Effective Communication

What creates effective communication? Matthew 7:1 tells us one of the most important keys. “Judge not, that you be not judged.” A Pastor friend of ours who is extremely kind, considerate, and loving once told us that two important keys he has learned are to never assume anything about anyone, and to always choose to believe the best about everyone. He said if he sees a friend or acquaintance somewhere and they don’t say “Hi!” he will not even allow himself to think that they might be mad at him or that they were being rude. Instead he thinks, “They must be extremely busy to have not said hello.” He will pray for them that God will meet their needs with whatever is causing them to be so preoccupied, and then he chooses to not think about it again. 
 
This example illustrates an important truth. Some people have communication difficulties with others because they judge the other’s intentions or actions incorrectly, rather than expecting the best out of them. If a person chooses to “read in” to others actions and become offended because of it, someone will probably come along and do the same thing to them fairly soon. Sometimes this happens back and forth in a marriage repeatedly and creates havoc. It is wise, rather, to not judge or read into actions. Then others are more likely to give us the same courtesy in return. Let us be abundant in grace and rich in mercy towards others! 
 
Another good communication key is asking instead of telling. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you…” If we are to give God the courtesy of asking Him for something instead of telling Him to give it to us, shouldn’t we pay the same courtesy to our spouse and family? When people feel that others owe them something, they tell them to do things. We should never have the attitude that anyone owes us anything. 
 
While a person can probably get away with this in some situations such as with subordinates at work, it is still not the polite or kind thing to do. Our spouse is not our servant (although we should eagerly serve each other out of love) but rather our companion. When orders are given in a marriage, it quickly turns the relationship from one of love and companionship to one of master and servant and most people don’t enjoy a marriage like that. 
 
Even with our children, it is wise to ask them to do things rather than tell them, in order to teach them how to be polite to others. Simple things like asking them to please pass something at the dinner table or to please pick up their toys will help them to understand how to be polite and mannerly. 
 
Asking questions also goes a long way in preventing us from making false accusations. Rather than saying, “You hurt my feelings when you said…” it is good to start with, “Do I understand this correctly? Are you saying…?” Asking questions also opens the door to considering more options when discussing a topic. When facing a challenging situation, we can approach the problem by each person patiently discussing options that could remedy the situation.
 
Another important key to effective communication is to relate our feelings through a word picture that the other person can relate well with rather than just telling it like it is. Especially when recurring obstacles arise, word pictures are often the best answer. We can pray and ask God for a word picture our spouse will identify with in order to make a lasting impact and permanent change.
 
We find that God used a word picture through the prophet Nathan to correct King David in 2 Samuel 2:1-7. 
 
Then the Lord send Nathan to David, and he came to him, and said to him: ‘There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lam which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. 
 
And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take of his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.’
 
So Davids anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore four fold for the Lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”
 
Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are this man!’
 
God knew it would touch David’s heart and lead him to repentance if he illustrated David’s sin through a word picture without letting him initially know that he was the one who had committed the sin. God also knew that since David used to be a sheepherder, he would relate well with a story about a lamb. It worked and David repented. 
 
One last key we would offer on being an effective communicator is to judge your current communication style and make any necessary adjustments. Matthew 7:17 tells us that “…every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Is your current communication with your spouse and family producing good or bad fruit? Is communication between you and your loved ones done with love and respect or with harshness and dishonor?
 
It is important to avoid blaming others for how we communicate. Whenever a conversation becomes heated, we have the opportunity to put either water or fuel on the situation with our words. The Bible says that a soft answer turns away wrath. Let’s make a quality decision today to put fires out with our words rather than fuel them. 
 
I was able to learn this through Shaun’s example to me in our home. I remember several times early in our marriage when I gave him a provoking comment or acted frustrated about something. He didn’t respond in anger. In fact one time he came back to me only a few minutes later and said, “Honey, according to the Bible, my family’s condition is a reflection of my leadership. I asked the Lord why you just responded shortly with me and He told me I haven’t given you enough quality time lately. I’m canceling my meeting tonight because I have no business leading anything if my family life isn’t in order.”
 
His loving response to my attitude taught me a valuable lesson. I learned that no one else can make me get angry. He certainly could have responded sharply and let it turn into an argument, but he didn’t because he is a wise man. Over the years he has allowed God to help him become a good tree that consistently communicates with kindness, bearing good fruit. 
 
When we apply the communication principles that God shows us in His Word, we will find ourselves first being an example of God’s love to others in our home, and then eventually receiving God’s love through them in how they communicate with us also. We hopefully married our spouse because we valued them and wanted to be with them forever. Let’s demonstrate to them today that we are still thankful we married them by showing respect and kindness when we communicate. 
 
Effective Communication Keys
1. Don’t assume anything without asking. 
2. Always expect the best in others. 
3. Ask instead of tell. 
4. Use word pictures. 
5. When communicating, approach your spouse or loved one as your friend rather than your opponent. 
 
 
We pray that this encourages you to watch how you communicate and continually bear good fruit!
 
Pastors Shaun & Amy Gustafson

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Washing Others with Our Words

For men and women alike, praise has a profound effect on people’s feeling of love and appreciation. Ephesians 5:25-27 states: 
 
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 
 
This tells us that a husband is to love his wife the same way Christ loves the church. According to this Scripture, one of the ways Christ loves the church is by cleansing her with His Word, which removes the church’s spots and wrinkles and causes her to become glorious. From this, we know that a husband must also have the same ability to “wash” his wife with his words of kindness to help remove “spots” from her personality. 
 
One of the best illustrations we have of this happened in our own life some years ago. I had been very busy for several weeks and had let the laundry (which is one of the things I choose to do in the home) pile up extremely high. When Shaun got home one night, I apologized for having hardly any clean clothes. I told him I was tired and had been so busy lately that I hadn’t been keeping up with this chore. He could tell I felt very overworked, overwhelmed, and didn’t have a good attitude about the task ahead of me.
 
When a husband sees his wife with a bad attitude about something, they can do one of several things. First, they can be hard on their wife about her attitude or her negligence in getting the task done. Second, they can be indifferent to the situation, say that’s fine, and go on to another topic. Third, they can respond the way Shaun did with me that night, by washing their wife with their words. 
 
Shaun gave me a big smile and said, “Oh honey, I understand you’ve had a lot on your plate. You work so hard for us, and I appreciate the things you do for our family so much. I don’t know what I would do without you. You make our home such a peaceful place to live. That laundry isn’t a big deal. I’ll help you with it this weekend. You do a great job as a wife, and I’m so thankful for you.” My attitude changed instantly from overwhelmed to optimistic! I no longer felt inadequate. I was so inspired by his appreciation that I cheerfully went and completed the task of doing all the laundry. His words of praise washed my attitude of its wrinkles and made me feel loved and appreciated.
 
A wife’s words have a similar impact on her husband because words of praise, admiration, and thankfulness are all part of showing respect. Ephesians 5:33 tells us, 
 
…Let each one of you in particular so love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. 
 
It is important to remember, however, that praise and respect are not something we only give when we want something done. We should show respect and praise consistently, on a daily basis, because it is the right thing to do and because we love our spouse. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Even God enjoys appreciation, and we are made in His image. It is not much fun doing things for someone who is ungrateful, but it is inspiring when someone gives us praise because it’s a motivating force! 
 
When a husband does something around the house, whether big or small, a wife should always take note of it, verbally praising and appreciating him. When a woman focuses on the things her husband does, rather than what he doesn’t do, the wife will find that he enjoys helping much more. For example, a wife may ask her husband to do something like paint a room. If he doesn’t do it immediately, a wife may often resort to nagging. However, the wise thing for her to do would be to simply make a lifestyle of praising him for everything he does do. She could thank him for going to work for the family, taking out the trash, washing the car, taking the family out to eat, or anything else you can think of. When a husband feels appreciated, he is much more likely to be helpful because of the wife showing respect.
 
God intended for a wife to be her husband’s biggest encourager and vice versa. There are times when a husband knows he is called to do something, but it’s the wife’s encouragement and belief in him and his God-given abilities that give him the needed push to fulfill his God-given destiny. 
 
We once heard a man tell how he had started a ministry under the direction of God, but a few years into it things became very tough. He wanted to give up but asked his wife what she thought. She reminded him of everything the Lord had previously shown them regarding their ministry. She spoke confidently of attaining a successful future and cheered him on, knowing it was God’s plan to persevere. Her words brought new stamina and endurance to him for running the race, and with God’s help the ministry was a success. This wife understood the importance of honoring and encouraging her husband and lived like the woman in Proverbs 31:26: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.
 
Whether it’s encouraging our spouse regarding their calling in life, or being appreciative to our family for the little things they do around the house, it’s important we remember to be someone who lavishes praise on others. When we are consistent with our praise, we build an atmosphere of peace in our home and also bring out the best in those around us. Criticism destroys a relationship, but sincere praise brings life and health. As we freely give praise and appreciation to our spouse and family, we are being a wise “house builder” and will see the fruit from our words being “sweet to their soul and health to their bones!”
 
We hope that you are encouraged and motivated to start (or continue living) a life full of praise and appreciation. 
 
In love, 
Pastors Shaun & Amy

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Is Strife Ever Good?

We have heard it said that a certain amount of strife and fighting is necessary and healthy for a marriage. It’s just like the devil to try to feed the world and the body of Christ a lie like this to get people right where he wants them, having an open door to bring destruction into their life and family. Good communication to help resolve disagreements is necessary and healthy for a marriage, but strife and fighting isn’t good, according to the Word. Let’s look at several references to remind us that strife and fighting are not from God. 
 
He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit (Proverbs 17:27). 
 
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion (Proverbs 18:2, RSV). 
 
The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression (Proverbs 19:11). 
 
Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil (Ephesians 4:26-27). 
 
To understand what strife does to a relationship, picture a horizontal pole with a bucket on each end. The weight of the first bucket represents God’s ability to help us in our marriage and family, while the weight of the second bucket represents Satan’s ability to harm us and bring destruction into our life and family. When we speak loving, respectful, complimentary words to our spouse and children, it fills up God’s bucket to work on our behalf. However, if we speak angry, rude, demanding, or harmful words to our spouse and family, it fills up Satan’s bucket to bring harm and destruction to us. 
 
This is how Satan works on a marriage or relationship. If we give him a place in our marriage or family through strife or unresolved anger, he then has access to steal, kill and destroy (see John 10:10). 
 
It is important to note there is another type of anger that the Bible refers to which is a righteous anger. Jesus became angry at sin, such as when He overturned the moneychangers’ tables in the temple (see Matthew 21:12). This was directed at sinful behavior because God is good and He hates sin. There are times in a believers life when it is right for us to have anger if it is a righteous anger. For example, a believer should get angry about the devil trying to bring destruction into their life. James 4:7 tells us “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
 
If a person doesn’t have a righteous anger about the works of darkness in their own life or the lives of others, they will probably not pray as fervently as they need to in order to change the situation. This type of anger typically is not directed at a person, but a situation. There were times when Jesus became righteously angry about something, and He occasionally verbalized this anger, particularly with those religious people who claimed to serve God but really didn’t with their hearts. However, most often we find his righteous anger causing Him to more fervently pursue destroying the works of darkness through ministering healing and miracles to those who were bound by Satan. 
 
So today, what are you doing in your relationships? If there were two buckets you could see connected to every person in your life, one to fill with words for God or one for the enemy of our souls, which bucket are you words (and actions) filling? We’d encourage you to ask the Lord today to really help you see how your words are shaping your world. 
 
Your relationships will never go higher than what comes out of your mouth. Starting today, pretend every person has a sign around their neck that says “Please encourage me.” Anyone God has entrusted into your life, He is entrusting you to speak life to!
 
 
In love, 
Pastors Shaun & Amy 

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What About Eternity?

Have you ever considered eternity? Have you tried to wrap your mind around how much time that is? The length of your lifetime is nothing compared to eternity. A minuscule speck. Smaller than the size of the period at the end of this sentence in comparison to the whole page. Or a whole book. Or all the books in the world. Eternity never stops. It’s impossible to wrap your head around.
 
Eternity is so incomprehensible, in fact, that sometimes we neglect to think about it at all.
 
Think about how little we consider eternity, even on those long, clear drives when we have some free time on our hands. How much less do we think about it when there’s something right here, right now pleading for our brain space.
 
When I have a headache, my mind isn’t on eternity. My mind is in my head, trying to figure out how to ease the pain. And if the headache is bad enoughmaybe a migrainemy mind isn’t even on what’s happening in the room around me. I’m completely caught up in eradicating the pain, and everything outside of my head is defined by its relationship to the headache. “The lights are too bright, the music  is too loud, and the twins are too rambunctious! Someone take the kids! I have to get rid of this headache!” 
 
The same hyper-focus can also happen on a large scale, as many feel the ache of a national or global tragedy. When the “headache” gets too severe, our minds throb with pain and all other thoughts become secondary to suppressing or removing it. My mom couldn’t think when the Twin Towers were hit. I couldn’t think when George Floyd died.
 
This is when it’s most important to consider eternity. 
 
This week during Bible study I came across an eye-opening albeit challenging text about eternity in John 18 when Jesus has just been turned over to Pontious Pilate for questioning. By the time he stands before Pilate, he has already been bound, betrayed and denied by his disciples, slapped, spat on, and mocked by the Jewish officials—all while anticipating the suffering still to come. Yet when he is brought in front of a man he already knows will hand him over to unrighteous judgment, his mind is on eternity:
 
“Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’” (John 18:36 NIV)
 
Here is Jesus, the ultimate recipient of not only personal injustice but also the comprehensive sins of the world, and he is focused on eternity. What a challenging lead to follow! To walk through undeserved hatred and abuse yet to hold to his calling so firmly that it couldn’t overwhelm his mind. What focus!
 
This is where vision meets purpose. 
 
There is plenty of work to do on earth, and preparation can’t be done by simply daydreaming of life in heaven, so let’s talk about “the other hand.” 
 
If I spend every moment of my life on earth focused only on eternity, I will be useless to others. I won’t be able to support my friends, I won’t be able to lead my team, my husband won’t have a helper, and my kids won’t have any of my attention. “Mom, I have a headache!” “Sorry, son, busy thinking about heaven.” What a wasted life on earth! 
 
So instead we need to balance the two—vision (heaven) and purpose (earth)—as Christ did. Our ultimate vision is heaven, and our purpose is to bring people there, to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). It’s not enough to think about eternity if we haven’t made our lives’ work about it.
 
Right now my question is, how do we lead people if we can’t see them? How can we help if we don’t know what they need or aren’t willing to listen? There’s often a barrier between eternal vision and earthly purpose, and it’s not heaven, and it’s not other people. It’s a wall of personal offense, and it stops us from seeing both simultaneously. Philippians 2:3-8 gives some insight to overcoming this blind spot:
 
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
 
Right here is the bridge between heaven-focus and people-focus: humility, modeled in Christ. Through humility, he was able to cast his own “headaches” aside to focus both on eternity and the value of the people he came to save.
 
We spend so much time—particularly in the recent heat of national suffering—caught up in offense, anxiety, and division to the point that we forget: this life is not the point. Eternity is the point. But this life is a tool… an opportunity… to prepare ourselves and others for eternity. Not to be the loudest voice in an argument but to demonstrate the most compassion. To zealously care for others. To support fellow believers through sincere fellowship when they are hurting. To win wars through prayer and worship. To draw people in through humility and genuine love. To show what Christ was like not by just talking about him but by being like him. Christ was eternity-focused. Kingdom-focused. People-focused. He was obedient to God’s call for him on earth while looking to God’s future for him in heaven.
 

If you are spending your brain space caged in anger about what is happening now or anxiety about what happens next, remember the Kingdom. If you are finding yourself unaware or closed off to the struggling lives around you, remember how we prepare ourselves and others for the Kingdom. And if you get lost and don’t know where to start, look to Jesus’ example, the bridge between people and heaven as he walked out his purpose on earth, ever-focused on eternity: “and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 2:2).

 

Before I leave this blog, I want to give you a foundation to prepare for eternity by living each day fulfilling your purpose. Again, it’s not enough to think about eternity if we haven’t made our lives’ work about it! This is how we lead others into God’s Kingdom:

    • Scripture: Read up on God’s purpose for you. Christ stood firmly in his God-given purpose on earth—the outcome of eyes fixed on God’s Kingdom. We need to do the same. But how did Jesus gain such a sound grasp of his purpose? Scripture and prayer! What has God asked you to do here on earth to lead others to His Kingdom? 
      • “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” – Proverbs 31:8-9
      • “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8
      • “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” – Luke 4:18-19. Here, Jesus was reading from Isaiah’s prophecy about his purpose on earth, which we now carry out in our own lives as a reflection of him.
      • “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” – Luke 6:27-28
      • “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.” – Philippians 1:27
  • Prayer: Ask God fervently for direction to move.
    • “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” – Jeremiah 33:3
    • “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” – 1 John 5:14-15
  • Action: Humbly and deeply reflect on where you stand in your faith and then do something about it. Does your vision match your purpose, or does your faith lack action? What can you improve on here on earth to more accurately represent the Kingdom?
    • “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” – James 1:22. Really, verses 19-27 are so ripe for this time… I encourage you to read the whole chapter!
    • “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18
    • “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” – James 2:15-17
    • “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27
  • Consider your legacy. One day you will be moving fully into eternity, and only your legacy will remain on earth. Have conversations (even the hard ones) with your family to ensure that those in your home are serving the Almighty. Train your children by example to follow godly footsteps.
    • “. . . as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15 
    • “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
 
In Love, 
Catherine Lexvold

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Heart of the Father

As I look out my window and see trees and blue skies it is very easy for me to feel as if this is the world in which we live. My home is peaceful and other than the hustle and bustle of a family living within, there is a tremendous calm.
 
Let me contrast that to the fear, heartache and misery I see every time I hear the news or see a social media feed. It feels like a hopeless sea of hatred, violence and unrest. We see crisis after crisis and endless tears being shed.
 
As I sit down to pray and listen, I hear, “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”- Matthew 11:28-30.
 
The Lord sees the anguish and heartache in the world today. He tells us to come to Him to find our comfort, our peace and our source. He is what we need in this season of so much turmoil. As we watch others go through hurt, we are to be filled with a heart of compassion. The verse above shows us the heart of a father.
 
Our Lord has a heart of compassion and mercy. John 11 tells us about how Jesus came upon the scene of his friend Mary weeping for her brother. Jesus was deeply moved in spirit and JESUS WEPT. You may wonder, “Why did He weep when he knew he was going to call Lazarus back to life?” Jesus saw the heartache. He was and is still a compassionate Lord. Over and over the Word describes Jesus as truly seeing the broken, hurting and hopeless. Jesus came to heal and restore. These are the people he came for.
 
In this season of division and pain, we are called to unite as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to ask the Lord to break our hearts for what breaks His heart. Do not stop there. Take another step and ask the Lord how you can best be his hands and feet. We are called to put a guard over our tongues. Speak softly, thoughtfully, and with compassion. If what you are about to say will not lift someone else up, stop.
 
If you feel helpless to make a difference, start at home! Is your home full of God’s peace? Can you make a difference for a neighbor or someone you run into at the grocery store? Can you reach out to a friend you haven’t checked on in awhile and pray peace over them? The Holy Spirit is always speaking to us, ready to give words of compassion. We just need to listen and obey.
 
Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
 
God created each of us in His own image. As you look at and respond to others, remember that they also are created in the image of God. We are each created to have a heart of compassion, no matter the circumstances.
 
Psalm 103:11-13 – For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
 
People will not know we are Christians by how loud we are but by the love we show, through our words and through our actions.
 
Our time here on the earth is not long. We have only this time to show the heart and love of the Father to those around us. May God touch your spirit with compassion and love for those around you. If you have this desire, please pray this prayer today:
 
Dear Jesus,
I pray you give me a heart of love and compassion. To step boldly where you tell me to and step back as you lead. Please let my words be your words and my actions line up with the desires you have for my life. Please help others to see you through me. I give my whole life over to you. Use me as you see fit. In Jesus Mighty Name – Amen.
 
Philippians 3:20 – But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.
 
In love, 
Kathryn Broadwater

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