LWAYG: How Do You Resolve Conflict?

We’re almost finished with our series “Conflicted?” which deals with Conflict Resolution God’s way.  Most of what we’ve been talking about has been taken from or adapted from Peacemaker’s Ministries, check out their website for more information.  This past week we looked at the “Four G’s” of peacemaking

1.  Glorify God

  • “—Instead of focusing on our own desires or dwelling on what others may do, we will rejoice in the Lord and bring him praise by depending on his forgiveness, wisdom, power, and love, as we seek to faithfully obey his commands and maintain a loving, merciful, and forgiving attitude”
  • “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” (Psalm 37:3-6)
  • What’s your greatest desire?  Do you desire to Glorify God or avoiding conflict more?  Do you desire Glorifying God more than restoring your friendship?  Obviously, restoring friendships is glorifying to God – but keep these two desires (glorifying God and healing relationships) in the right order, or else you could begin to fake peace.

2. Get the log out of your own eye first

  • “—Instead of blaming others for a conflict or resisting correction we will trust in God’s mercy and take responsibility for our own contribution to conflicts – confessing our sins to those we have wronged, asking God to help us change any attitudes and habits that lead to conflict, and seeking to repair any harm we have caused.”
  • “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3–5)
  • Admit your share of the guilt FIRST… then address the conflict in order to resolve it (not simply to prove yourself right).

3. Gently restore

  • “—Instead of pretending that conflict doesn’t exist or talking about others behind their backs, we will overlook minor offenses or we will talk personally and graciously with those whose offenses seem too serious to overlook, seeking to restore them rather than condemn them.  When a conflict with a Christian brother or sister cannot be resolved in private, we will ask others in the body of Christ (the Church) to help us settle the matter in a biblical manner.”
  • “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”  (Galatians 6:1–3)
  • Do it the right way… PRIVATELY!  Don’t set the other person up to be the “bad guy.”  Remember the goal: Restored relationships (NOT for you to be “right”).  Don’t make the other person’s burden heavier by arguing with them – help them carry their load…

4. Go be reconciled

  • “—Instead of accepting premature compromise or allowing relationships to wither, we will actively pursue genuine peace and reconciliation – forgiving others as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgive us, and seeking just and mutually beneficial solutions to our differences.”
  • “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”  (Matthew 5:23–24)
  • Sometimes people in church talk about forgiveness like it’s easy… but it’s not!  Here’s my test for whether or not I’ve actually forgiven someone (or if I’m trying to fool myself into thinking I’ve forgiven them):  If something good happens to that person, am I sincerely happy for them (and if something bad happens to the person, do I sincerely grieve with them)?

Whom Do You Trust?

This question was recently given to the 7th grade students at the school where my wife is a teacher.  A summary of the essay question they had to answer was this: “If you had to choose, whom do you trust more: your parents, or your friends?  Give an example from your life about a time you chose to seek advice or support from one over the other.”

My wife was surprised and impressed by the overwhelming response favoring “Parents.”  She estimates that out of the 135 students, about 90% of them said that they would choose their parents over their friends if they had to choose.  Most students said that there are definitely times they would talk to their friends about issues they wouldn’t talk to their parents about; but when push comes to shove, they trust their parents more.

As a Youth Pastor, I regularly encourage parents by telling them, “YOU are the most important influence in your son/daughter’s life.”  I’m not sure how many believe me.  Our culture frequently tells us that peers are more influential than parental influence.

It’s also important to realize that parental influence, for some, can be a very negative influence.  If parents are unloving and distant, it can drive that child to act out in destructive ways to get attention or to seek acceptance by the wrong crowd.

Please realize that this does not mean: Good Parents = Good Kid or Bad Kid = Bad Parents.  There’s no scientific formula for parenting and raising healthy and mature children. There are other influences that are powerful, and those should not be ignored or diminished – but the most important of those influences is (and always will be) Parents!

Parents – be encouraged, be involved, be loving.  Ask good questions to your teenagers… and LISTEN to their responses (and listen to what they’re not saying, too).  Discipline your children when they’re young (but be loving and consistent – otherwise they may think your discipline is unmerited).

Pray for your children & Pray with them.  The cliché saying is true: “Families that pray together stay together.”  And families that pray and live out their faith among one another are even stronger still…

Staggering Facts about our World

Here are some statistics I shared with our youth during the 30 Hour Famine this past weekend:
  • Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
  • The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined.
  • Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
  • Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
  • 1 billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world).  640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services.  10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (or roughly 29,000 children per day).

For more, check out these websites:

World Vision Hunger Facts

Global Issues: Poverty Facts and Stats

Now that you know… what are you going to do about it…

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

(Matthew 25:34–40)

Love Your Church…

Here’s a common saying about churches: “If you find the perfect church, don’t join it… you’d ruin it.”  The idea is that since there are no perfect people, there are no perfect churches.  We all come with baggage… so do churches… that shouldn’t be a surprise or mystery to anyone.

Pastor John’s sermon on “Community” this past Sunday was really encouraging to me.  I was especially encouraged when he said something along the lines of, “I’m not always easy to love.  But when you love me when I’m unlovable THAT’S when Christian love really means something!  That’s what makes Christian love so beautiful – it loves the unlovable.”

Last night was EBC’s Annual Meeting.  I thought it went pretty well (way too long…) and left it feeling generally encouraged.  But not everyone felt that way.  So here are a few links to some blog posts a friend of me “happened” to post onto his Facebook page and they caught my eye because of their timeliness:

Both of these posts linked to above are short, easy reads.  If you attend church anywhere, you really should read both of these and keep them in mind…

Worship Leader as Preacher?

I think we’ve all been there:  You’re in the dumps spiritually, then a hymn or a worship song comes to mind and you’re spiritually revitalized and encouraged.

I’m a pastor, and I LOVE sermons… I love preaching them, and I love listening to them (most of the time).  I would never “put down” the role and centrality of good, biblical preaching in Christian worship.  But here’s the thing…

…when most of us go to church on Sunday (or whenever else you go), how do you view the music?  I’m not sure we realize that each song we sing is like a mini-sermon, burning its message into our hearts and minds as we sing.  Experts in education tell us that the more people participate and interact with the material, the more likely they are to remember it… I think that’s why when we’re spiritually depressed we think of great songs we’ve sung in church rather than great sermons we’ve heard.

The worship leader in most churches isn’t a pastor, but simply a person (or team of people) who has a musical gift and passion to lead the congregation in worshipping Jesus Christ through singing.  But in his own way… I think the worship leader (regardless of “worship style”) is a type of preacher, preparing the way for the sermon.

How do you view singing in church?  Is it just music… or is it something more?  Something deeper?  Do you get frustrated by the music being too traditional or too contemporary and edgy?  Rather than focusing on what you don’t like about the worship song, focus on the message and the words and sing them to the Lord as an offering of worship.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
(Revelation 4:11)

This is one of those songs that frequently preaches to me:

An Ignored Crisis: Teenage Affluenza

If you’re unfamiliar with this tragedy, watch the video below:

I’m not being sarcastic… this is a tragedy.  It’s a tragedy that we take so much for granted while so many go hungry in our world.

Take a look at the tag of the shirt you’re wearing.  Where’s it made?  China, Thailand, Indonesia?  Imagine being a teenager there… and say a prayer for the people in that country.

Pray that you would keep a bigger perspective before when you start to feel Teenage Affluenza rearing its ugly head within you.  Pray that God would show you how you could give more.  Pray that that you would learn to love like Jesus loved…

Only you (and your parents) can guard yourself against Teenage Affluenza.  Be on guard!

A Lesson from Domino’s

One of my favorite Youth Ministry blogs is written by Josh Griffin, the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church.  He wrote a recent post on Domino’s Pizza’s recent overhaul that has made me think about how open to change I am.  You can read his post by clicking this link to his blog: More than Dodgeball (named because youth ministry is “more than dodgeball”).

Here’s the video that sparked Josh’s thoughts:

As a pastor and a Christian, what do I have to learn from Domino’s Pizza taking the huge risk in completely changing how they do business.  Our product (the Christian Gospel) must never change, but how we communicate the Gospel can (and should!).  This is certainly worth thinking about.

Are we bad, or do we do bad things?

Have you ever thought about that question before?  This question is focused on our relationship to sin and asks, “Does sin define me?”  I know a lot of people who openly confess that they aren’t perfect (and therefore that they sin), and yet they would call me judgmental for telling them that they’re sinners.

I know that I sin… and that I’m a sinner.  It is way more natural for me to sin and to do whatever I want than it is for me to do good and to obey Jesus’ teachings.  Can’t we all admit that?  I think that we all know that there’s just something “wrong” about all of us.

I’ve been thinking about the story where G.K. Chesterton and other famous British writers were asked to write essays for a newspaper giving their explanation for what’s wrong in the world.  Chesterton’s reply was simple and short: “I am.”

It’s easy and tempting to look around us and to cast blame on others for all of our faults, but when we’re really honest with ourselves I think we all know that there’s something broken inside of us.

The Bible teaches that we were created in the Image of God, but that image was shattered like a broken mirror when we sinned.  From that moment on, all of humanity has not only been sinful, but we have become sinners.  Sin isn’t just something we do, it’s a part of our core identity.  Theologians call this “Original Sin” because we are all naturally-born-sinners.

“There is no one righteous, not even one;… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 3:10, 23–24)

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned”  (Romans 5:12)

Imagine shaving while looking into a mirrorball or trying to figure our what a person looks like when all you have as a reference point is a picture that is extremely out of focus.  That’s how we’ve become as God’s image-bearers.  We still are made in His image, but it’s broken in us because we’re sinners and God is Holy and Perfect.  But hope is not lost, for our Creator and Savior made us, and He knows how to heal and repair our brokenness!

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24–25)

What do you think?  When you think about yourself and your identity, will you confess that you are a sinner before God?  Will you stand before your all-knowing Judge and claim innocence despite confessions that you have done “bad things?”  …It’s worth thinking about…

Last Week at Youth Group: Healthy Responses to Conflict

Here’s the situation:

—Paul wants to go hang out with his buddies, but his parents told him he can’t…  —Paul is a Senior, and it’s April… —Last time he hung out with these friends he came home at 1:00am… —Smelling like smoke and with beer stains on his shirt… —He claims he was just at the party but didn’t do anything wrong.

What would that conversation sound like?  It sounds like a recipe for an explosive argument to me!

Growing up in church I never heard anything about conflict resolution, but I heard plenty about humility and forgiveness.  I assumed that as a Christian that meant I should be a doormat for people to walk all over me and to take advantage of me and to trust that to be a godly witness to them as they get whatever they want from me.  Below is a great guide for Christian conflict-resolution.

The image below is used by permission from PeaceMakers Ministry, you can learn more about them by clicking the link above.

You’ll notice that there are three general shaded areas: “Escape Responses,” “Peacemaking Responses,” and “Attack Responses” (elsewhere they’re referred to as “PeaceFAKING,” “PeaceMAKING,” and “PeaceBREAKING” responses).  What these mean is that when you encounter any type of conflict you can choose any of these three types of responses; you can avoid the conflict (escape), you can add to the conflict (attack), or you can address the conflict in order to resolve it (peacemaking).

Below is an explanation of what is meant from each of the particular types of responses possible:

Escape Responses

  • Suicide – Unfortunately, many people feel that suicide is the only way they can get away from the conflict and unrest in their lives.  This is NEVER the answer!  There is always hope, please trust that. God is the God of life and new beginnings, do not give in to conflict by committing suicide; if you are having suicidal thoughts please talk to someone trustworthy ASAP! (see Matt. 27:1-5)
  • Flight – This means that you recognize the conflict, but you absolutely refuse to deal with it.  There are times when need to walk away and “cool down” – but make sure you address the conflict once you’ve cooled down or else you’re guilty of Flight.  You metaphorically take the conflict and purposefully shove it into the basement of your heart entirely unresolved.  When you do this, it will only mold and fester until your basement gets so filled with unresolved conflict that it explodes and leaves a total mess all over you (and others). (see Gen. 16:6-8)
  • Denial – “Flight” at least recognizes that there’s a problem… Denial pretends that there’s any conflict to run away from.  Usually, people whose “Conflict Response” is Denial have very sensitive, caring hearts and don’t want anyone to ever get hurt… which is a very noble and considerate desire.  The problem is that conflict is a normal part of life, and mature people must know how to resolve conflict (rather than pretending that everything’s just fine when it’s not).  Also, like Flight, these unresolved conflicts just mold and fester and get really really messy to clean up the longer they’re ignored.  (see 1 Sam. 2:22-25)

PeaceMaking Responses

  • Overlook – The difference between Overlooking and Denial is that when you realize that the conflict isn’t a big enough deal to be worth the conflict and rupture in your relationship.  There are some things that should NOT be overlooked and that should be dealt with, but there are plenty of conflicts that simply aren’t worth it… wisdom is knowing the difference!  (see Prov. 19:11)
  • Reconciliation – This happens when you and the person you have conflict with don’t ignore the issue, but you work through it and resolve the conflict.  Your relationship is healed and a productive decision is made regarding the conflict.  (see Matt. 5:23-24;Gal. 6:1; Col. 3:13)
  • Negotiation – Think about making a compromise.  Where can you find common ground?  When you negotiate, you both still disagree with each other, but you value peace above getting your own way.  (see Phil. 2:4)
  • Mediation – This is the least severe of the “assisted responses,” which brings in a neutral, trustworthy third person into the conflict to help bring about a peaceful conclusion.  The “Mediator” helps you work through the issues and leads you into finding common ground to agree upon.  Note: Don’t be so quick to get involved to get tangled in others’ conflicts, this person should be trusted in by both parties to be able to effectively negotiate peace.  The Mediator has authority to ask questions and give advice, but not to decide upon a conclusion.  (see Matt. 18:16)
  • Arbitration – This is very similar to Mediation except the Arbiter is given the right to make the final decision (rather than assisting the two people find a peaceful resolution themselves).  It is essential that both parties involved in conflict agree ahead of time to do what the Arbiter says.  (see 1 Cor. 6:4)
  • Accountability – Sometimes people simply don’t want reconciliation or peace despite anything you do to make peace with them.  There are times when it’s necessary to hold people accountable for their actions and to keep them from unjustly getting their way.  This may mean excluding someone from fellowship in a church, or cutting off a friendship, or a variety of other means of accountability.  (see Matt. 18:17)

Attack Responses

  • Assault – We all know people who seek their own way through physical or verbal assault and intimidation.  This simply is not healthy. Physical, emotional, and/or mental violence is absolutely not the way God intends his children to live.  If you are a conflict maker (and not a peace-maker) and you consider yourself a Christian… that’s a problem.  (see Mt. 5:9; Acts 6:8-15)
  • Litigation – There are times with bringing someone to court is the right and proper thing to do (see Acts 24:1-26:32; Rom. 13:1-5), but I’m convinced the majority of court-cases today are simply unnecessary.  Lawsuits break relationships and often fail to bring about the “justice” people are seeking.  More than that, when Christians sue other Christians it is a poor witness to an unbelieving.  (see Matt. 5:25-26; 1 Cor. 6:1-8)
  • Murder – Clearly, this is the opposite extreme of Suicide, where the “victim” feels so threatened and so desperate that murder is the only solution to the conflict.  As with Suicide, Murder is NEVER the right answer to conflict.  We must also remember Jesus’ words, that we are guilty of murder in our hearts when we hold others with deadly contempt and hatred.  (see 1 John 3:15; Matt. 5:21-22).

Which is your Default response to conflict?  I urge you to spend significant time praying through these categories and working through how God wants you to respond to conflict.

Pat Robertson’s Haiti Comments: Please Speak the Gospel, Pat!

He’s at it again.  Here’s what he had to say about Haiti’s recent earthquake:

I’m an evangelical pastor – obviously I wholeheartedly agree that God disciplines his children just a good father and mother discipline their child when he/she does something that is wrong and harmful… but on what basis does he say these things?  Is he claiming some prophetic message to say what he said?  It sounds like he’s not even certain of when this “pact” was made, and if it was under Napoleon III (as he suggested) that was 150 years ago.

Voodoo and other occult religions are very common in Haiti.  But I’ve also heard accounts of people saying that people were running out of buildings the other day crying out for Jesus to protect them!

I believe in the Gospel: the Good News.  There’s good news because there’s bad news – but the emphasis is on the Good News!  The bad news is that we’re all sinners and intentionally have rebelled against God’s perfect standards, and hence, we all deserve the judgment our sins require.  But the Good News (that is what “Gospel” means, afterall) is this: God has made a way for us to receive what we don’t deserve!  God has provided Jesus Christ as our substitute.  If we place our faith in Jesus Christ (that means believing what the Holy Bible teaches about him: Virgin Birth, Perfect Life, Sinless Death, Resurrection from the Dead, Ascension into Heaven, Coming Return in the Future) then your sin has already been paid for through His death on the cross.  That Gospel Message ought to be our emphasis.

As I already said: If we aren’t aware that there is bad news, there’s no need to hear good news (because you simply assume all news is good).  Similarly, if people aren’t aware of their sin then there’s no need for them to hear about a Savior and Forgiver (because there’s nothing to be saved from or forgiven of).  So, yes, we do need to speak about sin and judgment… but not insensitively or in a way that emphasizes judgement over grace.

God is the Judge, but He’s also the Savior.  The Bible says “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  Pat Robertson’s remarks mentioned above are simply insensitive and ungodly.  He reminds me of Obadiah 1:12 “You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.”

May we all, Christians especially, lift up Haiti in prayer now more than ever!  Pray for Christian love to flood Haiti and for God’s love to be overwhelming to all the people.

Please forgive us Christians for hurtful and insensitive comments made by members of our Faith and remember that they are not the only voices from among us to take note of…