Everything Comes Down to Worship

The problems we have in our lives have nothing to do with not knowing the right techniques or strategies or skills.  Rarely will they have anything to do with another person or our environment.

Whether it’s problems with marriage, friends, parents, children, school, work, sex, food, alcohol, drugs, laziness, entertainment, overworking, or anything else, it all boils down to worship.  The problem is that we worship the wrong things.  We worship created things, instead of the Creator God.

Our hearts are idol factories.  Every minute of the day, we want to worship something.  And until we worship Jesus, our hearts will continue to churn out idols in mass production.


Pitfalls in Communication: Unreasonable Expectations

Part 5 of a 6 part series. View series intro and index.

I can’t count the number of times on a weekly basis that I get disappointed with a person or a situation because something has gone wrong. Most of the time, I find myself frustrated, not because someone really did something evil or offensive to me, but because the advance of my agenda was halted. The kingdom of James came crashing down.

Your Biggest Communication Problem
Teacher and counselor Paul Tripp puts it like this: “You get angry, not because God’s law was broken, but because your law was broken.” That’s convicting, isn’t it? More often than not, when our blood gets boiling, it’s usually because we didn’t get our way. Rarely are we ever displeased, Tripp says, when God doesn’t get his way.

When a conflict arises, and I sense anger, defensiveness, sadness, or any emotion contrary to love brewing in my heart, I need to consider the question, “Are my expectations of this person or situation unreasonable?” Often, someone actually does sin and communicate or act wrongly. After all, they are imperfect as well. However, if I’m honest with myself, usually the latter is the case. Again Tripp reminds us, “You are your biggest communication problem.”

My unreasonable expectations are why I’m frequently arrogant, disappointed, depressed, angered, bitter, confused, and standoffish. When we have unreasonably high expectations in communication or with relationships in general, these emotions always rear their ugly head. These emotions, in turn, usually always lead to negative communication with the other person. We become purposefully hurtful, vague, shady, or even worse, we just plain ignore them.

The Solution
What’s the solution to this problem? If you think about it, how often do you live up to your own expectations? The answer for myself is almost never. If I fail to keep my standards every day, how can I ever expect someone who’s not me to keep them? More than that, we must understand that we have failed to meet God’s expectations and requirements. Nevertheless, he has forgiven us because the only perfect man, Jesus Christ, has clearly communicted who God is and how we can can him.  And he has accomplished this for us through his atoning work for our sins on the cross.

The short answer is cling to Jesus, confess your sin of faulty communication (and everything else!), and seek to change your intentions, thoughts, actions, and words by the power of God’s grace. For the long answer, check back in a week for our last post in this series.


Pitfalls in Communication: Assumptions

Series Index 

Part 1 of a 6 part series. View series intro and index.

I have a degree in communication studies from the University of Nebraska. That’s not very special. It’s not like I’m an expert. You can ask my fiancée, my parents, my friends or…anyone to confirm this.  You don’t have to be a Ph.D. to be an expert in communicating however.  I love quality communication and desire to work harder at it.

If you think about it, it’s really amazing that any message ever gets across to anyone else.  Why are we so bad at communication? The most important thing is to remember what Paul Tripp says: “You are your biggest communication problem.” That has been revolutionary for me. It is taking me from pride, thinking I’m always right and understood, to humility and figuring what to say and how to say it.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at common pitfalls in communication.  None of this is based on research. It’s just my humble opinion.  Let’s start with number one: assumptions.

Assumptions about Information
So often, we think that other people have availability to the same knowledge that we do. Sometimes they do, and don’t utilize it. Other times, they don’t, but aren’t to blame. Whenever we have meetings, phone conversations, a friendly get-together, lunch, or send an email or a simply text message, we need to be absolutely clear about all the information we know about. It never hurts to withhold information, even if you feel you might be repeating yourself. Get all the information on the table and don’t assume the world knows what you know. On the other end of the spectrum, it can be deadly to not mention even the tiniest detail. You might think it’s common knowledge, but if it’s not, then you’ve ruined it for everyone.

This is true whether it’s communication between a husband-wife, parent-child, manager-employee, friend-friend, or any kind of relationship imaginable. It’s a product of the human condition that when we speak, we assume that everyone knows what’s going on in our minds, what we were thinking, what we are going to think, and where we’re going next. The problem is, if information is lacking, everyone will be confused and you will be to blame.

Assumptions about Intention
Not only do we make assumptions about people knowing (or having access to) information, but we also make assumptions about people’s intentions when they speak or do something. Of course, the Bible says that out of the heart come evil thoughts and words and actions (Mark 7). So we know that at our core we really are wicked people. But by God’s grace, generally, in interpersonal relationships and in the workforce context, people tend to have the best intentions when they communicate.

This has been so difficult for me to learn. Sometimes I think people are always out to get me. Obviously, this is very wrong. Rather than having a “me against the world” attitude, we need to know that people we interact with, especially those closest to us, want to work with us, not against us. If I make an assumption that my ministry associate or my fiancée, for example, is working for my ill, and not my good, I will either withdraw, get angry, fabricate the truth, withhold communication, or do a number of other things.  In short, I need to believe the best about the person instead of assuming the worst.

Most relationships in life are joined together, in some way or another, to accomplish a common goal. In the Christian context (and so in all of life), the goal is to glorify God. In a family, it’s to be happy; in a business, it’s to gain a profit; in school, it’s to get good grades; in a neighborhood, it’s to maintain safety; in a non-profit, it’s to a cause.

If we make assumptions that people communicate poorly or do something wrong on purpose, then we will become a hindrance to communication and progress to whatever type of goal we are trying to reach, whatever it is.


Conference Quotes That Make You Say, “Hmmm…good word.”

Notable quotes (these are nearly full quotes — many are paraphrases that I took down during the sessions):

Sinclair Ferguson:

The practical purpose of Scripture is to make us spiritually mature.

The tongue carries the very breath of our souls.

Bob Kauflin:

John and Charles Wesley weren’t trying to write worship hits.

Emotions aren’t the problem; emotionalism is.

Singing together binds us together…but the gospel, not music, unites us.

Mark Driscoll:

[Quoting a person who has been rebuked] You hurt my feelings.  You spanked my inner child.

Religion is ridiculous; Jesus is wonderful.

Pray for the shepherds.  Pray for them more than you criticize, e-mail, gossip, or blog about them.

[Commenting on Amos 6:4-6] Woe to you who roll around in Escalades and wear lots of bling and lay around on couches hoping you can get onto MTV Cribs.  This is God’s way of rebuking the sheep who are acting like swine.  Their consciences are so broken that apart from a strong rebuke, they will not be changed.

Paul Tripp:

Words belong to the Lord…you have never spoken a neutral word in your life.

Your heat is your causal core of your personhood….Word problems aren’t vocabulary or technique problems. They are heart problems.

It’s only when you stand before your Redeemer and are humbly willing to say, regardless of the flawed people you live among, “I am my greatest communication problem,” you are heading in a direction of fundamental change.

Sin is fundamentally antisocial.

John Piper:

There is a way to talk eloquently that nulifies the gospel.

No man can give the impression that he is clever and that Christ is mighty to save.

Paul rejects eloquence that exploits language to exalt self and ignore Christ.

With your speech, bring the cross out of the shadows.

Ministry Theology

Desiring God National Conference Recap

I got home late last night from Minneapolis and the Desiring God National Conference.  The theme this year was “The Wonder of Words and the Power of God.”  It turned out differently than I had anticipated, but for good.  It certainly was not a let-down.

I won’t give a summary of each message, but I will direct you to Desiring God’s blog for more.  Links I would highly recommend are Piper’s five benefits of Christian eloquence, Paul Tripp’s thoughts on diagnosis and deliverance for communication woes, and Mark Driscoll’s advice to pray more than you criticize.

I hope you enjoy experiencing the conference from your home as much as I did in attendance!