Conflict

When Conflict Happens

When was the list time you experienced conflict? In today’s world, it doesn’t take long before we are confronted with tension. Turn on the television and listen to some news headlines. Politicians throw punches with words. Countries send messages with tanks and fighter jets. People enact revenge for the dumbest of reasons. Conflict even occurs in our relationships with those around us. A little argument can threaten to destroy friendships or even families. Conflict is everywhere and it’s out of control. In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas have one of these times of tension in their relationship.

In it’s infancy, the church had people for all sorts of backgrounds. There were some Pharisees (group of people who studied the Jewish religious law) who joined the church. This group thought that in order to be saved, you had to first follow the Jewish religious law before following Jesus. They were teaching that you had to “be circumcised” in order to be saved. Because of this false teaching, the council met in Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas were there in order to inform the council of what great things were done through the Gentiles (these people didn’t attempt to follow the Jewish religious law). Upon leaving, Paul & Barnabas decided to head back out on another missionary journey, but they were in disagreement whether to take Mark along with them.

Let’s take a look at a few things we can learn from this conflict between these two spiritual giants…

 

Conflict should stay on a personal level.

After the council meeting, Paul and Barnabas decided to head out again to visit the churches that they had started. Barnabas was ready, but he wanted to take Mark along. Paul disagreed. It’s little conflicts like these that comes along in our everyday lives. Maybe you want to get the family together for Thanksgiving, but decide to try a new turkey recipe this year. Or you get some friends together to watch the game and you forget to invite a certain someone. Word spreads. Pretty soon your great aunt is on the phone with your cousin, trying to persuade them of how evil of a person you are. When conflict arises, take Paul & Barnabas’s advice. It should just stay between the parties involved. Paul didn’t go around and hang posters convincing the world of his decision not to include Mark. Barnabas didn’t write epistles about how evil Paul was for leaving out Mark. They just kept it to themselves. We need to do the same.

 

Conflict shouldn’t be taken personally.

Relationships without conflict aren’t relationships at all. God’s creation was good, until Adam & Eve did the one thing they were told not to. We rebelled against God and we now have to pay the price. Because we live in a fallen world, conflict with always exist. There will always be disagreements, fights, and even the silent treatment. You’ll never get along perfectly with anyone. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “If only people were just like me! This world would be a better place.” The truth is it wouldn’t. It would be just as screwed up, just as sinful, just as conflict-ridden as always. We’re all that way. Because of the flesh, we’ll always have the tendency to want to look better in an argument. We want to be right and we want them to be wrong. When conflict does occur, we need to remember what’s more important. Why did God create Adam & Eve? Why do we exist? For relationship! Don’t let a simple disagreement destroy a friendship. Approach conflict like Paul & Barnabas. Don’t take it personally.

 

Conflict should be handled in a way that gives glory to Jesus.

Paul & Barnabas were in the midst of a disagreement. After some quick discussion, it was done. They parted ways. Paul went ahead with Silas, and Barnabas left with Mark. It’s easy to think that this disagreement was a bad thing. But a simple disagreement itself isn’t bad. It’s how we respond to the disagreement that could potentially be bad. Paul & Barnabas kept this disagreement between the two parties involved. They didn’t go out and attempt to convince others of their cause. They kept it between themselves and they didn’t take it personally. Paul & Barnabas knew what was most important: their relationship. Because they handled this conflict in a Godly way, Jesus was glorified. As a result of these two parting ways, new churches were started, others were involved in ministry, and the book of Mark was written! A simple conflict, and many more people came to know Jesus because of it.

 

Every relationship is bound to have conflict. We’ll argue about anything just so we can win. But we need to remember what’s most important. The next time conflict comes along in one of your relationships, respond like Paul & Barnabas. Keep it between the parties involved, don’t take it personally, and always handle it in a way that gives glory to Jesus! How are you handling conflict? Are you glorifying yourself or Jesus?

 

(Photo by Flickr User: Keoni Cabral)

Jonah

Why Most Christians Are Like Jonah

In today’s day and age, it doesn’t take much flipping through the news to discover that the world’s gone mad. Daily, we’re bombarded with messages of terrorism, scandals, sex-changes, and the like. It’s enough to drive any sane person off the deep end. But, what’s more out of this world is that there have been cultures in the past that have been through this before. One city in particular that is similar to today was called Nineveh. It was a place of importance in the Assyrian empire. During the Assyrian empire’s heights, Nineveh was one of the capitol cities and one of the greatest cities in the entire world. Unfortunately, the city was also defined by it’s rampant idolatry and immorality.

Jonah was the prophet of the day that was called by God to reach out to Nineveh, but Jonah had other plans. Instead of acting out on God’s call to bring repentance to a hurting land, Jonah ran. According to the book of Jonah, while he was at sea, a great fish swallowed Jonah. After 3 days and 3 nights inside the belly of the beast, Jonah cried out to God in repentance himself. After being vomited out onto dry land, Jonah immediately headed towards Nineveh. He preached there about God’s coming judgement upon the land, and the people repented. In many ways, Jonah is like most Christians today. Here’s why…

 

We’re called to share the Gospel.

In scripture, we read that the word of the Lord came to Jonah and that he was told to go to Nineveh and call out against their evil ways. Similarly, we too are called to go and call out, but in a different way. After the resurrection, in the Great Commission, Jesus told his followers to go into the world and make disciples. He told his followers to share the Gospel. A short while later, moments before his ascension, Jesus tells his followers that they’d be given the Holy Spirit in order for them to be his witnesses. If you’re a believer in Jesus, you too are called to share the Gospel. We’re called to go out and call out against sin, to share the good news of Jesus. This calling isn’t optional. It’s mandatory. It might have took getting swallowed by a great fish, but Jonah finally understood that he didn’t have a choice. Learn from Jonah: a calling isn’t optional.

 

Instead of answering the call, we usually run.

Jonah received his calling, and he immediately had other plans. God wanted him to go to Nineveh, but instead Jonah headed towards Tarshish. Jonah fled for his own selfish reasons. Likewise, today we often flee in these times. God’s given everyone a calling to go into the world and share the Gospel. We are told continuously throughout scripture to not only share what Christ has done, but how he’s worked in our lives. We’re commanded to share the Gospel and share our testimonies. But, when the opportunity presents itself to do just that, how many of us actually overcome our fears and act out on this calling? I know many who flee just like Jonah. The world today is in rough shape. We’re not in need of more Christians who flee from their calling to share Jesus. In this day and age filled with idolatry, immorality, and impurity, the world needs genuine Christ followers who will stop at nothing to see that the love of Jesus is shared with the entire world.

 

God uses the broken.

What’s cool is that even after Jonah’s refusal to act and his outright disobedience, God continued to use Jonah. Jonah ran, God had a great fish swallow him up. Jonah reluctantly preached with a bad attitude, and God used his words. We too are broken people. We’ve sinned. We’ve all fallen short. Yet, God continues to use us for his glory. Sure, we’re not perfect, but we’re exactly who God wants to use for his purposes. Don’t use your brokenness as an excuse not to act. Jonah was broken, and God used him. God can use you to.

 

Too often, I find myself comparing the sinful world of today with communities such as Nineveh. Sin is everywhere, but God put on flesh to take care of it. He died on the cross to pay for our sins in full, and he was raised from the dead in order that we might have life, and have it abundantly. This Gospel, must be shared with the world in order to bring repentance and healing to a broken land. Want to change the world? Stop running from God, and start sharing Jesus.

 

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Thoughts? Leave a comment below!

Domino Effect

The Domino Effect

During my time of reading this morning, I came across an interesting story about a vineyard. In 1 Kings 21, we’re introduced to Naboth the Jezreelite and reminded of Ahab, king of Samaria. The text says that Naboth had a vineyard that was beside Ahab’s palace. It must’ve been in a great location because Ahab wanted it, a lot. He wanted it so bad that he decided, one day, to ask Naboth for that very vineyard in order that he might use it for a vegetable garden. Unfortunately for Ahab, Naboth turned down his offer. Seeking to get possession of the vineyard, Ahab spoke with his wife, Jezebel, who would help him carry out an elaborate plan that would make the vineyard his. They sent letters to the region and told the town to elect Naboth as head over them. Then, Jezebel sent a couple of men in to stir up false accusations against Naboth. These accusations were so serious that Naboth was carried out and stoned to death.

At one point or another, we’ve all been to the point where we’ve looked at something and have coveted. Maybe it’s not the neighbor’s vineyard. Perhaps it was their shiny new car, or their grill, or even their house. The point is, we all do it. We all see advertisements for something and yell I want! Unfortunately in my study throughout scripture, I’ve come to the conclusion that covetousness always opens the door for all other sins. In Ahab’s case, he first wanted his neighbor’s vineyard, but this covetousness quickly became a murder scene. In my post today, I wish to shed some light on the most popular Biblical stories of this domino effect in action, and give an appropriate response in solving this covetousness.

 

In Eden

God had spent 6 days creating everything from nothing. He made his finest creation yet, Adam and Eve. They were given commands to have dominion over the garden, to be fruitful and multiply, and to fill the earth. They were also told one thing that they couldn’t do: eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. They had the freedom to do just about anything. There was just one tree they had to stay away from. Adam and Eve wanted what they couldn’t have. They saw the tree and they coveted. The serpent persuaded Eve to eat from the forbidden tree, who in turn convinced Adam. Once God came along to assess the situation, Adam and Eve ran like children in an attempt to hide from God. Their covetousness led to an attempt to deceive God. The first sin of Eden was the sin of covetousness, which led to a domino effect of sin.

 

In The Promised Land

Israel had spent years wandering about in the desert after their Exodus from Egypt. It was finally time for them to enter the land God had promised them long ago. Jericho was the major city that was standing in their way. After a long drawn out plan that God had revealed to Joshua, God brought the city walls down and delivered Jericho into their hands. The Israelites were told to leave all the spoil (all the silver, gold, bronze, and iron) for God. They were to put all of it in the treasury of the Lord. Unfortunately for Israel, there was one who didn’t listen. Achan saw among the wreckage a beautiful cloak, some silver, and a bar of gold, and said, I want. He coveted the material and the money and decided to keep it from God. In order to keep this a secret, he buried his loot in a hole underneath his tent. Achan’s covetousness led to an attempt to deceive God. The first sin of Israel was the sin of covetousness, which led to a domino effect of sin.

 

In The Early Church

Jesus had spent a few years doing ministry and just like that he was gone. He died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead so that we could have life. This Gospel, or good news, was spread through the region like wildfire because of the passion of the early church. One member of the church, Joseph, was blessed by God. He was impacted so much by the Gospel, that he felt called to sell a field that belonged to him and return the profits to the church. After doing so, Ananias and Sapphira saw a higher spiritual status and said, we want. They too decided to sell a piece of land, but kept back some of the profits for themselves. Instead of being honest, they made it seem like the profits they were giving were everything. They were quickly discovered and killed. Ananias and Sapphira’s covetousness led to an attempt to deceive God. The first sin of the early church was the sin of covetousness, which led to a domino effect of sin.

 

Like what happened in Eden, in Israel upon entering the promised land, and in the early church, covetousness always opens the door for all other sins. We need to stop saying, “I want”, and instead focus on what we already have. When covetousness comes your way, count your blessings. Memorial Day was this past Monday. Memorial Day is a great time to remember those that have died defending the freedoms and rights we have in this great nation. We have so much that others don’t. When covetousness comes your way, remember those less fortunate. I’ve been blessed with the ability of serving on several foreign missions trips. It’s during trips like these that I am pushed to remember how fortunate we really are. Most importantly, when covetousness comes your way, remember the gospel. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. The price that we were supposed to pay was paid in full. Like that’s not enough, he then was raised from the dead to show that through faith in Him we can have life. We’ve been given the greatest gift of all. What else should we ever covet?

 

(Photo by Flickr user: Bruno Cordioli)