turned around. 
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Proverbs 15:1
Operating in the flesh and pouring out anger is an all American thing to do.  It is applauded among many and shows spirit.  It also repels.  In a conversation few bridges are built with parties being repelled.  A gentle answer takes anger in a whole new direction and bonding is possible.  A whole lot more can be accomplished without tempers flaring than with them. 
Managing a magnetic field helps build conversations. 

Number 6: Survey the Landscape

If you are walking across a cactus infested desert you want more than flip flops and shorts.  If you are on Miami Beach you don’t want to be wrapped in a parka.  Knowing the scene helps. 
In a conversation it is important to know the setting, the need, the goal, the person, the time.  If done right the very words you speak may bring life to another person and at the same time please God. 
Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances. Proverbs 25:11 (NASB)
Even a great steak served out of a trash can leaves a lot to be desired.  But served with the right settings it is magnificent.  And so are the words properly spoken in a conversation.  They are beautiful. 
Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time! Proverbs 15:23 (NLT)
With a little effort thinking up times when I have said the wrong thing can be brought to mind and the same yuk emotions come with them.  But saying the right thing at the right time…how great. 
Having surveyed the landscape in a conversation you will have an idea of how to move it forward.  And you can do so in a loving and powerful way by asking follow up questions. 
Often the default method is to have the other person serve like a tennis ball from their side of the court.  It may be a statement or a story about their life.  The story is served and the person on the other side waits then grabs the ball and runs with it without returning it back to the other side of the net.  Hogging the ball isn’t good form and neither is stealing the story or hogging the conversation. 
To change the default practice asking follow up questions.  Determine not to steal the ball, but to enjoy the volley and build up the relationship.  Set a minimum of three questions for follow up.  Focus on your follow up questions and not on your own life story to bounce back with.  Don’t stop asking questions until you have gone three deep.  Listen to each response and build on it.  Don’t rush past or hurry to something that focuses on you. 
Surveying the landscape in your conversations will build deeper and wider. 

Number 7: Speak with Wisdom

People are broken.  All over the world broken people lash out in brokenness at others and break some more.  It seems healing would be better than brokenness.  The words of the wise bring healing. 
Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing. Proverbs 12:18 (NLT)
Consider how to bring healing into the lives of the people you have the privilege of sharing air with on this planet.  Your words.  Use them.  Use them to bring healing.  In contrast to the “I told that guy!” or “I straightened her out!” approach God has another plan.  His plan is good for the soul and the body.
Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Proverbs 16:24 (NLT)
Consider the words you have enjoyed receiving.  Some words are just noise, but there are some that are just right and they penetrate and invigorate.  As you look for things to say, speak kind words like honey. 

7 Incredible Biblical Conversation Builders

That’s it.  Something to chew on.  May our conversations bless the socks off those we come in contact with from this day forward. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Staying Focused


In the 2009 movie “Up” there is a character by the name of Dug.  Dug is a loveable dog.  And he is loyal, friendly and SQUIRREL!  And he is…ummm.  For Dug squirrels got his attention.  It was hard staying focused.  Anyone else have any difficulty staying SQUIRREL!  focused? 

Spirit Empowered

In a world of many shiny things and SQUIRRELS staying focused can be challenging. God thought that might be the case and sent help by way of the Holy Spirit.  In an amazing list in Galatians 5 that begins with love there are characteristics or fruit that result from a relationship with God and the last in the list is self-control.  In a world of distractions and battling priorities there is the Spirit empowered self-control.  

Remember Jesus’ words “Seek first His kingdom and His” SQUIRREL! “righteousness?”  For God’s people walking in God’s way with God’s Spirit staying focused can really happen.  Keeping the main thing the main thing is possible. 


Among the great SQUIRRELS of our lives are health and wealth and home and work and comfort and affirmation and success.  We can be on a spiritual high and something comes along to rock our world and SQUIRREL! We are off in a tirade or a meltdown or a flare up or a letdown or a…you know.  

Look at these words from an Old Testament prophet:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!  Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT) 

At a time when the people had turned away from God and the invaders were coming threatening economic collapse and life threatening hardships and possibly even captivity or death the prophet took a look at it all and came to the conclusion you just read.  

What about my life today though?  The doctor just came back with a bad report.  The pressure from the job I am working keeps me up at night.  The car won’t start.  The government is taking away and not giving much back.  The people in my family just don’t understand me.  The guy in the Red Ford truck just cut me off in traffic.  SQUIRREL! SQUIRREL! SQUIRREL!

As the Prophet Habakkuk declares it is in God that real life exists and will continue to exist.  Even when the worst of the worst happens the prophet stays focused.  Habakkuk refers to God as “the God of my salvation.”  Salvation?  The bottom is about to fall out in his life and all around him and he thinks God has saved him.  How deluded Habakkuk must be.  Unless he knows something we need to know.  That salvation is more than deliverance from awful times or even just from hell.  Salvation is so grand it carries a person above the pain and suffering of the tough times of life.  It is wrapped up in a vivid and viable life with God right now right here undistracted by the SQUIRREL! things that would keep us down.   Catapulted to the heights no matter the depths of darkness around the man or woman of God can be joyful and enjoy God’s salvation day in and day out.  

Again, from the prophet:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!