10 Things I’ve Learned From Difficult People

By Steve Dunmire

When I first went into ministry, I was warned that, as a pastor, I would have to deal with difficult people. But I was not prepared for how venomous they could be at times.

I have been on the receiving end of vindictive anonymous letters, berating phone calls and accusing rants. I’ve watched too many difficult people literally storm out of the churches I have served (not to mention their passive aggressive behavior, sarcastic remarks, cutting jokes and backhanded compliments).

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But I’ve also learned a lot from difficult people. Here are a few of the lessons they have taught me:

1. Difficult People Have the Nerve to Say What Everyone Else is Thinking.

Sometimes (not always) difficult people are the people who say to your face what others will only mutter under their breath. They are sometimes the only ones who have the nerve to say what everyone else is thinking. Difficult people can be the pastoral equivalent of when a physician orders blood work for a patient: an efficient way to find out what is going on in the church’s bloodstream.

2. Difficult People Help Me Develop Thick Skin.

Dealing with difficult people is one of the most effective ways to develop the thick skin a pastor needs in order to be fit for ministry. There may be no other substitute. Dealing with difficult people is to our souls what weight training is to our bodies, so I have learned to love difficult people because they make me stronger.

3. Difficult People Reveal My Insecurities.

Difficult people force us to face up to our insecurities and our need to be liked. They force us to choose the need to be firm on some issues over our need for acceptance. Their criticism strikes at the lie that the Enemy has planted in our hearts: “This is who you really are, and all the nice things people say is just them being polite.”

Difficult people and critics in our lives can be like carnival mirrors who criticize an exaggerated and distorted version of ourselves. We recognize immediately that the distorted image is not who we are—and this can provide for us the opportunity to look at our lives and see ourselves as we really are.

4. Difficult People Make Me Clarify What I’m Doing.

Just as one out of tune string on a guitar can force us to retune all six strings, one difficult person in a church can prompt us to clarify everything we do. They force us to make things clearer and more precise because of their complaints and sometimes in anticipation of their complaints. In this way, difficult people make our ministry better because they force us to be clear and precise about what we want to do, and how we are going to do it.

5. Difficult People Show Me I Am Doing Something Right.

There is a common strand running through every major turning point of ministry, every breakthrough, every visible success, every time I could point to measurable results, or even every time I received some level of recognition. The common element in each of those things is the pestering presence of difficult people who opposed me every step along the way. I love people difficult people because they are one of the most reliable indicators I have been able to find to tell me that I am doing something right.

6. Difficult People Create Supporters.

A pastor needs meaningful friendships in order to endure. And in my case, some of my most meaningful partnerships and friendships in the ministry have been forged in response to the difficult people in a church. At times I have seen people become much more vocal supporters of me as a pastor because they have seen a critic’s harsh attack. I am grateful to have several significant friendships that were forged in direct response to difficult people.

7. Difficult People Make Me a Better Boss and a Better Subordinate.

Difficult people have helped me to see how important it is to recognize good work, applaud hard work and express appreciation. They also help me to see that not every opinion needs to be expressed. On the whole, I would like to believe that I am less critical of those who serve above me because of my experiences with difficult people.

8. Difficult People Drive Me To Prayer.

I wish this was not true, but it is. And if difficult people drive me to my knees in prayer, then I know they are a great gift. A.W. Tozer writes, “Whoever defends himself will have himself for his defense, and he will have no other. But let him come defenseless before the Lord and he will have for his defender no less than God Himself.” Difficult people drive me nuts, so they drive me to my knees in prayer, and that is one of the reasons I have learned to love them.

9. Difficult People Are Not an Obstacle to Conquer.

I once heard someone give a sermon about Eliab, David’s older brother, who burned with anger against David when he was asking the men about Goliath (1 Samuel 17:28). The pastor pointed out how David had to choose in that moment to press on to defeat Goliath, or stop to fight his critics.

Critics are neither an indicator of success nor failure, so I have chosen in advance to battle giants, not critics. I have learned to love difficult people because loving them is an option. I do not want to be remembered as the man who triumphed over his critics; I want to be remembered as the man who triumphed over giants.

10. I Am Someone’s Difficult Person.

I know I have been a difficult person in someone’s life. Sometimes I appear difficult to another person because of a disagreement, sometimes it is just because of a personality conflict, and sometimes it comes with being a person in leadership. But I have learned to love difficult people because loving them is a way I can do unto others what I would have them to do me.

Learning from difficult people and learning to love them is still a work in progress, but I hope that someday I’ll be able to truly love difficult people as God loves difficult me.

This article was originally posted at SteveDunmire.com.  Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/10-things-i%E2%80%99ve-learned-difficult-people#tUIcsOltP9IqbjMq.99

Dangerous Holiness Prayers

By David A. Gallimore

Several years ago I was on a personal journey for more of God.  I was hungry for a fresh Word.  While reading Psalm 139:23-24 one day, I discovered what I call “5 Dangerous Prayers” that have literally revolutionized my relationship with Jesus Christ.  I have prayed these prayers every day for the last 20 years and it has been an incredible ride.  However, let me warn you…these prayers are dangerous!  They will mess you up!  I say that in the “best” of ways. At the end of the day these prayers will produce a fully sanctified and surrendered life.

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DANGEROUS PRAYER #1:  Search Me

Picture yourself going to the doctor and getting on the examination table. You put yourself in a vulnerable position where the doctor can perform the examination.  You give up control, privacy, etc.  It can actually be an uncomfortable experience.  Would you be willing to get on God’s examination table and say, “I give you permission to search every area of my heart, mind and soul?”  

DANGEROUS PRAYER #2:  Break Me

I must confess when I first prayed these prayers my attitude was cavalier at best:  “Go ahead God…search me…I think I’m doing pretty good.  I’ve grown up in the Holiness Movement.  I know how to do church the RIGHT way!”  I had no idea what I was in store for. I started praying these prayers and God started breaking me of what I will call for lack of a better term, “spiritual pride.”  I began to realize new growth comes when old habits and attitudes are broken.  To say it even stronger…there is room for repentance even in the saved and sanctified life.

DANGEROUS PRAYER #3:  Stretch Me

When I first began praying these prayers God led me out of a very comfortable pastorate into a cutting edge multi-cultural church that forever changed my perspective of ministry.  Hymn books were replaced by Hillsong, suits and ties were now shorts and tee shirts, and testimonies changed from “I’ve been saved and sanctified for 50 years,” to one innocent but enthusiastic biker who shouted from the altar to a packed congregation, “this is the greatest day of my life…God just saved the Hell out of me this morning!”  Was I ever being stretched out of my comfort zone!  I had the privilege of baptizing 50 new converts one Sunday.  Three women approached the baptistry in two piece bathing suits!  I got all mixed up.  I’m thinking to myself “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” what am I going to hold on to!  We got on the phone in the church office on Monday morning and ordered baptismal robes.  That took care of that problem.  Watch out when you pray these prayers.  

They’re dangerous!

DANGEROUS PRAYER #4:  Lead Me

King David prayed “lead me in the way everlasting.”  For the past twenty years I have prayed that God would daily lead me out of my comfort and safety zones into a life of radical obedience.  After serving the church as a pastor for many years, God called me into a fulltime itinerant ministry of evangelism.  I tried to reason with God about this…it’s not 1950, most churches do not have revival meetings anymore, we will starve to death!  I ran the numbers on the calculator and they did not add up, but I kept praying these prayers.  Lead me Lord…I’ll follow.  We took this huge step of faith and left the security of a great church that was taking wonderful care of me and my family and we found that when you trust and obey, God always provides.  For the past 10 years I have averaged preaching 45 evangelistic meetings a year here in America and abroad.  What I’m saying is that you can trust God with your life.

DANGEROUS PRAYER #5:  Use Me

When all is said and done, has your life counted for the Kingdom’s sake?  The mantra of this world is “he who has the most toys at the end wins.”  My prayer for you today is that God would deliver us from the wisdom and ways of this world and that we would be willing to live fully surrendered lives that say “I am available today God…lead me to the person who needs you most and use me to be a winning witness.”

Would you be courageous enough to pray these five prayers every day?  Remember the disclaimer…the fine print…they are dangerous, but they have the potential to radically revolutionize your life.  May God bless you as you start the adventure.

This article was originally posted at Holiness Legacy.

Three Things Muslims Can Teach Christians About Prayer

By Sofya Shahab

Just because we believe differently doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention

I knew I would love Afghanistan before I even arrived. As a student of arts, it is easy to romanticize the Middle East, drawn to its exotic mysticism, history and culture.

My first nights in Kabul were spent sleeplessly listening to the helicopters passing overhead, wondering what was happening and where they were going. At 4 a.m., the city would receive its wakeup, every Mosque sounding out the call to prayer, rousing Afghans and expat alike.

In each country, the call to prayer is slightly different, and while Afghanistan is far from the worst, I certainly didn’t welcome the local Muezzin intruding on my sleep.

But it didn’t take long for my body to tune out the nightly chorus of Kabul, much as those living near railways learn to adjust to the noise of passing trains. Ten months later, I now appreciate the intrusion of prayer time throughout my day as I have realized how much there is to learn about my own faith from my Muslim colleagues.

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Christians and Muslims obviously have very different beliefs. As Christians, we need to be firm on that, and not compromise what we know to be true from the Bible. But there has to be a dedication to learning from our neighbor while holding true to our faith.

Think of Malala Yousafzai’s recent statements to Jon Stewart on the importance of turning the other cheek. Or of Eboo Patel’s tremendous work in the area of creating interfaith dialogue. These are Muslims who have lived out something that is beautifully true. And, as is often said, all truth is God’s truth.

In that interest, I’ve seen three things Christians can learn from Muslims about Prayer:

Discipline

A majority of the Christians I know will spend the first part of their day in morning devotions, rising perhaps 30 minutes before the rush to get ready begins in order to spend time with God. But I’m not sure I know many how would wake at dawn, no matter how early it falls, in order to pray.

To me, to get up with the sun each day demonstrates an uncontainable excitement for God. There are far too many mornings where it is all too easy to hit the snooze button and simply relegate God to later in the day.

Utilizing the call to prayer as a reminder to take time out and invest in a relationship with God teaches a discipline that can often be lacking. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you must stop in order to read, worship or reflect. It puts God at the center of your life and physically demonstrates that He is more important than any other concerns you may have as they come second to Him.

Reverence

Seeing the preparations for prayer that Muslims go through can change the way in which we approach God. Removing their shoes and washing their hands, face and feet; they are making themselves clean.

While the blood of Christ has already done that for us, it is a poignant reminder that our God is a Holy God who we should come before with reverence. He may be our Father who loves us, but that does not mean we should come before Him lightly.

One of the beautiful things about the cross is it has removed the barriers between us and God, so that we can raise our voice to Him, sharing our needs and joy whenever it strikes us. But maybe we should also picture who God truly is when we talk to Him. He is the God of Moses who said “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5) And the God of Revelation 4, who shines out from His throne like precious stones.

Community

Praying five times a day, whether at the Mosque, in the office or in the home creates a sense of unity amongst Muslims, whether they are literally together or spread throughout the world.

I was raised in an evangelical Baptist church, so it was not until I came to Afghanistan that I first experienced the liturgy. I was surprised by how much I enjoy it.

One friend who has recently been working her way through The Divine Hours explained how praying a prayer that you know someone else somewhere else will be taking up after you feeds into a community that represents the true body of Christ, regardless of denomination or location, creating “a cascade of praise before the throne of God,” as Phyllis Tickle says in her book The Divine Hours.

In some ways, it is easier to be a Christian in Afghanistan than it is in England. There is a value and worth placed on religion that is often dismissed within secular cultures. Although Christians and Muslims obviously disagree about a lot of aspects of who God is and how we relate to Him, there is much we can learn from each other.

 

This article was originally posted at: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/worldview/3-things-muslims-can-teach-christians-about-prayer

The Army And The King

By Rev. Carla Sunberg

Several years ago I heard a sermon by the President of Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, USA — Carla Sunberg.  Rev. Sunberg opened the work of the Church of the Nazarene in Russia and served for 13 years before becoming a pastor and District Superintendent in the United States.  She spoke the following words to 2,000 university students at Olivet Nazarene University and I hope they inspire you as much as they did us that day.  Although many would say that this generation of youth is lazy or apathetic, Dr. Sunberg’s vision is quite different.

The vision? The vision is Jesus.  Obsessively, dangerously, undeniably it is Jesus.  And the vision is an army of young people.  You see bones?  I see an army.  And they are free from materialism.  They laugh at 9 to 5 little prisons.  They could eat caviar on Monday and crusts on Tuesday and they wouldn’t even notice.  They know the meaning of The Matrix and How the West was Won.  They’re mobile like the wind.  They belong to the nations.  They need no passport.  People write their addresses in pencil and wonder at their strange existence.  They are free, yet they are slaves of the hurting and dirty and dying.

And what is the vision?  The vision is holiness.  It’s a holiness that hurts the eyes.  It makes children laugh and it makes adults angry.  It gave up the game of minimum integrity long ago to reach for the stars.  It scorns the good and strains for the best and it is dangerously pure.  Light flickers from every secret motive, every private conversation.  It loves people away from their suicide leaps, their Satan games.  This is an army that will lay down its life for the cause.  A million times a day, its soldiers choose to lose, that they might one day win the great “Well done” of the faithful sons and daughters.  Such heroes are as radical on Monday morning as Sunday night.  And they don’t need fame from names.  Instead they grin quietly upwards and they hear the crowds chanting again and again: “Come on!”  And this is the sound of the underground: the whisper of history in the making, foundations shaking, revolutionaries dreaming.  Once again mystery is scheming in whispers, conspiracy is breathing – this is the sound of the underground.

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And the army is disciplined, and also discipled: young people who beat their bodies into submission.  Every soldier would take a bullet for his comrade in arms.  And the tattoo on their back boasts: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Sacrifice fuels the fire of victory in their upward eyes.  Winners, martyrs – who can stop them? Can hormones hold them back? Can failure succeed? Can fear scare them or death kill them?

And the generation prays, like a dying man with groans beyond talking, with warrior cries, sulphuric tears, and with great barrel-loads of laughter.  They are waiting and watching 24-7-365.

And whatever it takes they’re going to give.  They are breaking the rules, they are shaking mediocrity from its cozy little hide, they are laying down their rights and their precious little wrongs, laughing at labels, fasting essentials.  The advertisers cannot mold them.  Hollywood cannot hold them.  Peer pressure is powerless to shake their resolve.  At late night parties before the cockcrow cries, they are incredibly cool, but dangerously attractive inside.

On the outside they really hardly care.  They wear clothes like costumes to communicate and celebrate, but never to hide.  Would they surrender their image or their popularity? They would lay down their very lives!  They’re going to swap seats with the man on death row who’s guilty as hell, a throne for an electric chair.  With blood and sweat and many tears.  With sleepless nights and fruitless days.  They pray as if it all depends on God, and they live as if it all depends on them.

Their DNA chooses Jesus.  He breathes out, they breathe in.  Their subconscious sings.  They had a blood transfusion with Jesus.  Their words make demons scream in shopping centers.  Don’t you hear them? Herald the weirdoes; summon the losers and the freaks.  Here come the frightened and forgotten with fire in their eyes.  They walk tall and trees applaud.  Skyscrapers bow.  Mountains are dwarfed by these children of another dimension.  Their prayers summon the hounds of heaven and invoke the ancient dream of Eden.

And this vision will be.  It will come to pass, it will come easily, it will come soon.  And how do I know? Because this is the longing of creation itself, the groaning of the Spirit, the very dream of God.  My tomorrow is his today.  My distant hope is his 3D.  And my feeble, whispered, faithless prayer invokes a thunderous, resounding, and bone shaking: Amen!  From countless angels.  From heroes of the faith.  From Christ himself.  And he is the original dreamer.  He is the ultimate winner.  It’s guaranteed.  That’s my King.

Break My Heart, Lord

I received the following reflection from Rev. Howie Shute. Howie and his wife Bev served for many years in the Horn of Africa as missionaries with the Church of the Nazarene and were part of a truly amazing movement of God in those countries. Currently they serve as pastors of the Victory Hills Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Kansas. I pray that Howie’s words would pierce our hearts and drive us to pray the same prayer that God is teaching him.

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Rev. Howie Shute

It is a wonderful thing to be around people, who are on fire for the Lord and want to be used in the Kingdom, multiplying Jesus-followers and planting churches…Bev and I were thrilled to be a part of a movement in the Horn of Africa, but we have hungered to see God move in a big way again here where we minister.

God has spoken to me very clearly during this past week. If I can paraphrase what I have heard from the Lord, it is this:

Howie, you have a desire to multiply Jesus-followers through a network of organic churches in Kansas City and beyond. You want to reach un-churched people and especially those living in broken homes. This is good thing but your desire to do this is more out of a sense of ought-ness than it is out of a broken heart for the lost.

copia-de-joven_triste_4_uym.jpgWow! There are times when you hear from the Lord that He really shakes your world. This was one of them. He’s right (of course)! He always is! As I thought about my desire to reach lost people, I recognized that it was a sense of ought-ness that has given me vision to reach the lost of our city. If people without Jesus are lost and will miss out on heaven, then we ought to share Jesus with them. What other conclusion can we come to – especially when we know that the Bible is clear that there is another destination for those who do not personally know Jesus?

We hate to even say the word. I don’t really want to put that word into writing even now. It’s too terrifying even to think about. Hell is a very unpleasant subject. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go away just because we ignore it. It doesn’t disappear if we don’t believe in it. We can’t escape it even if we think that we are too good to go there. We either have a personal relationship with Jesus or we don’t. If we have not entered into a relationship with God by repenting of our sins and trusting in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, then we are lost and on our way to this place that is too dreadful to mention. Hell awaits all who are not following Jesus. This terrible thought ought not only to give us a sense of ought-ness, but it should break our heart.

That’s what I’m putting at the top of my prayer list in these days. “Oh, God, break my heart for the lost!” Will you join me in this prayer? Pray for me that I would have a broken heart over the lost. Pray for yourself also. If our church were full of people with hearts broken over the lost, then God would use us in a big way to reach people for Jesus.

As we develop a more passionate relationship with God, he will give us his heart and his heart is broken for the lost. And if God answers our prayer to give us greater intimacy with him and to break our hearts for the lost, we will see some amazing things happen throughout our city and the world. So pray with me, “Break My Heart, Lord.”

 

8 Things I’ve learned About Overcoming Porn Addiction – Part 2 of 2

This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

  1. Accountability is More Than Just Once a Week

There are 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week and approximately 720 hours in a month. Do we really think that sitting across from someone for 1-2 hours out of 168 and 4-8 hours out of 720 should be called effective accountability? No, it shouldn’t.

Accountability frequently just turns into a checklist of how you have or have not messed up. Real community is more intentional, and more natural. Have a group of friends that you’re living life with—who are much more to you than just a sin prevention mechanism.

If pornography is a part of your life, you need to find a few people that can help fill up some of those hours with genuine friendship—the benefits will be far greater than just kicking your pornography habit. And If you aren’t addicted to porn, you need to be one of those people who is there for someone who is.

  1. Don’t Let Your Guard Down

I sat across from a friend who told me that he had looked at pornography after about 30 days of not looking at it. When I asked him why he did that, he said that he began to celebrate the victory and let his guard down.

I have more “roadblocks” today than ever before. I can say that I have no desire to look at pornography anymore, but I’m not going to test that knowledge by becoming lazy.

On a similar note, nothing good happens late at night. Staying up late when there is no reason to do so can lead to all kinds of garbage. Just go to bed.

  1. If You’re Free, Shout It From the Mountain Tops.

If you are free from pornography, listen to me: you need to tell people.

I had a guy sit across from me bawling his eyes out while telling me he had never met anyone other than me who was free from addiction to pornography. It broke my heart, not because I thought that was true, but because even the free are being quiet. You hold hope for so many. Help them.

  1. Freedom is Yours. Claim It.

In my reflections on this, I’ve thought many times about Jesus’ work on earth. He lived, died and rose from the dead. I am free from the law of sin and death because of that. I am free.

I discovered that I fought and kicked and clawed and begged for what I possessed all along: Freedom. You have every tool you need to overcome this when you have Jesus. You just have to walk that freedom out, and let others help you along that path.

This article was originally posted at: https://relevantmagazine.com

8 Things I’ve learned About Overcoming Porn Addiction – Part 1 of 2

This article was originally posted at Relevant Magazine.

When I was barely in double digits, I was introduced to pornography by a friend.

As intriguing as it was, I knew it wasn’t right. What I didn’t know though was that I would choose to walk down a road that saw me addicted to that nonsense for over 15 years.

I spent money on my addiction. I lost relationships because of my addiction. I became numb toward God because of my addiction. I reached a point in life where I had literally spent more of my life addicted to porn than not.

Talking about porn, even freedom from it, makes people, especially Christians, uncomfortable. We can be pretty hush-hush on the subject. We don’t like to talk about the problem itself, or, curiously, even that some are free from it. Some don’t want to talk about the “why?” when it comes to addiction or freedom. I do.

In November of 2013, I celebrated 6 years “sober” from pornography. Here are eight things I have learned along the way:

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  1. A “Little Problem” is Still a Problem

Don’t fool yourself.

Don’t Fool Yourself. If you look at porn, you have a problem with porn.

I’m constantly amazed at the number of people I talk to who think that if you don’t view porn frequently, it means you don’t have a problem. You may not have as big as a problem as someone else, but comparison is a dangerous game.

A little bit is the foundation for a lot. You have to stop before it becomes a bigger problem. Think if someone said to you, “But, I mean, you know, I just did a little bit of heroin this week!” Yes, you sound that ridiculous.

  1. The Blind Can’t Lead the Blind

If you were starting a business, would you go to someone who had little to no experience in business to ask advice on how to get started? Of course not.

The power of community is valuable, and there’s something healing about a finding solidarity with people going through the same struggles as you. That’s all well and good.

However, the blind can’t lead the blind. It’s like a bunch of blindfolded people in a jail cell with an open door stumbling around together hoping to fall through the opening. Funny mental picture. Poor usage of time.

But one thing that we don’t often consider is finding someone who isn’t addicted anymore and asking them how they found freedom. This is a different kind of community and confession than we might be used to—but it might also bear a different kind of fruit.

  1. Fantasy Doesn’t Make Reality Go Away

I found that I had a lot of wars between fantasy and reality. The crazy thing is that when you are done with fantasy, reality is always sitting there waiting for you when you come home.

Just like with any other addiction, if you look at porn in order to cope with stress, or because you are dissatisfied with life in some way, you aren’t actually solving the problem, you’re compounding it.

  1. Marriage Won’t ‘Cure’ You

It just won’t. Most people’s problem is not the lack of sex. As a matter of fact, you will probably have to “unlearn” desires that you take into the marriage bed because of your addiction.

Marriage may mask the problem for a while, but I haven’t met a person yet that was addicted to porn before marriage, and never looked at it again after saying, “I do.” If you don’t get help before you enter into marriage, you will only end up hurting yourself and your spouse more.

This article will continue in the next post.