Proven Ways to Get Along Better With Anyone

This advice originally appeared in the 1993 Fall Lutheran Digest. It’s worth repeating.

  1. Before you say anything about anyone, ask yourself these things: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
  2. Make promises sparingly and keep them faithfully.
  3. Never miss the opportunity to compliment or to say something encouraging to someone.
  4. Refuse to talk negatively about others; don’t gossip and don’t listen to gossip.
  5. Have a forgiving view of people. Believe that most people are doing the best that they can.
  6. Keep an open mind; discuss, but don’t argue. (It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable)
  7. Forget about counting to ten. Count to 1,000 before doing or saying anything that could make matters worse.
  8. Let your virtues speak for themselves.
  9. If someone criticizes you, see if there is any truth in what they are saying; if so, make changes. If there is no truth to the criticism, ignore it and live so that no one will believe the negative remark.
  10. Cultivate your sense of humor; laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
  11. Do not seek so much to be consoled as to console; do not seek to be understood, as to understand; do not seek so much to be loved, as to love

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 (my addition!)

For more about conflict resolution see:

Christ-Centered Conflict Resolution by Tony Merida–Book Review

If God is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk by John Pavlovitz–Book Review

Who Made me a Judge or Arbitrator Over You?

The End of All Things

I’ve been reading through the book of 1 Peter slowly, pausing to contemplate the verse or phrase that jumps out at me in each section. I’m up to Chapter 4, and what strikes home with me is this:

:”The end of all things is at hand...” 1 Peter 4:7

At the time this was written, many Christians thought that Jesus could return very soon, maybe even during their life time. Of course, this didn’t happen. Most Lutherans believe that we are in the end times now, a period which began when Christ ascended. We don’t know when the final end of things will come — it could be any minute, or it could be a thousand years from now. Our time is not God’s time.

For me personally, this phrase has a different meaning — I’m over 70 now and according to Psalm 90:

“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” Psalm 90:10

Realistically, the end of all thing things for me is near. Modern medicine has pushed our life expectancy up a bit, but not that much. Both my husband and I lost younger brothers this year — our generation is now the one that is dying off.

Now, I could find this depressing, but I don’t. I look back on my life with satisfaction and gratitude for the things I’ve accomplished, and the friends and family I’ve known. I am looking forward to seeing people who have gone before me again; I certainly yearn for that time when aches and pains, anxiety and grief, all the “toil and trouble” of life are removed. Suffering hold fear for me, but not death. It will lead to a new and better way of life.

Peter has some advice for those of us nearing the end (and really that’s everyone because life could end any minute, not matter what our age). Here’s what you and I should be doing:

*Be self-controlled and sober-minded — life is serious business

*Love one another– so much quarreling and tension will be removed this way

*Show hospitality without grumbling — everyone needs some help and understanding now and then

*Serve each other, using our gifts for the good of mankind –leave the world a little better than you found it

It’s simple, really, but important. Your time is precious. Don’t waste it — the end is near.

For more about death see:

Martin Luther on God’s Victory Over Death

death is but a dream by Christopher Kerr, MD—Book review

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Death

Growing Up, Part 5

Learning about my spiritual gifts helped a lot, but I wasn’t grown up yet. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us:

Each one of you has received a special grace, so like good stewards responsible for all these different graces from God, put yourselves at the service of others.”

I began to seek out ways to use the talents God had given me. This sometimes meant taking a risk, but as a Christian friend once told me, “if you’re going to try something new, do it at church. If you fail, they’ll still love you!” One of the first things I did after taking the spiritual gifts class was start to write Vacation Bible School programs for our church. That was a big risk, because in addition to the skills I had, it required some of the ones I didn’t — crafts and organization. But you know what? I found other people to help me with those. That’s one of the wonderful things I’ve learned about being part of a church family, there are many people who will encourage you and help you when you step out and try to do the things God calls you to do.

Growing up as a Christian has been one of the greatest adventures of my life. Who would have guessed 40+ years ago that a shy introvert like me could do things like … lead a retreat? start a Bible study group for women? Stand up in front of a group and give a talk?

 “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26b

For more about following God’s calling see:

What’s Your Vocation?

Your Calling

Your Dream. God’s Plan. by Tiffany Smiling — Book Review

1 Peter Chapter 3–What Stands Out?

This must be a favorite chapter of mine, because a number of phrases stand out and I have written about them before. For example, “a gentle and quiet spirit” 1 Peter 3:4 (A Gentle and Quiet Spirit), “with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:16 (With Gentleness and Respect) and “seek peace and pursue it” 1 Peter 3:11 (Pursue Peace). Peter is chock-full of good advice! This time, I’ll pick something different — “the hidden person of the heart.” In any number of places, Scripture tells us that God does not judge us because of the way we look, or even our behavior, but by the true motivation and intentions in our heart. When God chose David, He told Samuel:

” The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

And Jesus rebuked the Pharisees saying,

““Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Matthew 23:27

What does this tell me? First of all, God sees everything. I may fool those around me by a lot of good deeds or holy-seeming behavior, but I can’t fool Him. Secondly, that I need to cultivate that “hidden person” deep inside. Changing what I do is important, but changing how I think is critical. In fact, if I change the way I think, I probably won’t have to worry so much about what I do!

This isn’t easy. When my reunion group friend and I review our behavior, we often admit that we’re more likely to be guilty of doing good things with a poor attitude than doing bad things. What’s the answer? I find it in prayer– praying to love those people who annoy me; praying to accept my duty with a cheerful heart; praying to give others the benefit of the doubt … just praying continually. I can change my behavior, but only God can change my heart.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” Romans 12:2

For more about transformation see:

Rebirth and Transformation

This Is Your Brain on Faith

Learning to Count It All Joy

Walking With Jesus — Devotion#1

Years ago the church I belonged to held a family retreat. The theme was walking with God. During the retreat, some families and individuals wrote their own devotion based on the theme. The devotions were later gathered together and made into a booklet. I thought I would include some this month. You can do these alone, or with a group.

Do you remember the story of “Little Red Riding Hood?” (If you’re doing this as a family or group, have someone tell the story). It told how the wolf tried to keep Little Red Riding Hood from getting to her grandmas’ house and wanted to harm both her and her grandmother. We all know how the story ended when the hunter saved them.

Our walk with Jesus is very much like that. St. Paul tells us that the devil is like a roaring lion who seeks to hurt us and keep us from walking with Jesus and our destination in eternity. As we walk our walk with Jesus, who guides and leads us and promises to bring us to eternity with Him, we need to remember that Satan would love to have us follow him instead. Thankfully, God sent His Son to defeat the devil and save us, and give us an example of how to walk faithfully.

1 Peter 5:8-9
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

Suggestions:

*Make a list of the ways the devil might use to trick you into following him.

*Pray a prayer for strength, courage and faith to resist the devil.

For more about the devil see:

Resist the Devil

The World, The Flesh and … oh yes, THE DEVIL

The Gospel According to Satan by Jared C. Wilson–Book Review

Do Unto Others

The great commandment of the Bible is to love. We are to love others as much, maybe even more than we love ourselves. Jesus Himself said:

“… in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

What does this mean in practice? Well, giving others the benefit of the doubt — do you want to be judged according to your worst day or behavior? It means trying to understand different points of view. Don’t you hate it when an acquaintance refuses to even listen to the reasoning behind your ideas? It means being compassionate and slow to become angry. I mess up plenty of times and need forgiveness, not censure, don’t you?

Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, FRS (13 December 1815 – 18 July 1881), and English Anglcan priest and church historian puts it this way:

“Love one another in spite of your differences, in spite of your faults. Love one another, and make the best of one another, as He loved us, who for the sake of saving what was good in the human soul, forgot, forgave, put out of sight what was bad–who saw and loved what was good even in the publican Zacheus, even in the penitent Magdalen, even in the expiring malefactor, even in the heretical Samaritan, even in the Pharisee Nicodemus, even in the heathen soldier, even in the outcast Canaanite. It is very easy to fix our attention only on the weak points of those around us, to magnify them, to irritate them, to aggravate them; and by so doing, we can make the burden of life unendurable, and can destroy our own and others’ happiness and usefulness wherever we go. But this was not the love wherewith Christ loved us; this is not the new love wherewith we are to love one another.”

When we love in this way, we are blessed, and we become a blessing to others.

 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing “1 Peter 3:8-10

For more on this topic see:

Little Children, Love One Another

Charity = Love

By Our Love

Truthful Words

The Bible tells us in many places to avoid lying. It’s one of the Ten Commandments–

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” Exodus 20:16

It’s also mentioned in the book of Proverbs…

“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” Proverbs 12:22

and in the New Testament as well.

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:25

Here’s a quote from my devotional reading that explains how to avoid this particular sin:

“It seems to me, that the shortest way to check the darker forms of deceit is to set watch more scrupulous against those which have mingled, unregarded and unchastised with the current of our life. Do not let us lie at all. Do not think of one falsity as harmless, and another as slight, and another as unintended. Cast them all aside; they may be light and accidental; but they are an ugly soot from the smoke of the pit, for all that; and it is better that our hearts should be swept clean of them, without over care as to which is largest or blackest. Speaking truth is like writing fair, and comes only by practice; it is less a matter of will than of habit, and I doubt if any occasion can be trivial which permits the practice and formation of such a habit.

John Ruskin

Of course, keep in mind that speaking the truth is not to be used as an excuse for hurting others with comments that are overly blunt or even cruel. Paul also tells us to speak the truth “in love”(Ephesians 4:15) and Peter exhorts us to use “gentleness and respect.”(1 Peter:3:15).

Use words that are both truthful and loving. Make this your habit.


Dedicated — An Important Word

I just finished a book entitled, “Dedicated–The Case for Commitment in an age of Infinite Browsing.” Pete Davis, the young man who authored it, believes we’re surrounded by a culture that discourages us from dedicating ourselves to anyone or anything — there are so many options that we’re paralyzed by FOMO (fear of missing out). If we marry too quickly, we might miss out on our real soulmate; if we stay at the same company for many years, we won’t advance as quickly; if we devote ourselves to a certain craft or area of study, we’ll cut off other options.

Although this is not a book about religion, he does mention that the word “dedicate” has two meanings:

  1. To make something holy
  2. To stick with something for a long time

Christianity encourages us to both kinds of dedication. Life wth God has been compared to a marriage, a garden, or a building — all things that take time and effort. According to the Bible, we are to commit our entire lives to Christ.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” Romans 12:1-2

When we dedicate ourselves in this way, our lives become holy.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”. 1 Peter 2:9

Dedication has great value. As Mr. Davis says:

“The Counterculture of Commitment is made up of people who are tilling the soil, planting seeds, and growing small forests–and in doing so they are generating hope. Their commitments don’t just transform society–they transform the committers themselves.”

So don’t put it off. dedicate yourself today to the One who gives us a living hope — your life will be changed, and so will our world.

For more posts on changing the world see:

The Lutheran Ladies Changing Their Environment

Changing Your Environment–Joan’s Story, part 2

Changing Your Environment — Joan’s Story, Part 1

Lost

I had a dream the other night about being lost.  In fact, I have recurring dreams of this sort — I’ve lost my purse, my keys or my car.  I’m lost in the Mall or at a school and can’t find my class.  Along with the “lost” feature, I’m also usually worried because I’m going to be late.  I call them “anxiety” dreams, and it turns out they’re not uncommon.  Many people have them.

It recently dawned on me that maybe there’s a reason so many of us feel lost in our dream lives.  It could be quite simple — we feel lost, we worry about being lost because we ARE lost.  It tells us this quite plainly in the Bible:

All we like sheep have gone astray”  Isaiah 53:6

We are lost because we are displaced, never quite feeling quite at home in this life, as Peter acknowledges in this exhortation:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” 1Peter 2:11

We are constantly searching for our permanent dwelling place:

“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Hebrews 13:14

On the surface we may seem comfortable in the life around us, but unconsciously we know that we were meant for something different:  a life described in chapter 21 of the book of Revelation.

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:3-4

Until then, we’ll always feel a little bit lost.  We’ll always be looking for something.  We’ll always be unsettled.  Or, as St. Augustine once wrote:

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

 

The Leadership Formula by Juan Sanchez–Book Review

The first thing you need to understand about this book, is the author’s primary focus: pastoral leadership.  In his denomination (Baptist), this also includes elders, some of whom (vocational pastors) will eventually pursue fulltime ministry at other churches, and others (non-vocational pastors) who provide for themselves through secular careers while also helping to shepherd their local congregation.  He also holds the position that only men should fill these offices.  As I am unfamiliar with his church polity, it took time for me to grasp some of his points.

In any case, Pastor Sanchez relies heavily on 1 Timothy, Titus and 1 Peter to establish the qualifications for pastor/elder (terms that are used interchangeably).  These men should:

  • Exhibit godly character
  • Maintain biblical convictions
  • Lovingly care for the congregation
  • Display competency in handling the Bible

Once such men are identified, their leadership potential must be observed and developed over a sufficient period of time to establish credibility with the congregation.  This is a very important point.  It takes time for true character to be revealed, and it is better to proceed slowly than end up with leaders who are not qualified or lack self-control.  He also stresses the need for continual learning in leaders.  They should be constantly studying the Bible, theology and other Christian resources.

Each of the leadership components is discussed fully in its’ own chapter.  The book also reviews the foundation for leadership as set forth in Genesis.  Briefly, humans were created by God to represent His sovereign rule and loving care over creation.  While equal bearers of God’s image, Adam and Eve were given different roles:  Adam is to lead, Eve is his suitable and complementary follower.  Sin, of course corrupts this divine pattern when Adam fails to take responsibility and Eve manipulates.  The curse now affects both sexes as they battle to control one another.  This leads to leadership which is either too passive, or too tyrannical.

There are two chapters at the end that do discuss leadership in the home and leadership in the world. These are applicable to all Christians. Some Appendices with various documents and questionnaires used at the author’s own church are included.  These define and further elaborate the various pastoral offices at High Pointe Baptist Church.

VERDICT:  2 STARS.  The important characteristics of a leader were well supported and biblically based. However Lutherans will find most application suggestions not feasible because of the differences in denominational organization.

If you would like to purchase this book follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/the-leadership-formula-P005819502

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255.

For more on leadership see these posts:

Fanning the Flame #20 –The Leadership Dynamic

Luther on Leadership edited by David D. Cook—Book Review

Servant Leadership