Tag Archives: conflict

Praying Hyde

I recently read a story from the life of John Hyde (1865-1912), a missionary to India in the end of the 1800s and beginning of the 1900s. Hyde was somewhat famous because of his effective and powerful praying. In fact, history has nicknamed him as ‘Praying Hyde.’

Hyde once shared how one of the most amazing and profound lessons the Lord ever taught him about prayer actually occurred when he was praying for one of India’s native pastors who was both experiencing problems and was known to help create a few problems as well.

Hyde said he started praying something like this: “O God, Thou knowest this brother, how …”

Apparently, his next intended word was “cold,” with a description to follow about the problems of this man. However as he went to say “cold,” he felt a check in his spirit and just couldn’t go on. He reported that it was like a voice whispering sharply to him. “He that touches him touches the apple of my eye.” A great horror swept over Hyde, and he felt he had been guilty before God of “accusing the brethren.”

Falling to his knees, Hyde confessed his own sin, and he remembered the words of Paul, that we should think on things that are lovely and good. “Father,” cried Hyde, “show me what things are lovely and are of good report in my brother’s life.”

Like a flash, Hyde remembered the many sacrifices this pastor had made for the Lord, how he had given up all for Christ, how he had suffered deeply for Christ. He thought of the many years of difficult labor this man invested in the kingdom and the wisdom with which he had resolved congregational conflict. Hyde remembered the man’s devotion to his wife and family, and how he had provided a model to the church of godly husbanding.

John Hyde spent his prayer time that day praising the Lord for this brother’s faithfulness.

Shortly afterward, Hyde journeyed into the plains to see this pastor, and he learned that the man had just received a great spiritual uplift, as if a personal revival had refreshed his heart like a springtime breeze.

It turns out that while Hyde had been praising, God had been blessing.

(FROM: Morgan, Robert J. Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations (Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, 2007), 166.)

This great missionary known as “Praying Hyde” learned that the positive prayers of praise and blessing others are far more effective than griping and complaining in your prayers. And since God looks at us all together as part of the same team, you know… the Body of Christ… when you or I are complaining or badmouthing another Christian, we are hurting our own team… we are bringing curses upon ourselves. It’s like our arm punching ourselves in the face! No good can come from that kind of behavior! That’s NOT how we are to behave as the Body of Christ!

We read in the book of James:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.

–James 3:9-10 (NIV)

How many of us need to be on our knees repenting of such sinful behavior of speaking against our fellow Christians instead of praying for them? And THEN we need to be praying for their good, for their blessings, for their spiritual strength, for their finances and ministries and their families!


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Civil War, Ku Klux Klan, and anonymity

      In the aftermath of the Civil War, there were some in the south who felt powerless because they had lost and their desired way of life was no longer available to them (i.e. owning slaves and getting to act like the GOD over those slaves). When they lost that, they resorted to going out at night, hiding their identity with white hoods and sheets, and trying to bully the ones they used to be able to intimidate as slaves. They started intimidating and bullying their own neighbors when the neighbor did something to irk them. And people never talked about those things because you never knew who was, or wasn’t, a member of the Ku Klux Klan organization. They just kept the town secrets to themselves for fear that they would be the next one on the receiving end of the intimidation.

     Nowadays, as far as I know, it’s not the KKK that does the bullying. Even in the church, there are the “anonymous” letter writers who hide their identity in order to bully others. And most of the time, the letter recipient is so devastated that they never tell others and so nothing ever changes. And the church of Jesus loses another person that Christ himself died for.

     A friend of mine recently got two anonymous letters telling her what to do and what not to do, even going as far as telling my friend she could no longer attend her church. The authors of these letters apparently are ticked off about something that happened (or didn’t happen) and feel they “just have to” take action to set things right. And so they hid their identity by calling themselves a “Concerned Parish member” and a “regular [church] attendee.”

     As a pastor, I’ve received my share of anonymous letters. And they’re worthless! There’s a reason that newspapers specify that they will not print letters to the editor that aren’t signed. Because if there is something important that needs to happen, people will own up to the idea or the critique and help DO SOMETHING about whatever problem there is. Those who are just ticked off because they don’t get their own way, and know they’d be wrong if they openly confronted someone about their concern, try to be anonymous. Folks, if your beef isn’t worth YOUR name and YOUR time being associated with it, then it’s not worth our time and attention either.

     JESUS taught us, in Matthew 18:15-17, that if we have a problem with someone else WE are to GO TO that person that offended or hurt us… alone and in person. That way, you can hopefully get things worked out and a friendship is maintained. If that person doesn’t respond by making things right, then you get a couple of other people to go with you next time. In my religious tradition, that quite often is either the pastor or the Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC). If the person STILL doesn’t make things right, then you treat her or him like you would a common sinner.

     HOWEVER, if YOU remember that YOU are the one who has hurt someone else by your words or your actions, then Jesus explained in Matthew 5: 23-24 that it is up to you to go approach the one you hurt to try to make things right. That doesn’t mean they forgive you (some will, some won’t), but you must do your best to make it right if you want God to bless what you do.

     As Christians, we ARE in a Civil War today. Those who ought to be subjects of the Almighty King (Satan & his demons) have rebelled and refuse to bow their knee to their rightful King and Lord. Furthermore, when Jesus died on the cross, and then was raised from the dead, he defeated Satan completely. JESUS WON THAT WAR!!!

     However, in the same way that the KKK was unwilling to admit defeat and tried to intimidate those who had been made free, so it is with the devil and his hordes of followers. When we are following what Christ taught us, we are dangerous to them and we become targets for the evil tactics of a frustrated, defeated enemy. Since Satan cannot get at God, he sends his remaining demons to try and make life so difficult for the believers that maybe, just maybe, he can get us to give up on church and on God.

     OH, by the way, there is one more concern to take into account for those who would jab and fight from under the cover of anonymity: you are NOT anonymous to God. He sees what you do and knows the evil you intend, whether you burn crosses or send unsigned nasty letters.

     FOR THOSE OF US who know someone who’s been on the receiving end of a bully’s evil efforts, there are a couple things we can do.

     First, PRAY! Pray that God would cover the letter recipient with his love and comfort and grant them the courage and peace they will need to be able to deal with such evil.

     Second, find a way to let that person know how much they ARE loved and how little that bully speaks for the group. Talk, listen, spend time with him or her. (And facebook, twitter, and my space don’t count! The one you are trying to encourage needs to be able to hear the empathy and love as you are with them… online doesn’t allow that and even great thoughts can seem hurtful at times).

     Third, don’t just react to them. I mean, they need to feel loved and connected, but if you and I just get MORE offended and take his (or her) problem on as our own, then we can’t help as much. Usually, it ends up sounding like a gripe session where EVIL is the only topic of discussion and the God of love is left out. (Again, that’s another reason to avoid the online treatment of such an important matter.)

     GOD knows who is a bully and a coward trying to destroy one of his loved ones. Let’s make sure that can NEVER be said about us.

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They’ll Know We Are Christians, By Our …???

On April 3rd, I finally got so tired of people calling me and questioning me (and even a couple who wanted to take me out to lunch to talk) about what had, or had not, happened when I met with our bishop, Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, that I wrote about it in a blog. I even gave my conclusions at the end that I believed he had NOT tried to be dishonest nor deceptive… but I felt, rather, he had simply misunderstood a situation and perhaps reacted differently than he might have if he had known more of the situation. As I reported then, the bishop personally apologized to me and I felt that “all was well.”

It was a very successful event in our common ministry, because we learned that we could communicate with each other… and that our common ministry and common brotherhood as fellow Christians and as fellow clergy was important enough to do the hard work of facing the uncomfortable conversations in order to clear the air… and ensure that misunderstandings didn’t come between us.

I believe we followed Jesus’ teaching that when you have something that bugs you about someone, you go to them personally and confront them, privately, face to face, and “alone” (Matthew 18:15f). If that doesn’t work, then you take someone else with you and so on… always looking for reconciliation in the relationship. Wasn’t it Paul that said that in becoming new creations, the old ways of the world were no longer our ways? As Christians, we’re different people, new creations, and “behold, all things become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Even the ways the world goes about dealing with conflict are not our ways.

And in that very next verse, the very next sentence, we are presented with the instruction that since God “has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ…” that He has now “given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Tom Bickerton and Dayton Mix did that kind of individual, private, face-to-face reconciling work… and, I believe, we both walked away feeling like brothers… CHRISTIAN brothers… not the Cain and Abel kind. I felt we were reconciled. That’s what Jesus said we were to be about. That’s what Paul said was to be our ministry.

So I am at a loss why this keeps coming up in other people’s conversations, letters, emails, phone calls, and planning.

Then there were anonymous letters sent trying to prejudice lay people against the bishop. Being clergy, I didn’t get one, but I’m told that I wasn’t named in the letter, but the background of this situation was. What was included were misunderstandings and confusion… some pieces of true information… but because they’re out of context they are not accurate.

And for the record, anonymous letters have NO PLACE in Christianity. In both Scripture and in the history of the church, the ones who were truly led of God to “take a stand” and “defend the faith” always publicly spoke out. They wrote with their names attached… regardless of reprisal… even if it meant burning at the stake, or persecution, or excommunication. Those are the ones we look back to and honor them for ‘defending the faith.’

The times that so-called Christians hid behind the cover of anonymity were times of hiding under bed sheets and white hoods so that they could make a point about what was bothering them and so they created fear, division, and intimidation. Christians aren’t supposed to work like that. We’re supposed to do the hard work of standing up for what you believe and confronting someone who has hurt you in order to seek reconciliation.

Folks, the Ku Klux Klan mentality of anonymity is evil… it can never lead to reconciliation… it can never lead to spiritual healthiness of a church or its people. It is not Christian to attack… let alone anonymously.

Now, as we’re about to leave for our annual conference sessions where we supposedly gather to “discern” what God would have us do as a covenanted people who are all united to do His work together in this area, I received an email that thanked me for some information and the writer included a question:

“Thanks for the info. Now, how do we depose a bishop?”

Although there have been several bishops (and pastors and lay people as well) that I wonder how they ever made it past their own local pastor asking them the “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” and “Do you repent of your sins?” questions when they were first joining the church as lay people, THIS bishop is NOT one of those I wonder about. I believe him to be a good and decent man who loves Jesus as Lord and takes seriously his responsibility to shepherd the church.

Yes, he can be a bit of a politician too… in that he would like to do what he can to have EVERYONE be happy. I guess I don’t see that as horrible… Jesus himself calls us to be peacemakers. Maybe he made a mistake in how he tried to keep the peace. Maybe he would do things differently if he could.

Frankly, I would have made some decisions differently if I had been in his position… But then, in MY OWN LIFE there are MANY decisions I’d make differently if I could. Therefore, I MUST show a leader, even a bishop, that same graciousness that I would want to be treated with… and HAVE been treated with, by the people of God.

What happened to the Christians who pray for and love each other? In fact, wasn’t that the very definition Jesus used as to how you could tell a REAL Christian: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35)?

For that matter, if you believe that there are some in our church that truly are “the enemy,” then why aren’t we praying for them and showing them overwhelming love like Scripture says (Luke 6:27-28)? If we consider someone to be our enemy, Jesus said that we were to ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘go the second mile’ and ‘not resist an evil person’ (Matthew 5:38-42).

As for the issues that keep dividing us… war, abortion, sexuality beliefs & practices, particular doctrines, or whatever… I come from a background where we believed that the Bible taught that “whosoever would” could come to Christ and they could come as sinners “just as they are.” Sins and all… They could accept Christ and be a part of the family of God and still screw up occasionally… The question wasn’t ‘Are you without sin yet?’ but rather ‘Do you repent of your sin?’

And even then, we recognized that we all screw up… and need to repent again! In fact, last night before bed, I downed a huge bowl of ice cream with a large scoop of peanut butter and a chocolate candy bar… and I wasn’t even hungry to start with… I SINNED!!!! I had to repent of my sin of gluttony! And no one has kicked me out of the church yet…!

What makes my sin okay, or perhaps the sin of talebearing or gossip all right, but a bishop misspeaking, or a whole congregation that doesn’t seem to “get it” the way I believe on homosexuality, NOT acceptable?

YES, there are sinners in the church… and IT’S US!!!! We’re them! ALL of us…

I’ve been looking forward to conference for months and months and months. Not so that I can make a political stand or get my way on an issue… but because I’m a follower of Jesus Christ who follows John Wesley’s example of needing to ‘conference’ with my brothers and sisters. And yes, there will be unpleasant conversations at times and things might not always go my way, but if we’re truly Christian, then we’d better be about loving each other… including our bishop and our leaders… loving each other so much so that the people around us who watch us can recognize that we truly do love one another.

Either that or or we ought to quit calling ourselves followers of Christ…


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