Saturday, April 16, 2022

Spring has come

The storm is over now

This girl, age 16, wrote this poem -- it's me!
 

The sun is breaking through

A whole new life is starting

For me and for you.

The birds are singing now

So wipe away your tears

For Spring has come again 

In spite of all your fears.

When winter came we wondered 

As mortals often do

If we could weather the storm

And see the bad times through

What a waste of time to worry!

How silly could we be?

If we had just faith and patience

The rest would have been easy!

So worry no more, friend of mine

And leave your burden here

Come relax with me and we'll enjoy 

The best time of the year! 

💮 💮 💮

I found this poem when cleaning out my mom's house. Now I know the true fulfillment is found only in Christ in the coming of His Kingdom.


Saturday, January 29, 2022

What Does the New Testament Say About Slavery?

What does the New Testament say about slavery? Doesn’t the Bible forbid slavery like it forbids murder and adultery? Certainly slavery, owning another human being made in God’s image, is worse than bearing false witness against my neighbor, right? Then why did it not make the Bible's Top Ten list? 

Matter of fact, Paul writes to the believers in Corinth and tells them this: 

Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches… Yes each of you should remain as you were when God called you. Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it. And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. (1Corinthians 7:17, 20-22a) 

Wait, what? Is that what Paul thinks of slavery? 

Paul’s view of life is totally absorbed by the spiritual reality of Jesus and heavenly things. If you read the whole chapter, you can see Paul is directing this conversation to the circumcised and the uncircumcised, to the married and single, as well as to slaves. Paul’s focus is on heaven and God’s Kingdom coming soon. He wants us to be instruments of the Kingdom. See more on Paul’s thoughts here: 

But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short... Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away. I want you to be free from the concerns of this life... I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible. (1 Corinthians 7:29-32, 35) 

Paul’s focus is not on changing life’s situations because this life is short and it is not the end. Paul instead urges the believers to change their hearts. There are masters and slaves in the world Paul lives in and he is not focused on changing Roman society. Instead he tells the followers of Jesus to rethink their attitudes, no matter what their place in society: 

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and He has no favorites. (Ephesians 6:5-9) 

Remember, it was the Jewish people who believed the Messiah would be a political figure, a military leader who would overthrow Rome and become king. Jesus repeated told them that they misunderstood His plan. Jesus came to change hearts. He did not come to force anyone to follow Him with mighty power, but to love us to voluntarily come into His Kingdom. 

Paul’s letter to Philemon also reflects his desire to change hearts. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who ran away, likely causing inconvenience and financial loss. But Onesimus met up with Paul while he was imprisoned. There Onesimus helped Paul and became a believer. Paul, wanting to do the right thing, and trusting Philemon’s faith and friendship, sent Onesimus back to him with a deeply personal letter: 

That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus. I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison… I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart. I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. 

But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever. He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me… I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! (Philemon 1:8-21) 

Paul could have insisted Philemon free Onesimus, but he did not. He wanted their relationship change to be of Philemon’s free will. Jesus wants us too, of our own free will, to treat others with kindness and respect in every relationship, in every situation. Jesus wants to make slavery and bigotry unthinkable, not merely illegal. And He doesn’t want it to stop there. 

We think of social justice as changing society, changing laws. But Jesus does not want us not to point fingers at other people or at government. Jesus wants us to consider our own hearts. Do we judge others because of how they dress or where they live, or what news channels they watch or what they post on social media? Are we critical of others and analyze whether they measure up to our standards? Are we judging each other and neglecting to consider our own faults, our own self-centered, self-righteous attitudes? 

Do we rant about equity for all when we personally are reluctant to give kindness and mercy to all? 

Do we try to take out the speck in other people’s eye and ignore the plank in our own? 

Jesus came not to free His chosen race, the Jews, from slavery to Rome or any earthly system. He came to free ALL of us from the power of sin and death. Jesus knew once we believed in Him, slavery would eventually become unthinkable. But freedom comes one by one by one. 

Meanwhile, while we wait for the fullness of His Kingdom, Jesus asks us to do one thing: to show kindness and mercy to His children, ALL of them, one by one by one. We can be a "Paul" and advocate for an "Onesimus" we know. We can be an "Onesimus" and serve and trust a "Paul" we know. Or we can just show kindness to that co-worker in the desk next to us who is so annoying out of our love for Christ. Each of us can pick our one.

And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. (1 Corinthians 7:22b)

 

Beloved Jesus, I am the one who is inclined to judge others. It is easy to talk about racism as a problem someone else has, or society has, or the government has. It is harder to look inside at myself and ask: Where am I bigoted? When do I make assumptions about people? When am I turned off because of someone's accent, or clothing, or Facebook post? Please help me to be aware when I think those thoughts and heal my heart!

Thank You for those You filled with special Spiritual gifts and passions to lead our nation away from slavery and bigotry; people like Martin and Harriet and Fredrick and Abraham. Even though You have not picked me for such an honor, I can still honor You every day by bringing kindness and respect to all I meet. Help me to do that in Your Name. Amen. 

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Skunks and Turtles

When it comes to conflict resolution people can be describes as skunks or turtles.

Skunks are conflict enjoyers. They face conflict head-on and want to resolve it immediately but tend to be verbal, pushy, aggressively describing their reasons and logic or passions to the other person. In short, they stink up the place, like a skunk.

Skunks mean well. In their head they hear the words of Jesus, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24). Resolving conflict is important. Right?

Turtles are conflict avoiders. They dislike conflict so they keep it to themselves, deny there is a problem, or minimize it, rationalize it or try to forget it. They change the subject, leave the room, hang up the phone, or turn the TV up louder. In short, they retreat into their shell and hide, like a turtle.

Turtles mean well. In their head they hear the words of Jesus, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire." (Matthew 5:21-22) Being meek, kind, patient is important. Right?

Funny these two quotes of Jesus are right next to each other in the Sermon on the Mount. They are meant to be considered together. And mostly because God has a great sense of humor, it often seems like He has designed us to be attracted to the opposite type. Skunks tend to be attracted to turtles, and turtles to skunks. 

Skunks are wrong because in their passion to be heard, they can be experienced as not loving. They can criticize and accuse the other person, assigning motives without first trying to understand. This behavior can drive people away from them and the conflict, sadly because what the skunk really desired was intimacy.

Turtles are wrong because they can allow the hurt to fester and make them bitter towards the other person. In their effort to bring peace they stuff the pain inside but end up leaking instead, acting manipulative, passive-aggressive, with thinly veiled snarky remarks. This behavior can drive people away from turtles when what they really desired was intimacy.
 
What to do? How about we read the rest of Jesus' sermon? Matter of fact, let's start at the beginning.
 

“Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant, the humble], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

“Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted].

“Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the meek, gentle [the patient, kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God, trying to do the right thing according to His will], for they will be [completely] satisfied.

“Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character, attitudes and motives], for they will see God.

“Blessed [spiritually calm with life-joy in God’s favor] are the makers and maintainers of peace who show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight, for they will [express His character and] be called the sons and daughters of God.

“Blessed [comforted by inner peace and God’s love] are those who are persecuted for doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

“Blessed [morally courageous and spiritually alive with life-joy in God’s goodness] are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of [your association with] Me. Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great [absolutely inexhaustible]; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3-12 AMP revised)
 
As we bravely pursue righteousness by entering into peacemaking conversations, these are the highlights of what we need to pray for and strive for:
  • Being humble and devoid of spiritual or intellectual arrogance.
  • Being willing to look at our our failings and mourn over the harm and hurt that causes others.
  • Being patient, gentle, kindhearted and self-controlled as we listen to and interact with others.
  • Trying to do the right things, as much as we understand God's will.
  • Showing mercy and forgiveness to others when they fail.
  • Consider our motives and attitudes to make sure they are rooted in a godly character.
  • Striving to cooperate and not compete or fight.
We also need to have courage. Courage to try to work things out and engage when there is the possibility that we may be hurt, insulted, slandered, or rejected. Jesus tells us here to expect these things and rejoice. Our reward for peacemaking is not here on earth. Our reward is in heaven, kept safe for us by Him.
 
I get disappointed when I try and things don't "work out". But that is a bad goal. It is the wrong goal. Our goal is the Kingdom, not earthly perfection. We do the right thing, with the right attitude and trust the Spirit to work out the rest. 

Beloved, You know where I land with this. I remember demonstrating the worst parts of both the skunk and the turtle. Please forgive me! On my own, I am hopelessly lost in my sinful pattern but my hope is in Your power of Your Holy Spirit in me. This year, help me follow You in these things and help me to encourage others to do the same. You are our hope. Help us trust You more.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Accept, My Word of the Year

A new year. a new page, a new word to focus on for 2022. 

For the past few years I have focused on creating and keeping good relationships. This year after watching current events more than usual, I have been longing to bring God's kingdom to our nation, to the earth. How do we do that? 

For comfort I have been turning to the Lord's Prayer. In it Jesus tells us to pray "Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10) and also reflecting on "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12) 

We bring God's kingdom to earth when we allow Him to be our King and obey His laws. And the foundation of all laws is so simple: to love one another. 

Easier said than done. What does this look like? Jesus has been opening this up like an onion for me year by year. 

A prior word of the year was LISTEN. Last year's was ENGAGE. This year's word is ACCEPT. They all go together. Let me explain...

ENGAGE: As a natural conflict-avoider, my default is to ignore conflict. So last year I was encouraging myself to engage. To engage with people in pain and to engage with conflict when I would have preferred to avoid it. It is hard for me to engage and listen if I am not really interested in the topic, if someone is presenting a contrasting point of view, if someone is in a lot of pain. But that is what Jesus calls us to, to move towards others, even when it is uncomfortable.  I would prefer to hang up the phone, walk away, give up, immerse into social media, anything else. But that is not what Jesus did. He came toward us, even though it was messy, uncomfortable, painful, dangerous, and ultimately deadly. I need to continue to engage. It is what He calls me to do.

LISTEN: Listen involves talking less. Asking more questions such as: what else happened, what feelings came up, what prior event in your life does this remind you of, what assumptions are being made. Making sure I understand the other person. Focusing on all the details given. Being sympathetic. Trying to understand their point of view by picturing myself in their situation.  


ACCEPT
: This is the hard next part. Accept their position, their feelings, their prior actions as facts that I am not going to change today. Accept who they are and show respect, tenderness, and compassion. Accept they are a separate person and the Lord has them on a unique path I cannot comprehend and I cannot alter. Accept there are different or conflicting opinions, reasons, world views and it is the way it is. I can still be friendly. I can still be kind. I can still be respectful even when I believe it is wrong.

Only after I honestly accept others as they are, will they be open to hearing my views and continuing the conversation. Once I share, only the Holy Spirit can convict them, and He is well able to do so without any more of my help. Indeed my continued "help" can block His work.

And my Beloved said to me...

I came for all of them but they would not all have Me. Some rejected Me. I did not force them, even now, I never force them. No, I continue to love them.

You cannot force them either. It will not work and only push them away.

Beloved, forgive me for all the times I tried to convince or manipulate others towards my point of view! Forgive my arrogance and pride which led me to believe my ways were right or best and that others needed my help. 

Remind me to love others as You did! Encourage me to engage and listen to accept them and trust You with all things.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Alone and Far from Home at Christmas

It's another covid Christmas and because of the pandemic, our comforting routines and family gatherings are disrupted, leaving us disappointed and sad. 


But isn't that what the first Christmas was like? Mary, a teen with her first pregnancy, expected to be home for the birth, surrounded by her mother, aunts, older sisters and most comforting, the local midwife with experience in giving birth. Unlike today, no medical advancements were available to alleviate pain or rescue a baby in distress. It was not unusual for women at that time to die in childbirth. 

Instead the Roman census came, requiring her and her betrothed Joseph to travel 70 plus miles from home to Bethlehem. When they arrived and the birth of the Child became closer, there was not even a relative's home or an inn to protect them from the elements, only a barn, surrounded by animals and hay. 

There was only Joseph to assist when Mary gave birth. No women with experience gathered to support her. Only a man, with whom she had never been intimate, who had never seen her unclothed, was there to help her. Mary was alone and far from home at a frightening time in her life. And yet, God provided for all her needs. 

God Himself came into the world and surrendered His glory to a young girl alone with a man she barely knew. God who controls the universe allowed Himself to be welcomed into that dirty, cold place. 

We love all the Christmas traditions and the opportunity to be with family and loved ones, to bless them and to be blessed by gifts and good food. But that is not the essence of Christmas. It is the courage to follow God into difficult, lonely places and trust Him because He is worthy of our trust. 

Beloved Jesus, as I think of You and Your earthy mother and father this Christmas, remind me of their courage. Help me to be more courageous and more trusting. Remind me that like Mary, she was not alone. She had God inside her body. And by the power of faith and the Holy Spirit, so do I!

Sunday, December 12, 2021

A Messiah is Coming

Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us.  They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught. (Luke 1:1-4)

I too am writing this so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught. Christmas is a time of stories, heartwarming tales of love, sacrifice, faith. But many of them are just that, stories made up about things we would like to happen, wish would happen. 

But Luke went to those who knew Jesus and talked to them to get their stories and write an accurate account. One of those people was Mary of Nazareth. This is her story. However this story does not begin with Mary. We are towards the end of the greatest story which began with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  

Over 500 earlier, the Jews returned from 70 years captivity in Babylon and rebuilt their temple. At that  time enthusiasm for their faith was high, and they were devoted to their God and each other. But as humans do over time, their devotion waned and the people returned to their old ways of self-centeredness. God, longing for His people to remember Him, sent the prophet Malachi. He was the last prophet to add to the Jewish scriptures 400 years before Jesus' birth, in the book that sits at the end our Old Testament.  He writes...

“Look! I am sending My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to His Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.  “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.  

On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant—all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai[c] for all Israel. 

“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Malachi 3:1, 4:1-6) 

1. What does God say is coming?

2. Who is God sending? When he comes, what will he do?

3. What does God want for His people?

Luke begins his story by establishing a time line, pointing to who was king at the time. 

When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old. (Luke 1: 1-7). 

4. What does Luke tell us about Zechariah and Elizabeth? 

One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying. While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 

But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”(Luke 1:8-17) 

5. What did the angel tell Zechariah? 

6. Contrast this with what Malachi prophesized. What did this mean? Who will this child John be?

Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” 

Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” 

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary. 

When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”  (Luke 1:18-25)

7. What was Zechariah's reaction to the angel?

8. What was Elizabeth's reaction to the angel?

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. (Luke 1:26-27 

9. What did Luke tell us about Mary and Joseph? Why are those facts important?

Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you will name Him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David. And He will reign over Israel forever; His Kingdom will never end!” 

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” 

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail. 

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.(Luke 1:28-38) 

10. How does Gabriel describe Mary's Son? What does this mean for Mary and for the nation of Israel?

11. Mary's cousin Elizabeth was an older married woman without any children, so her baby John would take away Elizabeth's dishonor and disgrace. In contrast, Mary was not married yet and was required to stay a virgin until her wedding day. A baby for Mary would bring disgrace to her family and grave danger to her. Yet what was her reaction to Gabriel's news?

12. What do you think compelled Mary to react in this way? 

A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your Child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?  When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 

You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said.”  (Luke 1:39-45)

13. Why do you think Mary went to visit Elizabeth? 

14. Mary treasured these memories and years later shared them in detail with Luke. Why did Luke feel it was important to add these details to his story? 


Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For He took notice of His lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and He has done great things for me. 

He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear Him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. 

He has helped His servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For He made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.” 

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home. (Luke 1:46-56)

15. This last section is call the Magnificat because Mary starts with praising her magnificent God. In it she describes God. What does she say about Him? 

16. What does Mary expect God is doing in the coming of baby Jesus?

17. What sections of her praise is especially meaningful to you this year?

Dear Jesus, may we be count among those who fear You and adore You as our King!

Sunday, December 05, 2021

Bible Study: Resolving Conflict

This study is based on Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero and the November 14, 2021 Liquid Church sermon "Grow into an Emotionally Healthy Adult" by Pastor Tim Lucas

 


Opening Discussion:

Who are you experiencing conflict with right now, big or small? Do you have a friend, family member or co-workers and there is an issue between you that is unresolved? What do you usually do in these types of situations? And how is that working for you?

In his sermon, Pastor Tim said "Mature adults resolve conflicts rather than dissolve relationships." What do you think of that quote?

 

What does the Bible say about resolving conflict?

Read Matthew 5:11-16

What did Jesus say about conflict? Does this tell us that as followers of Jesus we should expect to be free of conflict?  

Read Matthew 5:21-24

What did Jesus say about who should initiate conflict resolution when we are angry? Who should make the first move? 

Why do you think He said this? 

What does this say about ignoring the conflict? Talking to other friends about the conflict? About ignoring the person causing the conflict? 

Read 1 John 4:11-13 and 19-21 

What did John say about loving others?

Why is loving each other important to God?

When we are angry with someone and/or feel they are wrong, how do we LOVE them and not FIX them?

Read Matthew 7:1-6

Jesus tells us that before we confront someone, we should examine our heart: motives, fears, desires, bad habits, blind spots, etc. He warns us to first "get the plank out of our own eye." How do we examine our heart?

Why is this an important first step before we initiate conflict resolution?

Pastor Tim talked about clarifying our expectations and making sure they are  reasonable. Consider your expectations about the person you are in conflict with. What are you expecting from them? Have you been clear about your expectations with them? Did they agree with your expectations?  

In Matthew 7:6 Jesus seemed to suggest boundaries are also important. How can we tell when we are "casting pearls before swine?"

Ephesians 4:15 encourages us to speak the truth in love. How do we do this? What attitudes must we maintain in ourselves in order to be loving while we express our intense feelings, such as disappointment or anger, to another person?

In his sermon, Pastor Tim recommended saying to the other person: "I'm sorry, I wasn't listening to your perspective?" What do you think of that idea? Why is listening to the other person an important part of the process? How good are you at listening to others without being defensive?

Read Romans 12:18

Paul seems to recommend that we must initiate the resolution, be humble, kind and loving, but leave the results to God. How can we continue to love/forgive people who we disagree with? How can we continue to love/forgive people who repeatedly hurt us?

Read Romans 16:17-20

Paul ends this section of instructions to the Romans with an important reminder about evil. How does this relate to the rest of what we have discovered?

Conclusion

Conflict resolution requires humility, courage and discernment and each individual conflict is unique. There is no list of firm rules, but there is the power of the Holy Spirit who is our companion and helper in all things.