Judging Others from Alongside and Why It’s Needed

gavel-3-1236445-1599x1063Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a big fan of N.T. Wright as a theologian. This puts me squarely in the centre of every other would-be pastor-theologian. Everyone pretty much loves him, or at least pays attention to him.

Recently I was reading a large work of his, and he wrote this:

The word “judgment” has of course been allowed to slip into negative mode in the contemporary western world, with “judgmentalism” one of the classic postmodern villains. “Judgment” is in fact a positive thing. It is what restores health to a society, a balance to the world. It replaces chaos with order. The fact that it can be abused – that humans, whether or not in positions of authority, can take it upon themselves to “pass judgment” on one another in negative and destructive ways – indicates, not that is a bad thing in itself, but that like all good and important things it can generate unpleasant parodies.    N.T. Wright

And this little quote really got me thinking.

In general, I would say I’m not a fan of judgment. I’ve seen its abuse so often in top-down ways, in destructive ways, in shaming ways – in ways that seem so…unlike Jesus. Yet I believe that N.T. Wright is right on this issue. Judgment, when done properly, is a positive thing; it can call out unhealthy habit, it can call out things that are wrong, and it can make the world a better place.

Because as I’ve grown older what I’ve learned at least in my closest relationships…I need judgment. I need my wife to judge whether I am parenting in a healthy way or unhealthy way. I need my close friends when I’m obsessing about a mistake to judge whether I should let it go, or make some changes. I need the Spirit to judge whether I am standing up for truth or just being a jerk.

And I think the reason we react against “judgment” is because it so often comes “from above”.  Like how N.T. Wright puts it in destructive ways from positions of authority passing judgment from a distance.

But when the judgment comes from someone who loves us and comes alongside us that can make all the difference.

When my wife points out that I was short with the kids, or that I let them watch TV because I was tired and didn’t want to parent – I need that. But I listen (when I’m at my best) because it “comes from alongside”, from “we’re in this together”, from “I’m with you Andrew”. When my friends judge the fear to be haunting me as not needed and counsel me to let it go – I need that. But it too comes from a position of “I care for you”, or “I have your best interests at heart”. And this is even still true with the Holy Spirit when he counsels and judges me. In Greek Holy Spirit means Paraclete, the one who comforts, who comes alongside, who advocates and helps us. So when the Spirit comes alongside to me, and points out that bitterness is creeping in – I need that judgment. But it doesn’t come from above, but from alongside, a Spirit that seeks to lead me further into the way of Jesus Christ.

So all of this is to say – yes judgment can be destructive, abusive, and needs to be resisted. But sometimes when it comes from alongside, from caring and loyal relationships (spouse, friends, God), it’s the most needed and healthy thing of all – because it leads us into greater health.

Margins and The Art of Saying No

say-no-1310251-1279x772I’m not great at leadership, but I would say that my leadership is growing. And one of the things that has helped me to grow the most are two concepts: margin, and saying no. And both of these are intertwined.

The truth is that many of us live without margin. And this lack of margin can appear in our finances, in our work time, in our family life time, and relationships. So often we are just so busy and so full we live at full-speed all the time without breaks, Sabbath, or rest.

The true thing at least for me is this: my best decisions don’t happen in stress, and busyness can overwhelm importance.

What I mean by this is sometimes we have so little margin that we just need to get things done, that then we don’t have time or space for the non-urgent but really important things of our lives. I also know stress doesn’t bring out my best, and decisions made in a hurry or without space are never going to be my best decisions.

So what I’m been learning is the importance of keeping margin in my life and in my week. Here are some the practical things I do:

  • I try to plan my week only 80% full. This practice has been incredibly helpful. First, it allows me to have space to say yes to the things that may spontaneously happen, or crisis that need to be mananged withtout pushing me “into stress”. Secondly, if the week doesn’t fill up I have 20% of my time to now dedicate to non-urgent but important tasks (like leadership, visioning, or strategic planning). It allows me to move past the day to day to larger items.
  • I have one weekend a month off. What this means for me is that each month I have one weekend where we don’t go out, don’t plan anything, and it’s free. As an introvert I need this. Our lives can become so jammed packed with all sorts of things, that I don’t have the downtime I need. By planning out and booking out one weekend a month where we don’t have any engagements it gives me breathing space.
  • I limit my nights out. What I realized early on in my life ministry is that if I got busy, I just added another night out. And soon that became a habit where I was out more than I was at home. The trouble is that messes up not only my work/life balance, makes my family a lack of priority, but then became expected by those I met with. Almost every issue then became urgent that could be met within a couple of days. In the end the lack of margin wasn’t helpful.

But those are just a few examples, but I mention this because my bet is you need this too. My bet is that you function best with some margin, some breathing room, some space in your life. The trouble is that if we aren’t intentional it doesn’t happen. Events, work, and other pressures will crowd out our space and in the end we aren’t living, just surviving.

So here comes the second thing: learning to say no. I say yes (even now) probably to too many things. To nice things, to good things, but to non-necessary things. And you can define “non-necessary” however you want but my guess is you might know what I’m talking about. Saying yes to that event, that outing, that pressure that isn’t really helping.

What I’ve learned is that to keep margin, to keep healthy, to keep leading well – I need to say no to more things than I say yes to. I need to make sure that I’m saying yes to the best and no, to the good, because rarely do semi-good leaders say yes to the bad. But our schedules and our lives get filled with okay, good, or not bad things that crowd out our space to do the best things.

So all of this is to say one thing: my bet is your life would be better with more margin, and that starts by maybe saying no to some things.

So why not take some time and think that through. How can you structure some space or margin in your life (i.e. plan a week 80% full, or a weekend off, or night off once a week etc)? What do you know you should say no to that you haven’t? How can you free yourself to give yourself to the best things around you?

I think part of the goal of leadership is also to last, and to not burn out. So these are two practices that are helping with that: margin and saying no.

Angry Birds, and Angry Words

On Sunday we are looking at a really well known passage in James. It’s all about the tongue and its power. This is something we all know, but so often we don’t actually do anything about. We know that our words can give life, or steal life. We all know that once something is said it’s impossible to get back. We all have moments where we wished we had said less.

So James is really not relaying anything new. But just because something isn’t new, doesn’t mean it’s not needed. Because I believe in our day and age, with instant communication, public comments on Twitter or Facebook – learning to control our tongues might just be the biggest relational skill necessary to survive in today’s day and age.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday, but to prep, why not watch this awesome short Pixar movie called “The Birds” because we are going to jump off it on Sunday.

One Question to Change Your Life

 

1419184_44660695On Sunday we are jumping into the book of Proverbs and we are going to discover one question that will change your life

 

I know we say that a lot – that something will change your life. Everything from an new exercise machine, to a new type of taco. But I truly believe this one question will change your life. It will prevent heartache, it will lessen regret, it will change the direction of your life and move you closer towards God.

 

So obviously I didn’t come up with the question, Solomon did. As the wisest man, we are going to learn from him how to be wise.

But before we get there why not spend sometime today reading Proverbs. The very fact that we are still reading something written 3000 years ago – means that it must be good to have lasted. I doubt anyone will read anything I write in 3000 years, but Solomon’s wisdom was so deep it is still shaping people today.

 

So before Sunday why not read through some of Proverbs. They are short, easy, and some will strike you as dead on true. So here is one of my favorites that we’ll talk about on Sunday.

 

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness. Proverbs 26:11

 

What’s your favourite verse?

 

Why Does Jesus Talk So Much About Money?

On Sunday we are exploring a difficult topic. We are talking about money. Here is the difficulty though with this topic. Whenever money is talked about people can get defensive and uncomfortable. This has often been because the church has talked about money so poorly, seeming like all we care about is a bigger offering. But money, wealth, and finances do need to be talked about in church because of how it can affect our lives. Whether or not we acknowledge it money has a huge influence on our lives. Here are just a few examples:

  • Marriages often split over finances and fights about finances
  • Financial stress can bleed out into all sorts of relationships that we have
  • Many of us are scared about our future in relation to money, wealth, and security

And so we should talk about how to find peace, life, and hope. The truth is that if Jesus talked about money so should we, and he talked about money a lot:

  • Jesus talked about money more than anything else, other than the Kingdom of God
  • Jesus talked about money more than heaven and hell combined
  • 25% of all the parables have connections with money

I think the point is that Jesus knew that money is a stress, it is a focus, and it can steal our peace. So he talks about it to give us freedom, life, and a new perspective.

So here is a sneak peek into the big idea for Sunday. It has two parts but I’ll share the first part now: God doesn’t want your money. This is true, and on Sunday we’ll be exploring Mathew 6 to find out why that’s true. Why God isn’t really interested in your money, why we won’t be having a second offering, and why money isn’t the issue, it has something to do with our hearts.

Kingdom Currency

Speaking New Things Into Being…

While out for lunch with someone the other day, I simply shared a few thoughts about where they were at. I was trying to simply understand their space, and maybe give some words to what they were feeling. When this happened it was like an understanding or world opened up for them. They said, “that’s it exactly”. It’s as if words opened up space for understanding, acceptance, and new meaning.

I’ve often pondered over Genesis 1. God creates with words. I’ve often wondered how his words have so much power, or how he could create something through speech. I no longer wonder about this.

Words have power. And when you listen, share, and speak something into someone else’s life it can breathe life – literally. Words have the power to create, to open up new understanding, new worlds, and new life. Sitting at a table drinking coffee and talking a few days ago confirmed that to me. The simple act of sharing deep conversation opened up new possibilities. In the Bible James teaches us about the tongue and how words can be used to hurt, and harm. But the flipside is true too. Words can be used to create hope and health.

So the question then is what are your words doing? Creating life, heath, and hope? Because words have power.

So today listen, and share deeply. Use your words to create, give life, and in this way follow the model of God in Genesis 1. Speak new life into being for someone today, and see what happens…