HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on October 14, 2017)

How to handle toxic people - Abidan ShahMy last article, “How To Handle Toxic People,” drew more responses than any of my pervious articles! Evidently, it touched a nerve and God used it to meet a real need. Thank you for all the words of appreciation! Some of you raised a question that I feel the answer may benefit others as well – “Daily we go through minor toxic encounters that leave us feeling upset to one degree or another. Does that mean that for each of those incidents we have to go through the same process of praying for 20 days until we are free of the toxin?” Of course not. Toxic people and minor toxic encounters are two different things. The first are individuals who perpetually cause us to feel miserable and the second are chance happenings that inject just enough toxin in us to ruin our spirit. Although the latter are not as harmful as the former, don’t assume that they are completely harmless. If left untreated, those emotional fender-benders can cause us to ruin others’ spirits as well. Let me explain below.

Imagine several scenarios: a kid at the drive-thru messes up your order; someone cuts you off on the freeway; someone fails to thank you for your hard work on some project; and you wave at a friend who doesn’t wave back with the same energy. Or, how about the big one: You put a post on Facebook that you think should go viral and only 3 people like it…What do you do next? Each of those encounters have the potential to initiate an unhealthy conversation within you. For the kid at the drive-thru: “Kids these days are so disrespectful.” For the person who cut you off: “I hope he/she gets caught.” For the friend who didn’t seem that excited to see you: “I’m looking the other way next time.” For those who failed to appreciate your hard work: “I am not appreciated.” And yes, for Facebook, one of those: “If you are my true friend, you’ll comment below and repost.” Such negative self-talk will surely ruin your attitude and keep you from living up to your potential. Unfortunately, such unhealthy conversations don’t stay locked inside for long. Sooner or later they spill over on to the unsuspecting individuals in your lives. In other words, your quest for justice will not rest until someone is convicted, sentenced, or punished. Since you cannot prosecute the original perpetrators, you will substitute those innocent, weak, and docile individuals in your life. Your kids, your husband, your wife, your church family, your neighbor, and your best friend will pay for a crime they did not commit.

What is the solution? First, recognize when your spiritual equilibrium has been disturbed. In other words, acknowledge the gnawing feeling that some wrong may have been committed against you. Second, immediately take charge of your internal conversation. 2 Corinthians 10:5 reminds us that we should be “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” A runaway thought is like a runaway train. There will be casualties. Third, refrain from judging the motives of others. 1 Corinthians 2:11 “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” Ultimately, only God knows the true intents of each human heart. Fourth, pray for that individual. Nothing will neutralize hate and anger faster than sincere prayer. Follow the example of our Savior: Luke 23:34 “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Don’t misunderstand. There may be situations where more than prayer is called for but there’s a big difference between restitution and retaliation. Fifth, practice the lost art of the unsent angry letter. Abraham Lincoln would often write his “hot letter” but postpone sending it until he had cooled down. He never sent most of them.

 

Facing Old Foes by Pastor Abidan Shah

FACING OLD FOES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Facing Old FoesIntroduction: There have always been famous rivalries. In ancient times it was Athens vs. Sparta. In sports there are plenty of rivalries – Alabama vs. Auburn, Georgia vs. Georgia State, Duke vs. Chapel Hill. In soft drinks, Coke vs. Pepsi. There have been family rivalries like the Hatfields and the McCoys. But the worst kind is when it’s within the family. Sometimes our very flesh and blood can be our worst foes. This morning we will learn how to face old foes.

Genesis 32   6 Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” 7 So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed…9 Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant…11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children.

Question: Who are you afraid to face? More specifically, who in your family are you afraid to face? What has happened between you and this person that the very mention of his/her name fills you with fear? The very thought of coming face-to-face with this person makes you sick to your stomach. It may not necessarily be a fear for your life but it’s a kind of a mental and emotional fear. Are you saved? Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” If you are saved, God can help you face this foe with power, love, and a sound mind.

Context of the Message: If you remember from last time, Jacob had enough of Uncle and Father-in-law Laban in Haran and he was headed back to his parent’s home with his wives and children. But coming home was complicated. He didn’t exactly leave on good terms. In fact, his last exit from home was more of an escape for his life. Twenty years had passed but his old foe Esau, his brother, was still there and, if I may add, stronger than ever. I’m sure Jacob had not forgotten Esau’s last words for him – “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Isaac, their father was still living but Rebekah, his mother, the one who always stood up for him and protected him, was dead. Jacob wanted to go home. He needed to go home. But, going home meant facing his brother whom he had deeply offended 20 years ago. As Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city…” This message will help us learn from Jacob how to face the old foe.

Let’s begin in Genesis 32   1 So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” And he called the name of that place Mahanaim. If you remember, 20 years ago when Jacob was running for his life, he had a vision of a ladder with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. So he woke up next morning and named the place Bethel, the house of God. Jacob was struggling with homesickness and God reminded Jacob that even though he was far away from the steps of his earthly home, he was always near to the steps of his heavenly home. In other words, when Jacob was away from his home, God gave him the key to his own heavenly home. But this time he calls the vision the “Camp of God.” Keep in mind that this camp was not like a tent in the woods. This was the base camp of the angelic army of God. Because Jacob was afraid for his life and family, God gave him a glimpse of his power and his presence all around him.

Application: What fear is plaguing you today? Jesus can meet you right where you are. He will replace your fear with his presence if you ask him. Have you done that?

Even after the vision of God’s army camp of angels around him, Jacob is still afraid of facing his brother Esau. So he begins to do several things to appease him. I’ve heard many messages condemning Jacob for his fear. Here’s the problem: The Bible never condemns him for doing what he did. What does he do? Genesis 32   3 Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 And he commanded them, saying, “Speak thus to my lord Esau, Several things are worth pointing out here: First, Jacob addresses Esau as “lord” or “master.” That does not mean “god.” It’s simply a designation of respect and honor. When it comes to facing an old foe in the family, watch how you address them. If you begin by calling them a name or treating them with disdain or reminding them of how you’re better than they are, it will only cause them to despise and resent you even more. Proverbs 15   1 A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.

This is very hard for people today who are living in the social media world where every post, picture, and snap chat is meant to make our own self look better than we are.

What else did Jacob say? 5 “I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.’” Jacob is offering gifts to appease his brother Esau. He is doing what Solomon tells us to do in Proverbs 12:14a “A gift in secret pacifies anger…” But the word still comes back to Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. 7 “So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed…” I would be afraid too because that was a sign of battle. So he divides up his livestock and the people into different groups, hoping that if Esau attacks one, the other may be able to get away. Here’s a question: Is Jacob failing to trust God by doing all this? Not really. He is doing all he can to protect the promise of God to his grandfather Abraham. How do we know? Listen again to his prayer in Genesis 32   11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. 12 For You said, “I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” His prayer is focused on the promise of God.

Principle: Prayer is indispensable in times of crisis.

How does God answer Jacob’s prayer? Genesis 32:24 “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” How strange! Just when you’d think that God would send a cool breeze and give Jacob a good night sleep with dreams of angels protecting him and fighting for him, a stranger jumped on him and tried to pin him to the ground! This went on all night and when the stranger realized that he couldn’t win against him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and it went out of joint.

What in the world is God doing? This stranger is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus. He’s wrestling with Jacob for several reasons. First, to test him and see if he still wants the blessing of being part of the promise of God to his grandfather Abraham. Jacob refusing to let go until the stranger blessed him proved that he still wanted it. Next, it was to break him. God knows that if Jacob went out there looking all big and bad, it would only aggravate Esau more and this time he would really kill him. What’s the outcome? Instead of making him strong, he made him weak. Why? Same reason that he made Paul weak in 2 Corinthians 12   7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. God way is through brokenness and weakness.

What was the result? Jacob is now sleep deprived, physically exhausted, and limping in incredible pain. 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip…Genesis 33:3 Then he crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. You can see the silhouette of a truly broken man. What was Esau’s reaction? Genesis 33:4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. What a beautiful sight! He even refuses the gifts that Jacob had sent to him but Jacob insists and Esau reluctantly takes them. But when Esau offers to hang together, Jacob refuses because he knows that ultimately Esau was not on the same page as him.

Here are some suggestions in dealing with an old foe:

  • Trust God’s Presence
  • Show humility
  • Offer gifts
  • Pray
  • Be willing to be broken
  • Don’t compromise God’s plan for your life

Are you saved? Are you a foe of God? He is willing to reconcile with you

Resolving Family Conflict

RESOLVING FAMILY CONFLICT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Resolving Family Conflict

Introduction: Since we will be talking about conflict in the family, here are some funny memes that I’ve come across about the family:

  • “My family is temperamental, half temper and half mental.”
  • “Our family is just one tent away from a full blown circus.”
  • Mother to daughter – “You are going to be fine. You come from a strong line of lunatics.”
  • People: “Wow! Your family is nice.” Me: “Fools…You know nothing of the dark side.”
  • “My doctor asked if any members of my family suffered from insanity. I replied, ‘No, we all seem to enjoy it.’”
  • Every family has one weird relative. If you don’t know who it is, then it’s probably you.

There’s no drama like family drama. Having said that, family is still worth having. As you know, we’ve been studying the family of Abraham and Sarah through the Book of Genesis, looking at their good and bad decisions and the impact they had on later generations. This morning we come to the third generation, the family of Jacob and Rachel and Leah. We’re going to learn from them how to resolve family conflict.

Genesis 31   46 Then Jacob said to his brethren, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 And Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day.” Therefore its name was called Galeed, 49 also Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from another. 50 If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us—see, God is witness between you and me!”

Question: Is there conflict in your family? Has some family member offended you? Has some family member been offended by you? Have things happened and words exchanged that have led to hurt feelings, anger, and broken relationships? Has the Holy Spirit been convicting your heart to make things right? Have you taken steps to reconcile? Are you saved? If you are, then do you know that as believers we have been given the ministry of reconciliation?

Context of the Message: If you remember from last time, Esau was angry with Jacob because, in his view, Jacob had cheated him off his birthright. Word began to spread that Esau was waiting for his father to die so he could kill his brother. When Rebecca, their mother, heard about it she called Jacob and listen to what she said to him – Genesis 27   43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. 44 And stay with him a few days, (Remember that, not few months or a year or 10 years, and definitely not 20 years!) until your brother’s fury turns away,” 45 “…then I will send and bring you from there.” The plan was for Jacob to stay only a few days with Uncle Laban. Why? Rebekah knew her brother. We’ll see what that means in a few moments. Let’s begin with reading what happened when Jacob got to uncle’s place.

Genesis 29   13 Then it came to pass, when Laban heard the report about Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house…14 And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.”

Context: To a causal reader, this is no big deal – “Uncle is glad to see his nephew.” But there’s more intended here. To understand the true intent, you need to put on the glasses of Jewish or Hebrew humor every time there is an interaction between Uncle Laban and Nephew Jacob. They are constantly trying to one up on each other. Y’all remember the old cartoons “Spy versus Spy”? This is just like that.

Let’s read again – 14 And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” Translated: Poor nephew. You are in a safe place now. You are with Uncle Laban. Trust me. We’re family. I’ll take care of you. “And he stayed with him for a month.”

Principle: Extended stays usually end up in unnecessary strife. Love grows at a distance and it shrivels up close.

Now begins the Spy vs Spy Story:

It begins with Laban – Genesis 29:15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?” If I were Jacob, my response to him would be “Am I working for you? Did I say, ‘I need a job.’” It’s sneaky what Laban is doing. He is restructuring the relationship from family to employee. He also knows that Jacob seems to be attracted to Rachel, his younger daughter. In a round about way he is trying to strike a deal with Jacob. He is trying to get Jacob to go to work for him.

Jacob is eager to strike a deal – Genesis 29   18 Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.” Jacob is in love. The average bride price was 30-40 shekels back then. Jacob was probably paid a shekel a month. He’s working for twice the amount required! 19 And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.

Laban gets one up on JacobGenesis 29    22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. 23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob…25 So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. You would think a man would know if he had the wrong woman on the wedding night. Apparently not! Maybe it was the lack of any lights in the tent. Maybe she had a veil.

Listen to Jacob’s response – Genesis 29   25 “…And he said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?’” He’s upset! I would be too!

For e.g. When I was in seminary, many years ago, a family member sold us his car. In about a month or so, the antifreeze leaked out and the engines locked up. Needless to say, the car had to be totaled. Nicole remembers how mad I was with this person.

What is Laban’s response? Genesis 29   26 And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.” 28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also. Laban is quite the wheeler and the dealer. He locks Jacob into a 14-year contract now. Apparently, he had no problem with men having multiple wives. This was not Jacob’s idea.

It’s been 14 years now. Jacob is tired of Uncle Laban. After Rachel had Joseph, he came to Laban and said in Genesis 30   25 “…Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.” 27 And Laban said to him, “Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the LORD has blessed me for your sake.” 28 Then he said, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.” Jacob is not falling for it this time. 29 So Jacob said to him, “You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me. 30 For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the LORD has blessed you since my coming. And now, when shall I also provide for my own house?” Meaning: It’s time for me to work for myself.

Now its Jacob’s turn to get back at Uncle Laban for tricking him with Rachel – Genesis 30   31 So he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks: 32 Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. Jacob makes a proposition to Laban. Let all the speckled and spotted animals be mine. In other words, all the abnormal ones are mine. You get to keep all the one-colored normal ones. Laban liked that. That’s about 20% of the one-colored Awassi fa-tailed sheep and black goats. He took the irregular abnormal ones of Jacob and left them with his sons. He let Jacob take care of the one-colored animals. Now, Jacob does something that is very odd and mysterious. He takes those one-colored normal animals of Laban and exposes them to shoots of various trees. Some call this ancient science and some call it genetic engineering. Either way, Jacob was pretty smart. Somehow he knew the difference between genotype and phenotype. Genotype is your genetic identity, your personal genome. It’s in you but we can’t see it. Phenotype is your actual physical features, your visible characteristics. It’s not hidden in you. You can actually see it. Jacob knew that even though the sheep and goats were all white on the surface, they still carried the genetic code for the speckled and spotted variety. According to the law of heredity, he crossed the heterozygotes among themselves and in turn he had more and more of his share than Laban’s. Smart guy! What’s the result? Genesis 30   42 But when the flocks were feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s. 43 Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

Six years later Laban got word of what Jacob had done to him. Needless to say, he’s mad! Jacob hears about and he calls the two sisters, his wives together and tells them in Genesis 31   6 “And you know that with all my might I have served your father. 7 Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me.” Now listen to the response of Jacob’s wives, Laban’s daughters – Genesis 31   14 Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15 Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money. 16 For all these riches which God has taken from our father are really ours and our children’s; now then, whatever God has said to you, do it.” I can imagine that Jacob is relieved that both Rachel and Leah are with him on the matter.

It’s not over yet. Genesis 31:19 “Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s.” Why??? Maybe she still believed in those false gods. Maybe it was to guaranty her inheritance. Maybe it was to give her right to be head of the family unit. Maybe they represented deceased ancestors. Honestly, who knows! Later it will have some horrible repercussion on the people of Israel. They will worship these gods…

Back to Laban – Three days later he hears about it. He pursues them. God warns him in a dream not to harm Jacob and his family. He finally catches up. Listen to what he says in Gen. 31:26   And Laban said to Jacob: “What have you done, that you have stolen away unknown to me, and carried away my daughters like captives taken with the sword? 27 Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me; for I might have sent you away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp? 28 And you did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters. Now you have done foolishly in so doing…30 “…why did you steal my gods?” Jacob tells him to kill the person who has his gods. Laban searches through Jacob’s tent, Leah’s tent, Rachel’s tent, the two maidservants tents, and nothing. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household idols, put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them. And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them. 35 And she said to her father, “Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me.” And he searched but did not find the household idols.

Listen to Jacob’s self-righteous response in Genesis 31   36 Then Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban, and Jacob answered and said to Laban: “What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me? 37 Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Jacob has no clue that Rachel, his lovely wife is the culprit! Then you know they built the altar and called it Mizpah.

What a mess! Let me give you a few suggestions in resolving family conflict.

  • Keep your sense of humor.
  • Lower your expectation.
  • Don’t allow bitterness to control your life.
  • Learn to get along.
  • Don’t let family come between you and God’s plan for your life.
  • Be Christlike in everything.

Are you saved? Is their strife in your family? How about doing what you can to reconcile? Are you letting your family keep you from following God?

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