A Powerful Lesson from Jesus in Handling Conflict

A braided leather whip

Some lessons you learn the hard way in life and leadership.

Take for example a recent principle I posted about attributes of a maturing leader. I shared that a maturing leader has learned never to respond immediately in anger. Shortly after the post went live I was interviewed about it for a leadership podcast. They questioned me on how I learned that one.

Well, most of the time you learn those things by responding in anger and regretting it later. And, this has happened to me a multiple of times. I once released a good employee in anger, for example. I regretted it ever since.

Many years ago, however, I was convicted by Scripture. (Isn’t this what Scripture is supposed to do?)

I read a passage I had read many times, but I saw something this particular time I’d not previously noticed.

See if you catch it in this  John‬ ‭2:13-16 passage:

“The Jewish Passover was near, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple complex He found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and He also found the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace! ””

Did you catch it? Did you see the powerful leadership principle about responding in anger?

Yes? If so then you were convicted too most likely. 

It’s huge. It will change the way you deal with people in tense or confrontational environments.  

If you didn’t catch it, read it one more time. This time the emphasis is mine. 

The Jewish Passover was near, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple complex He found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and He also found the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace! ”” 

Make sense now? He made a whip. Before Jesus cleared out the temple – He made a whip. Handcrafted whip. 

Have you ever made a whip out of cords – a whip strong enough to drive out people bent on making money through unrighteous means?

I have to be honest. I never have made a whip in my life. I don’t know how long it took to make whips in Jesus days, but it certainly wasn’t instantaneous. 

There was time for reflection. Time to think. Time to process. Time to make a plan. Time to pray.

Suddenly the scene I had in my head of Jesus seeing the activity in the temple and going wild with anger was not the same.

I can picture Jesus sitting on the steps of the temple, talking to His Father. (The Scripture says He did nothing except what the Father told Him.)

Maybe the dialogue went something like this:

God, how do you want me to respond to this?

They are in the temple, money-changing. I know how You feel about that. It’s Your house. It’s supposed to be a House of Prayer.

What should I do? How serious should I take this?

(Twisting the leather a little tighter.)

You know, God, they are going to be writing about this for a very long time. This scene may even appear in the movies someday. 

Help me know how to respond. 

It wasn’t a rash decision. It wasn’t unrehearsed. He didn’t respond purely out of emotion.

To me it has the appearance of being a very calculated, methodical, strategic move.

Over the years of leadership, since I realized how Jesus actually cleared the temple and facing lots of critics and conflicts of my own, I’ve made a lot of figurative whips. Perhaps someday I’ll even make a real one – and hang it on my wall. I’ve taken time before responding to think, process, develop a plan. And, all this in the spirit of prayer. 

In the process – of being more calculated, methodical, and strategic – it’s made me a better leader. It’s helped me respond better. 

And, here’s the other thing I discovered. Often, once I’ve made the figurative whip – I didn’t need to actually use it. In fact, and here’s the real life lesson, sometimes the process led me to understand I was the one who was wrong. Ouch!

When you’re facing conflict in life and leadership — when you’re angry — take time to make a whip. It changes everything.

How Should Believers Respond in Pain — and What Difference Does it Make?

Upset

From Acts 16, I think this is one of the best messages Nate Edmondson has delivered in our church.

How should believers respond in pain – and what difference does in make in the lives of others?

Are you in a painful time right now – maybe this will add some perspective – and probably a challenge.

Stand Alone from ron edmondson on Vimeo.

An Important Parenting Concept: Especially for Parents of Young Children

home_img3

I have a theory about parenting. It’s a reality which only came to me when my boys were nearly grown I had observed it for years — we practiced it — but I only formulated my thoughts around the concept in the teenage years of our parenting. 

Here’s the observation.

Many parents try to control less when children are younger and more when they are older.

My theory.

Successful parenting should be the opposite. Control early. Less control later.

I’ll admit. It’s my most “controversial” theory. How dare I suggest we ever control a child! Barbaric. Dictatorial. Borderline child abuse. Let children be who they are designed to be.

I’ve heard all that and more when I submit this theory. And, I’m all for letting children explore, be unique, be themselves. I’d even encourage it.

But, here’s my contention. When our children are toddlers we tend to dismiss the control issue. Sadly this appears to be epidemic in today’s generation of parenting. I hear parents often saying things like, “I can’t get them to take a nap” or “They won’t obey me”.  I see it at church when parents won’t leave their toddlers in the preschool area because “they just didn’t want to go today.” 

The fact is you can make a toddler comply if you really want them to. You can. You are stronger, bigger, scarier, and smarter than them. You may not feel you are – the little ones can be intimidating– but you are. And, I’m not trying to be funny. I certainly am not advocating abuse. Of course not. I advocate love above all. 

But, I do think it’s important – even Biblical – to train a child in the way they should go. And, the time to control your children the way they need to go is when they are young. It may be the only time. You can make decisions for them they don’t have enough life experience yet to make for themselves. You can teach them it’s not okay to throw a temper tantrum. You can.  And you can decide where they go and don’t go based on what’s best for them. You can help steer their actions – ultimately their heart – towards thing you know, because of your life experience – are best for them.

That’s what parents do. We raise children – children who will one day be adults.

Here’s the deal and why this matters so much and actually how this whole concept even developed.

Something happens when a child enters their late elementary and middle school years. Our children naturally begin to resist authority. And, if we have this parenting thing backwards what do we do? We attempt to control them even more. 

How does that work for a teenager? It doesn’t.

They have more freedom in their schedules. They are stronger, bigger, scarier and smarter than they were as toddlers. They can even pretend to comply and yet do their own thing when parents are nowhere around. The biggest problem with trying to control children into their teenage years is they can completely rebel against our authority. Have you ever known that to be true of a high school or college student?

Many parents release early then try to control later. It doesn’t work. They hang out with the wrong kids. They wear the wrong clothes. They aren’t making wise decisions. The older they get the harder it is to control. At some point your parenting moves from more control to more influence. The key is to control early, things which need controlling – things like heart and character issues – then be able to release gradually as they get older and as they mature.

If you don’t do anything else in your time with your children, help them to know you love them unconditionally. That’s most important. But know you don’t accomplish this by giving into their every wish when they are young. You do it by lovingly guiding them in the right direction through discipline and correction when they are very young. When your children are older, when they need your wisdom perhaps even more, they will continue to seek your input into their life if a trust relationship has been developed. 

My encouragement, especially to the parents of younger children, is to instill the values you have for your children when they are very young, while you can still have control, then move to less control and more protection of their hearts through their teenage years. If you have trained them well and they know you love them, then they will continue to honor your influence over them later in life.

For more parenting tips, check out the parenting category of this blog.

10 Great Prayers for Every Marriage

Bride and groom holding his hands

Dear Lord, grow our love for You daily.

Dear Lord, help us to love each other unconditionally.

Dear Lord, allow us to respect one another in an empowering way.

Dear Lord, teach us how to complete each other, building us into one unit You design.

Dear Lord, rid our hearts from grudges or bitterness towards one another, teaching us to forgive readily and extend grace continually.

Dear Lord, let us encourage each other to achieve the dreams you give us individually and jointly.

Dear Lord, keep us humble, placing each other’s needs ahead of our own.

Dear Lord, guard our hearts from selfishness and self-centered desires.

Dear Lord, protect our marriage from the destruction of outside influences.

Dear Lord, make our commitment deeper than our emotions, stronger than the seasons of change and the trials which will come our way.

7 Suggestions after You Learn of an Affair in Your Marriage

counseling distressed couple

I wish it never happened to anyone and I hope it never happens to you, but in my job I hear it almost every week. It’s a word we are afraid of, one which can destroy, and certainly a word which breaks many hearts — and sadly — many marriages never recover when it occurs.

Sometimes people admit to it, but mostly they try to deny it. Yet, the impact on the marriage is certain every time.

The word is AFFAIR.

I once thought this word was guaranteed to end a marriage, but after seeing countless marriages put back together by the grace of God — actually strengthened following an affair — I now believe it definitely does not have to be the final chapter of a marriage.

Again, I hope you never hear the word, but if you do, I want to share some tips from my observations.

Here are 7 suggestions after you lean of an affair in your marriage:

Expect numbness

For the first few days or even weeks you may not feel anything. Don’t be surprised. There will be a range of emotions to come in the days ahead, but right now you may not know what to feel. This is perfectly normal. Your emotions have been shattered. Trust has been violated. There is a huge hole in your heart. Don’t make major decisions during these initial days. They will be purely emotionally based and you may regret them later.

Get counseling soon

I didn’t say immediately. In my experience, when couples call the day or two after they learn of an affair the counseling starts off in an unhealthy way and is difficult to find successful traction long-term. There are too many emotions in the way. But, you will need someone to walk through this with you. This is not an issue you can solve on your own or just ignore. Saving the marriage will take two committed people, but counseling can help you either way. Certainly, if you intend to save the marriage (which I hope you do) then you will need help.

Decide where you want to go with the marriage

This is again, not a decision to make in the first few days, but eventually you’ll have to make some hard decisions. Do you want to make it work or not? You will not be able to move forward in any direction until you do. This may take a season — and counseling — to discern. Please understand, I know the Biblical commands for marriage — and I believe them. I think the best thing to do is to work to save the marriage. I also believe every marriage can be saved and work if two people are willing to make it work, but without your personal commitment to doing so, it is unlikely you will be successful in saving the marriage — or, at least, in making it strong again. Think about the vows you made to each other. Obviously, they have been broken. But, are you willing, at least in your part, to making them work again?

Get a plan to restore your marriage and work the plan

Working with a counselor and together you must work on practical steps to grow the marriage again back to complete trust. This will be a difficult, long process — the biggest concern I hear from the offending spouse is how long it does take — but the results are worth it.

Eventually you will need to forgive your spouse for the hurt he or she has caused you

Yes, I just said that. And, yes, that is a hard word. It will be a work of grace. Forgiveness is a choice, but it is a difficult process. Sometimes God grants you this ability quickly and sometimes it takes time. Trust is always rebuilt over time. But you can not have a successful marriage where one spouse is holding a grudge against the other. Forgiveness is a necessary step to restore the marriage.

Build safeguards into your life

For long-term success in marriage, to rebuild trust and to help ensure this doesn’t happen again you need to learn how to protect your marriage in the future. Try to find things such as what went wrong? Where were the holes in the marriage? How did it get to this point? A counselor can help sort through these, but it will be up to you to implement safeguards against them moving forward. In our marriage we have certain “ground rules” and practices which we believe help protect our marriage. You may need similar processes.

Invest in other marriages

Once your marriage is healthy again and you’ve semi-recovered, you will have valuable experience to help others. Don’t be afraid to let God use you in this way. Helping others will actually serve to further strengthen your own marriage.

This post addresses the offended party, not the one in an affair, but even for you, the word “affair” doesn’t have to end your marriage. I’m praying for those who read this and are directly impacted by an affair. I’m praying for your marriage to be saved. God bless you.

Anything you would add to my list?

7 Ways to Support Your Pastor on Sunday

senior pastor

My ministry allows me to interact with dozens of pastors each week. It appears there are some common experiences on Sunday morning for many of us.

The bottom line: Sunday mornings are a stressful time for pastors.

I also know most people who love their church — and love their pastor — want to help any way they can to make the Sunday morning experience the best it can be. I get asked this question constantly. Pastor, how can I best support you?  What a great question

That’s the purpose of this post. Here are some ways you can help your pastor on Sunday morning.

I should note. I have been in churches whcih, for the most part, do each of these well.

Here are 7 ways you can help your pastor on Sunday:

Pray

Pray for your pastor. Ask God to open the ears of the people, to guide your pastor’s heart and to bless the services with His Spirit.

Don’t critique

Sunday morning is not the best time to bring complaints. You might be surprised how often this happens to pastors. (Probably not Sunday afternoon either.) It is very distracting when the pastor is about to speak to hear criticism which will have to be dealt with later. It weighs very heavy on the mind and gets in the way of focusing on the message. Hold those until Monday, but even then, ask yourself if sharing it is personal to you or genuinely helpful to the entire body.

Don’t share something you want us to remember

Most likely we will forget what you told us by the time Sunday is done. Send us an email later or call us Monday morning. If it must be shared on Sunday, please write it down for us so we can remember the details. Our minds are so clouded on Sunday thinking about a million different things. And, we try hard to make our focus about a message we hope God will use.

Be Kingdom-minded

Think of others interests even ahead of your own. (That’s Biblical.) Keep in mind the temperature in the room may not be your ideal temperature, but it may be exactly the right temperature for someone else. Your song may not be sung today, but it could be the song which leads another to the throne of grace. The message may not address what you’re dealing with right now, but for someone else, it might be life-changing. Be a part of the crowd that says, “I love what helps another” and you’ll help your pastor and the church greatly on Sunday mornings.

Volunteer

The work of the church can’t function with only a few people. I’ve never met the church which had too many people volunteering in preschool ministry, too many greeters, or too many people willing to do whatever it takes.

Introduce us to visitors

We love to meet visitors, most especially those seeking a church home. It is comforting when the church is bringing people with them or meeting new visitors as they arrive.

Pray

It really does begin and end with prayer. More than anything, we want your prayer support. The Spirit of God seems to respond when you do.

Pastor, how else can people help you on Sunday?

3 Ways for Christians to Respond to Tragedies

TV interview

I wrote this for a weekly update I do for our church in response to the shootings in Oregon. Some thought it was helpful, so I share it here.

Let me share three ways to respond to this week’s tragedies.

There are more. These are three which come to my mind this morning.

Pray. Pray for the victims and their families. Pray for the people who live in the area. Tragedies like this always shake a community even more than the broader world. Pray for the response of government and law officials. Pray for our world. These are desperate times. Pray for the Gospel to have opportunities to shine through darkness. “And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

Remember. This world is not our home. You believe that, right? We who believe are here on temporary assignment. We are pilgrims on a journey — passing through as we head towards our eternal home. Our God is on His throne. He is not surprised. He is not unprepared. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-4)

Overcome evil. What if with every tragedy and every negative news report believers decided to do something good for others? Not requested. Unexpected. Just random acts of goodness in the name of Jesus Christ. What if we displayed peace and joy in the midst of sorrow? What if others who have no faith saw us who believe responding in faith? “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:21)

It is natural for children to respond with fear when they see these type tragedies. I wrote an article in response to this issue a couple years ago. I post it here in case it is helpful dealing with your children. http://www.ronedmondson.com/2012/12/7-ways-to-help-children-cope-with-fear.html

6 Reasons Why Anxiety, Worry, & Fear are Particular Problems for Christians

Desperate man holding his face in hands appears in a miserable state of unhappiness.

As a supplement to the message I did on anxiety and trust I asked my friend Dr. Jennifer Degler to do a guest post on my blog with her thoughts and observations on the issue of anxiety and Christians.

A psychologist, life coach, author, speaker, wife, and mom, Jennifer is passionate about helping people create healthy, successful relationships. You can find Dr. Jennifer podcasting and blogging about marriage, sex, parenting, friendships, and spiritual and personal growth on the Healthy Relationships Rx website at http://healthyrelationshipsrx.com.

About 20% of the US population has an anxiety disorder. That’s about one in five people, or 40 million adults. If you were allowed to pick your psychological disorder, pick anxiety because it’s very treatable. Not every psychological condition is treatable, but anxiety responds very well to treatment; however, only about 1/3 of suffering anxious people ever seek treatment. If left untreated, anxiety can lead to depression.

When I was in graduate school in the 1980’s, depression was the common cold of mental illness. Now it’s anxiety. Americans live in one of the safest countries in the world, but after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the anxiety levels of Americans skyrocketed.

I think overexposure to and over-consumption of anxiety-provoking material, like 24/7 scary news stories and increasingly violent movies and video games, has contributed to the rise in anxiety disorders. You would think anxious people wouldn’t watch a lot of news and crime shows, but they tend to be heavy consumers, usually because they are subconsciously watching for what the victim “did wrong” in a misguided effort to keep themselves safe by avoiding similar behaviors. Unfortunately, instead of making them feel safer, overexposure to anxiety-provoking shows and news stories just makes them feel more unsafe and keeps their brains in a hypervigilant state.

Anxiety tricks our brain, and the amygdala in particular, into activating our fight vs. flight response when we aren’t actually in danger. For example, when we watch a scary movie, our brains are tricked into thinking we are in danger even though we are safe in the theater. So our heart pounds, our palms sweat, and we breathe faster—until the movie is over. Then we realize we are safe, and our brain and body calm down.

For chronic worriers or those with an anxiety disorder, worry about the future is the scary movie. Those “What If” worries about an uncertain future hijack the brain, trick it into activating the fight vs. flight response, and cause physical, emotional, and spiritual distress. Once anxious people understand this neural hijacking, they are much less self-condemning of their anxiety and better able to use body-centered techniques to calm their anxious brain.

Here’s my favorite quote to use in conjunction with teaching clients body-centered techniques, such as mindfulness or progressive muscle relaxation, which help them use their five senses to pull their anxious mind back into today. 

Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me today.” Elisabeth Elliot

And, most of the time, we are okay in today. Dry, warm, fed, roof over our heads–that’s today, and we are okay in today. It’s in the imagined future that we aren’t okay.

It’s so much better to live in the Land of What Is instead of the Land of What If.

In my opinion, fear, worry, and anxiety are particular problems for Christians for the following reasons:

1) Christians over spiritualize fear and anxiety. They tend to believe it’s all a spiritual thing and overlook the genetic, personality, and trauma contributors to anxiety issues. And when believers hear another person tell of their anxiety struggles, they tend to prescribe only spiritual solutions for a mind/body/spirit problem. If you have an anxiety disorder, you are unlikely to be able to “pray it away” any more than you could pray away diabetes.

2) Christians carry shame over their anxiety and fear because they tend to believe it always indicates a lack of faith or an immature faith. They believe lies such as “Good Christians never feel afraid or anxious” or “If I struggle with worry, I am a weak Christian.”

3) Because of the shame, they tend to cover over how much they are suffering from an untreated anxiety disorder. They gloss over it, call it being “stressed out,” and don’t share their stories in community where they could possibly receive support and encouragement to get treatment.

4) Christians can give each other truly unhelpful but sounds-so-spiritual advice for managing crippling fear and anxiety, like “Just let go and let God” or “Just give it to Jesus” or “Just lean into Jesus.” What in the world does this look like practically?

5) Christians can be suspicious of helpful body-centered techniques for managing anxiety. It’s like we are Gnostics who believe the body is evil and only spirit is good, when in fact, body-centered techniques work well to reduce anxiety because of the way God made our brain.

6) Because Christianity offers peace, hope, and a certain eternal future, it is particularly attractive to anxious people. So baseline, you’ll find more anxious people in a church than waiting in line to bungee jump. I don’t have hard statistics on this, but I think the incidence of anxiety disorders in a church congregation is higher than the 20% you find in the general US population. Plus anxious people tend to also be imaginative, deeply feeling, empathetic people–the kind of people who are drawn to the kindness and compassion found in good churches.

If you are the 1 in 5 persons who struggles with anxiety, worry, or fear, please get treatment from an experienced mental health professional. While treatment may not make the anxiety go completely away, it should help you suffer much less and be able to enjoy the abundant life and peace Jesus promises.