Ryan Strother

Delight in Understanding the Two Sides of Every Story

You’ve heard that there are always two sides to every story. Both sides are trying to win or at least trying to be justified in their position.

You might be on one side of the argument or you might be the mediator who is trying to discern the situation. It happens at work (some corporations even have mediation teams), at church, in families (parents with more than one child know this situation all too well!), and elsewhere. Proverbs 18 has great wisdom for navigating these situations, beginning with this ground rule:  “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:2, ESV)

Don’t be foolish in conflict–take pleasure in understanding!

The fool is selfish.

He only is concerned about expressing his opinion. There is no desire to listen to or understand the other side. The fool will likely interrupt the other person if they give that person a chance to talk at all. The fool will aggressively correct parts of the conversation he feels are wrong.

The fool’s mouth is destructive.

A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (Proverbs 18:6–7, ESV). When you take selfishness into a conversation, it will easily escalate into a fight and lead to destruction.

                      It is destructive outwardly
                      It will involve others. “Invites a beating” indicates that other parties are involved.

                      It is destructive inwardly
                      The fool’s mouth wreaks havoc to his own soul. Proverbs 18:4 says, “The words of a man’s                          mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” Words come from                            our heart (Matt. 15:18), so imagine what is happening to the heart or soul of a person who                            harbors such selfishness and bitter words. All of his being will be affected.

Follow this Simple Rule

Listen before you answer and consider the other side in order to discern well.

The goal in a conversation involving conflict is in Proverbs 18:5: “It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice.” And verse 13 says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

I say this rule is simple, but it’s not. Our pride will influence us to be the first to speak, to get ahead of the game and be the first to strike. But verse 17 tells us the problem with that: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Once we have heard the other side of the story, considered how the other person was thinking and how he was impacted by the situation that led to conflict, then we can begin to reconcile the situation in a godly way that seeks unity and not pompous victory.

There are two sides to every story; do you delight in understanding?

Five To Focus 29. Follow God’s Plan for You, Not Someone Else

The interaction between Jesus and Peter in John 21:20-22 is a great reminder to us that God’s Word is personal. It is for you–and don’t let others distract you from obeying.

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Is The Gospel Worth More Than A Nickel?

There are only 5 known 1913 Liberty Head nickels. One of them was thought to have been lost for a long time. By 1936, the set of 5 coins was auctioned off and then split up. Different collectors bought the different coins, and eventually one of them ended up in the hands of George Walton. He purchased it in 1945 for $3,750, equal to almost $51K today.

In 1962, on his way to a coin show where the Liberty Head Nickel was among his displays, he was killed in a car crash. The family was given the coins and put them up for auction in 1963. The Liberty Head Nickel was returned to them because the appraisers said it was not authentic.

So the coin just sat in a strongbox on the floor of a closet in his sister’s home, for over 40 years. In July 2003, the American Numismatic Association (ANA) were going to display the 4 known Nickels and they put out a reward for the 5th. The Walton heirs took the nickel to Baltimore, MD, to the ANA convention and there it was determined to be the 5th known Liberty Head Nickel. It eventually sold in 2013 at auction for $3,172,500.

For 40 years, the family possessed something of incredible worth but just hid it away in a box. Is this how you treat the gospel?

We have the most valuable, greatest message ever known to man! And probably the majority of those who claim to know Christ and follow His commands keep it hidden.

If you are a Christian today, you are under the mandate of the what we call the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20, ESV)

Are you doing your part to share the gospel or do you keep it hidden?

 

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1913_Liberty_Head_nickel

Photo by Kim Gorga on Unsplash

Five To Focus 28. Desires Influence Actions and Direct Worship

David’s words in Psalm 27:4-6 give a pattern of desires–actions–worship that will help us walk in the path of righteousness.

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No, Don’t Be Colorblind: Practical Suggestions for Multi-ethnic Families

Some have commented on some gray hairs they supposedly see on my head. I usually tell them I’m sorry they are going colorblind. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

I’m talking about race.

And I’m asking you not to be colorblind.

Instead, celebrate it.

Nikki and I have five children under the age of ten; two by adoption and three biologically. Five of us are white, two of us are part black and part hispanic.

We have been a multi-ethnic family for almost two years now, and have not faced many challenges or had to deal with many difficult situations regarding race. The few ignorant comments we or our children have heard have been ones we could talk through with our children pretty easily. I expect it will get more difficult as they get older.

Opinions on race and diversity are in full swing with the 50th anniversary recently of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination and because of numerous situations around our country. One of the statements I’ve heard come up again is God is colorblind or I don’t see color. This is so sad and wrong because it doesn’t recognize the beauty of God’s creation.

I understand the intention of those who say that, but I think it sends the wrong message that we don’t care to see the differences that naturally exist in humanity; and perhaps when we say we are colorblind, maybe we are just picturing everyone else looking like us. You can’t help but see the differences in people, and we shouldn’t strip people of those differences or the stories behind those differences.

I see color. And I celebrate it.

Others have written great pieces from a theological perspective on this idea of not being colorblind, like Trillia Newbell. But here, I want to specifically encourage multi-ethnic families to celebrate their diversity in practical ways.

Talk About It At Home

You can’t help but see the differences, so don’t be shy to talk openly about them. We do this in simple ways like when Nikki makes two different shades of sunscreen to protect all of our skin best. We have no trouble saying this one is for the darker skin and this one is for the lighter skin. We talk about why our children use different skin and hair products, and we recognize that some of our children get rosier cheeks than others when they’re embarrassed. We laugh when one of our sons sticks a comb in his hair and when the other makes a mohawk with his hair. We don’t get upset when they see a darker skinned video game character and say it’s Manny! They are recognizing differences. And differences are okay.

We talk about the statements our children hear at school from other children, like why that child might have ignorantly said Africans are weak. At this point, the depth with which we discuss the history of racial tension is getting deeper, and will continue as they get older. But we don’t shy away from discussing difficult topics to the degree they can understand. We want our home to be a safe place where questions can be asked and topics can be discussed.

 

Talk About It With Others

Sometimes other people aren’t sure what to say. I get it. They don’t want to be offensive. So it might help if we talk openly with those who are more reserved and help them realize that it is okay to ask questions or recognize the obvious.

I took the boys to their first baseball practice last week. I introduced myself to the coach while the boys were huddled up nearby. I was trying to point out my sons, and the coach reservedly tried to ask for a visual indicator of who they were exactly. He politely asked the one with the yellow on his sweatshirt? I made it easy for him: the one with the black sweatshirt and the one with the darker skin (my son was the only darker skinned boy there). Just that simple permission to recognize the obvious made for a brief okay, thanks from the coach and might open the door to other conversations.

Learn About It

You might not understand everything about a particular race or culture. You might not know how to do certain things. Don’t remain ignorant about it–be open to learning!

When we first found out that our adopted children were coming home, I called an African American friend of mine and said I don’t know what to do. What do I put in his hair and how do I use a hair pick? I hear that your skin is ashy–what do I do about that?  He was kind enough to tell me exactly what kind of brushes and picks and lotions to get. Now I know what I’m doing.

During the foster care status days before the adoption was finalized, I remember that our case workers were not permitted to initiate a conversation about some of the things they knew we wouldn’t understand, like how to care for African American hair. We had no experience with that kind of hair, but the rule at that time was that the social workers could not tell us about it unless we first asked. I remember thinking that was so strange–why is it taboo to tell us how to care for a specific type of hair?

Along those lines, I remember a great blessing we received when a friend of ours brought a basket of girl hair products to us within the first few days of the children coming home. She explained how she used them on her daughters who had similar hair types and even showed Nikki how to do some things. Nikki has gotten pretty good with all kinds of hair now, and I remember when she was learning how to do braids a certain way at first. At the pool, a group of African American women complimented our daughter’s hair to Nikki. That was very kind of them, and Nikki followed that up with can I ask you a few questions? They were very gracious to teach her a few things.

Take time to learn. And when you learn, marvel at the uniqueness of God’s creation.

Dream About It

I thought I’d end by telling you about some fun conversations we’ve had around the dinner table. Every so often the children will talk about the future–how many children they want to have, where they’re going to live, and what occupation they’ll have. Several times, the kids would say something like what if Sarina marries a white guy? What if Caleb marries an Asian girl?

Our response: how cool will our family picture be?

Dream about the future together, and celebrate your diversity as you do. Let your children (and others) know that we don’t need to fear the backlash that might come from some ignorant people in these situations. Let them know that they don’t have to be selective about their future based on some warped ideals that some might hold.

No, don’t be colorblind.

Celebrate it.

How do you celebrate your diversity?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Five to Focus 27. Listening to Sadness

The Road to Emmaus account in Luke 24 is a great example in how Jesus handled the sadness of two people who were struggling to make sense of what they experienced in life.  

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You Are A Preacher

For some reason, God chose to let us be part of his divine plan of redeeming sinners. Without the preaching of the Word of God, people won’t hear, and if they don’t hear, then they won’t believe and then they won’t call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:14-15).

Now this isn’t just talking about the formal preaching setting in a church worship service. The word kerusso that is used in Romans 10:15 means to preach, herald, or proclaim. Anyone who has been saved by Christ has the responsibility to proclaim that Good News to others.

You are a herald in your home;
a herald in your workplace;
a herald to your family;
a herald in a classroom at church;
a herald when you are at the store;

All of us are preachers in the sense that we are to herald the Good News.

Romans 10:15 asks how someone will preach unless they’ve been sent. I want you to know that if you are saved by Jesus Christ, then God himself has sent you to proclaim the Good News. This is how it has always been:

  • It was the Lord who directed the feet and mouth of Moses and Old Testament prophets as they heralded God’s Word.
  • It was the Holy Spirit who came upon Old Testament followers of God to empower them for a mighty work.
  • It was Jesus himself who called the original 12 disciples and taught them.
  • It was Jesus who told us that He has all authority in heaven and earth and then sent them out to teach all the nations everything he taught them.
  • It was Jesus who promised that the Holy Spirit would empower the believers to forever be empowered for the work of evangelism.
  • It was the Holy Spirit who came down on that day of Pentecost and indwelled and empowered every believer.
  • It is the Holy Spirit who will give you the words to say (Acts 2:15).

So yes, God sends us to proclaim the Good News of salvation to a lost and dying world.

So why are we often so silent?

What needs to change in your life so that you are actively fulfilling Romans 10:15?

 

Photo by Anna Vander Stel on Unsplash

Five to Focus 26. The Gospel Saves and Sustains

The good news about Jesus is not just something you raise your hand in agreement with one time in your life and then move on to whatever else you want without giving it a second thought.

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Finish Well By Staying Focused

It has been amazing to hear the stories of Billy Graham’s impact on so many people in the last few weeks since his death. Billy Graham is a man who finished well.

I’ve been preaching through Judges some recently and we see a different story in Gideon. He didn’t end well. We can learn at least two ways to end well by looking at Gideon’s poor example. This post is the first way–stay focused. Stay focused on God’s ways for your life.

Two manifestations of Gideon not being focused on God’s plan:  

Pursuing his own desires

Gideon didn’t finish well because he became consumed by pursuing his own desires. In Judges 8:4, he leads his 300 men across the Jordan toward the east to pursue two kings from Midian. God won a large battle for the Israelites over the Midianites (recorded in chapter 7), and used Gideon as a leader in that work. In chapter 8, though, there is no mention of the Lord working–just Gideon.

First, he pushed past boundaries that seem unwise. He crossed back over the Jordan, which would go beyond the area of the Promised Land that God gave. His motivation is clear: retaliation. The kings killed his brothers, so he wanted to kill them (Judges 8:19). Nothing seemed unreasonable to Gideon in that pursuit.

Being harsh with God’s people

Gideon could be seen as a brutal aggressor in this passage, even to God’s people. Succoth was established by Jacob initially, and Penuel was the site where Jacob wrestled with God and God dislocated his hip (Gen. 33).

Gideon asks them to supply bread and both refuse. Gideon’s response to Succoth when he didn’t get his way: “So Gideon said, ‘Well then, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.’” (Judges 8:7, ESV) Woah! If you have that response to people who don’t go along with your plan, there’s something wrong with your heart!

Gideon told Penuel that he would break down their tower, probably referring to the defensive tower of the city. In other words, I’ll make you vulnerable and defenseless. Sadly, these weren’t empty promises (Judges 8:13,17).

Gideon wasn’t focused on the Lord’s plan all the way to the end. The last records we have of his leadership over Israel is this debacle and what we’ll look at next week.

What is your motivation, and how do you love others?  Answering this will help you know if you are focused on the Lord’s plan for you.

 

Photo by Shane Drummond on Unsplash

Five To Focus 25. Epitaph for Epaphras

What will your epitaph say? Another way to think about that question is to think about what are the main priorities in your life for which you are striving and will be most remembered for?

 

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