In-Person Gatherings Relaunch: Sunday, August 2nd at 9:15 am & 10:45 am Read More



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Hunger Games with a Purpose

There’s a popular movie showing in theaters across the country called The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Although I haven’t seen it, I’ve read The Hunger Games trilogy (don’t judge me), of which the current movie is based on book two. The High School Ministry of our church held a twenty-four hour fast this past weekend, which they, too, called, “The Hunger Games.” Our teens prayed, worshiped, studied, and played strategic “hunger games” such as carrying buckets of water on their head to illustrate how many people in third-world nations have to carry water for miles just to survive. Everything the students did connected with a special offering our church receives each year to provide for under-resourced people in our city, region and world.

I love it when students come together for a purpose like this. We didn’t advertise. We didn’t tell students to come and check out the coolest band, the most entertaining speakers, or even offer that we’d throw in free movie passes if you brought a friend. Students invited students. Friends invited friends. And all of them experienced on a very small scale what roughly 870 million people around the world experience every…single…day. Of the 870 million who are chronically under-nourished, 3.5 million are children who die every year. That’s almost 10,000 children a day.

My two oldest children had the opportunity to participate in this event, and they both came away with a much deeper understanding of global poverty and how Jesus calls us to help with both spiritual and physical needs. I like the “and.” Some people think Christians are too heavenly minded to do any earthly good. And others think a person is theologically liberal if he or she emphasizes feeding the hungry. The implication is that you are shirking the proclamation of the Word if you give heed to physical needs.

Fortunately, Jesus does not advocate an “either/or.” Jesus says those who will inherit the kingdom are the ones who feed the hungry, give drink to those who thirst, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25:34-40). But Jesus also says, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Jesus didn’t compartmentalize; He synthesized. He loved the whole person. If someone is hungry, we should feed him. If a person is “soul thirsty,” we should bring him or her to the well of Living Water found in Jesus (John 4:14). The apostle John writes, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). And while we serve, we do so “through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:30).

The apostle Paul carried this holistic view even to the deep level of personal holiness. It’s not only our body that is to remain pure, it is our “whole spirit and soul and body [that is to] be blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

We are to minister to the whole person with the whole Gospel for the whole purpose of being conformed to the image of the Son (Romans 8:29). If it takes a “Hunger Games” fast to drive home that point, so be it. Whatever it takes, may we take resources and the life and love of Jesus so that others will hunger and thirst no more (Revelation 7:16).

Critical Conversations

Do you ever find yourself dreading an upcoming conversation that you know will be extremely difficult? I’ve had plenty such conversations, and although they are anything but fun, there are some key principles that can help us face and move through these conversations with grace, truth and healthy outcomes. Whether you have to confront your spouse, child, co-worker, fellow church member or boss, I hope these principles will help you prepare for these conversations in a way that honors Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).

  • Keep the end in mind. What is the purpose of your conversation? What do you hope will be the result of your talk? What do you want to gain from it, and how do you hope this conversation will help the other party and your relationship? If you keep the end in mind, it will help you stop playing the “what if game.” (What if he says this? What if she does that?) When you play the “what if game,” it consumes your thoughts and freezes your motivation to move forward with the planned conversation. I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much energy on dreading potential negative outcomes of the upcoming conversation rather than focusing on what I hope to accomplish and the best way for me to enter a healthy dialogue to move in that direction.

  • Dialogue is a two-way street. When you enter into the difficult conversation, do your best to create common ground, a mutual purpose, and show respect. And then…listen. Dean Rusk once wrote, “One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears—by listening to them.” James reminds us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). When I jump into a critical conversation with an accusatory tone and words that attack, the person to whom I’m speaking understandably moves to the defensive and then begins fighting back. I need to check my own heart and motives, and make sure I’m staying on track with the purpose of my conversation (remember: keep the end in mind), and then pause to listen to what the other person has to say. In critical conversations we need to be genuine in looking “not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

  • Don’t chase rabbit trails. It’s so easy in the “heat of the battle” to get sidetracked. For example, let’s say you’ve wanted to talk to your spouse about his attitude regarding your mother, and the next thing you know you’re in an argument over your sixteen-year-old’s curfew. When you feel your conversation going in a different direction, bring it back to the main point by saying something like, “You know, we do need to talk about Johnny’s curfew, and let’s agree to do that, but for right now, is it o.k. if we continue to work through what I perceive to be your attitude regarding Mother?”

  • Guard your heart. Recognize your tendencies to either move toward silence or violence. If things don’t go the way you want in the conversation, do you find yourself shutting down or heating up? Become self-aware so that when you begin to feel either of those extremes rising up, you can pray, calm yourself, and re-engage in the dialogue in healthy ways. Ambrose Bierce wisely said, “Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” The Bible exhorts us to be “slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19b-20).

  • Move to action. It’s one thing to have a difficult conversation. It’s another thing to come to an agreement on where you are going from there. Just speaking your mind doesn’t mean you have communicated. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” (George Bernard Shaw). Communication leads to a direction towards the goal (keep the end in mind) or away from the goal. In preaching, a sermon should not just end with, “Here’s the information. Thanks for listening. God bless you.” A good sermon will end with some practical steps of how we can apply what we’ve heard from God’s Word. Likewise, in critical conversations, we should end with a commitment either to continue the dialogue at a later time (agreement #1) or to implement certain actions and attitudes (agreement #2). If we don’t come to some form of agreement, even if it’s an agreement to continue the dialogue, we find ourselves at an impasse and the wall between you and the other party looms even larger.

Most importantly, seek the Lord’s direction and trust in Him. As the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). If you know you have a difficult conversation coming up, ask the Lord to be a part of it, prepare your heart and mind, and enter the dialogue with a goal to honor the Lord Jesus Christ in all that is said and done.

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