For My Pastor

Pastor Eric recently got me listening to Johnny Cash. He only got me to do it for about three minutes, but that was enough.

I began reading a book today titled Everyday Talk: Talking Freely and Naturally about God with Your Children. It has had an immediate impact on me. The impact came through conviction. How am I making use of “everyday talk” with my family? How does my talk teach the gospel and what I believe about God when life gets stressed or out of the routine? Deuteronomy 6 gives us the command as parents to take all the opportunities throughout the day to teach our children about Him.

“Your children can hear Satan’s spin from the world all the time. They need to hear God’s truth spoken with love and awe by parents who are following God’s direction in Deuteronomy 6 (16).”

He goes on to state, “Someone will always be influencing your kids. Someone will always be using the powerful tool of everyday talk to encourage your kids either away from God or toward God…You see, if you aren’t talking to your kids, someone else is. The statistics indicate that teenagers are spending three hours a day watching TV. Preschoolers are watching as much as four hours per day. If teenagers are listening to three hours of TV every day and averaging five minutes a day talking with their dads, who is winning the influence battle (19).”

Seems like there might be a little wisdom from Johnny. If I am talking to Jesus every day, then maybe I might be able to talk with my kids about that conversation. The author states, “If you don’t spend time thinking about God, you won’t have much to say about God.”

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God and Dads

Beginning in June the Youth ministry shifts its focus from conflict resolution to God, or more specifically the doctrine of God. The Scriptures are filled with references to God as a father. God has chosen to reveal Himself in familial (family) language. In the June issue of Living with Teenagers there is an article titled Fatherhood: How a Relationship with Dad Shapes a Teen’s Ideas of God. In this article the author states, “Relational experiences that occur during the developmental stages of childhood and adolescence leave indelible marks in our stories.” It is absolutely true that you can have a passionate relationship with God through His Son Jesus even if you had a lousy or non-existant relationship with your dad. However, God intends for dad’s to disciple their children and through their discipleship grow to love the God who gave them their dads. The article also gave some practical ways for us to affect our children’s perceptions of God.

  • Grace: Teenagers need to know they are enough–even with (or in spite of) their flaws and all the terrible things that have happened to them. Fathers who understand (and have experienced) grace can help their teens understand it. These moments often take place when teens are at a low point.
  • Attachment: Both male and female adolescents need to feel attached to their fathers. Forming attachment requires a continuing passion to pursue your teenager for relationship, even when he resists your efforts.
  • Intimacy: Parent-child relationships have critical moments in which a change in the relationship is imminent and a connection is made. Teenagers need their fathers to crawl into their world long enough to understand who they are and how they view the world.
  • Forgiveness: Teens need to understand that broken relationships can heal. They know they are not perfect, but they need to learn that forgiveness and reconciliation can take place when they mess up. They will also learn this by their parents admitting when they mess up and ask forgiveness.
  • Warmth and Care: Express love to your teen by listening attentively. Engaging in caring behaviors encourages teens to see God as One who challenges them towards personal growth and who is present and available in a time of need.
I thought this little video clip was helpful as well.

What are we devoted to?

Gladness, generosity, praising, favor, and influence. Who would honestly say they don’t want these things in life? As we begin to bring a close to this month’s topic, conflict resolution, in the youth ministry, I was reminded this morning from the Scripture what God desires for His people.

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:46-47).”

What was going on with God’s people that they could be described as a people with glad and generous hearts? They were living a life of thankfulness, full of praise and favor with others. This life was an attractive life because people were apparently listening to them as they communicated it was because of Jesus.

Now I don’t mean it was an easy life. In fact, I believe this is where our topic this month can apply here. Just a few verses before the above we read that these followers of Jesus were devoted to God’s Word, devoted to one another, and devoted to prayer (Acts 2:42-46). Do you think any of these folks ever disagreed or had a conflict with one another? Why else would God have been so helpful to us to give us ways to handle conflict, unless He knew we would be involved in it?

I assume that these followers of Jesus had conflict (other N.T. letters like James or Philippians shows us conflict), but their handling of it biblically, allowed for their devotion to the Word, one another, and prayer to come before themselves.

We will not avoid conflict as long as we live in a fallen world and the temptation for selfishness exists. However, as new creations in Christ, we handle conflict in a new way. We humbly admit that conflict begins in my own heart (James 4:1-2). We humbly admit to others when we have hurt them or if we have been hurt by them (Matthew 5:23-26; 18:15-17). We humbly ask for or extend forgiveness to others (Matthew 6:14-15).

Want a life of gladness, generosity, praising God, favor, and influence? It is a life of intentionality and conflict resolution. This should remind us of the life of Jesus. A life of intentionality (the Cross) and a life of conflict resolution (the Resurrection).

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life…Romans 5:10.”

Forgiveness

This weekend we will continue with the topic of conflict resolution in the youth area and specifically look at forgiveness. What is forgiveness? Is there a difference between saying “I am sorry” and “Will you forgive me?” If I do tell my friend or family member I forgive them, then what should I understand that to mean? Does it matter if I bring the offense back up again?

Many times we might tell people we forgive them, but often what we say doesn’t match what we really do.

In the book, Peacemaking for Families, Ken Sande looks t0 the topic of forgiveness. He says forgiveness is not

  • forgiveness is not a feeling; it’s not like love, hate, jealousy, envy, or lust.
  • forgiveness is not forgetting. God doesn’t forget our sins when He forgives them. He decides not to remember them; not to mention, recount, or think about them ever again; not to hold them against us in the final ledger.
  • forgiveness is not excusing. The fact that we forgive indicates that a sin was committed.
He goes on to say, forgiveness is
  • forgiveness is an act of the will, a decision not to think or talk about what someone has done.
  • forgiveness is an active process involving a conscious choice and a deliberate course of action.
  • forgiveness is the canceling of a debt that someone has incurred because of improper behavior or words.
  • forgiveness brings us back together after an offense has separated us from each other.
Think of forgiveness as a set of four promises. When we forgive someone, we make these four pledges:
  1. I will not think about this incident.
  2. I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.
  3. I will not talk to others about this incident.
  4. I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.
Now, when I think of forgiveness this way, it makes me think to some situations where I never truly forgave someone. Read through these again and discuss them in your home. Share these thoughts with one another and help one another get a biblical understanding of forgiveness.
Here is a pretty cool video I came across as well.

Risk?

Would our lives be characterized as risky? Does Jesus call us to an element of risk as His followers?

Check out this video and be at Vann tomorrow as we look to Luke’s gospel and the parable of the Good Samaritan.

You also might like to check this short article out called A Call for Christian Risk.

Is Christ Enough?

Reading from the eleventh chapter of Hebrews this morning reminded me of this song.

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called…not knowing where he was going…For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”

“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin…for he was looking to the reward.”

“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword.”

I had no hope. And if you had, not loved me first, I would refuse you still. You looked upon my helpless state and led me to the cross. You suffered in my place. Now ALL I KNOW IS GRACE! 

Jesus is MY LIFE!

AND LET MY SONG FOREVER BE, “MY ONLY BOAST IS YOU!”

There have been those who have been labeled no earthly good because they’re so heavenly minded. May I be so heavenly minded, so that I can be earthly good.

Sunday Night Recap

During my quiet time last week in the Bible, one of my reading take aways was from Hebrews 10:24-25.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Now I have no problem understanding what it means to “stir up” trouble, but “stir up” to love and good works? As I spent time reflecting on the verses and their implications for my own life, I also thought about them in the context of relational conflict (which is our topic this month). If there is relational (friends, family, church, school, etc.) conflict going on in your life, here is what it might look like compared to these verses.

First, since I have been wounded by your words or actions, I might no longer desire to stir up love in your life but trouble. Life is all about relationships. I might stir the pot by talking about the person who has hurt me.

Second, now that I am hurt (real or perceived), I might stop coming around as much. I will avoid the person. We see that these verses encourage followers of Jesus not to neglect meeting together.

Third, instead of encouraging one another as we see the Day drawing near (wide-angle lens), we have our narrow-angle lens on, which only sees as far as the current reason I’m mad at you. We lose sight of the gospel and focus on me.

Well, what should we do? The pain of being hurt, either by words or actions, is real. No one is trying to dismiss real conflict. No one is encouraging someone to just have thicker skin. Last Sunday night we looked at Matthew 5:23-26 to answer the question, “My friend and I aren’t getting along; what do I do?”

We learned that Jesus wants us to Take The First Step (v.24). We summarized this idea by stating that Jesus is more concerned about us being reconciled with other people than being right. It might mean taking the humble first step. We said Jesus is more concerned about relationships than with religion. We see the person in the text going to offer a gift at the altar (worship), but Jesus says drop it and go fix the relational conflict. The person was about to offer empty worship. A worship that looks good but cares more about what people think of me than about people.

So, we learned according to the Bible, Jesus wants us to take the first step. We also took away from the text that Jesus wants us to Deal With it Immediately (v. 24). Conflict can grow so quick and be so disastrous. In the context of these verses, the one taking the first step and dealing with the situation immediately, is the person who has committed the offense. However, we also learn from Jesus in Matthew 18 that a similar course of action should be followed if I am the one hurt.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone ~ Matthew 18:15”

So we applied Sunday nights lesson to all who could be involved in conflict with someone else. We asked the question, “What relationship conflict in your life needs immediate attention?”

I believe one of the practical ways of stirring up one another to love and good works, is by taking responsibility for conflict I have caused or fueled and biblically handling the situation how Jesus tells us we should. What are you and I stirring up?

Why Conflict Resolution is Possible

 I wanted to make you aware of this new resource. I have not read this book yet, but I intend to. You can buy the book here or read a short overview of the book here. As we continue to talk about and teach from the Bible the topic of Conflict Resolution, it helps me to be more aware of conflict in my own life. Conflict that I might often pass over as insignificant,  I now see as having the potential for growth or devastation.

We will introduce the concept of reconciliation this week. The dictionary defines reconciliation as restoring friendly relations between two people. In fact the origin of the word helps us understand its meaning as well. From the Latin re-“back” + conciliare-“bring together”. Reconciliation is a bringing back together.

Paul reminds us in Romans 5:10-11, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

For those of us who have experienced this reconciliation through a relationship with Jesus, Paul says to the Corinthians, “All this is from God (new creation in Christ), who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (the gospel).

As we continue with the topic of conflict resolution, we must understand and remember the greatest conflict that stood between us and God. We must never forget the great cost of God Himself in reconciling us to Himself. If we get this wrong, or neglect to keep this truth (God’s reconciling us to Himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus), then we will probably fail at most of our attempts at conflict resolution (if we even attempt them at all).

Take the time to watch this short video. Take the time to be freshly amazed at the Savior’s love for you.

Sunday Recap

Here is a little recap for all those curious about what went on in the youth ministry yesterday. First, the youth took on Chris Reich, Jeff Wagner, and the TeamKID kids in kickball last night. The youth held their own, despite being intimidated and roughed up by Mr. Chris. He came to play and left it all on the gym floor, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. The youth went upstairs after all of that fun and then squared off in a noodle gladiator battle. Once again the youth held their own, but Sister Polly took it to them as well. Besides all that fun, here is some recap from Scripture…

Sunday morning small groups looked at James 4:1-2. Our topic again this month is Conflict Resolution. Here are a couple observations.

First, relational conflict is worse than you think. From the verses above we have the view from God when He sees conflict among people. The language from James goes from quarreling and fighting to war and murder. We may think our disputes with others is only a small matter, but God shows us different.

Second, we learned that relational conflict is not only worse than you think, but also simpler than you think. James locates the root of the issue for us and it isn’t the other person, it’s us. My cravings and desires are at the root of the problem. I want and don’t get, so I fight and quarrel. Conflicts don’t create they reveal. Unfortunately these conflicts occur in many different arenas. They occur at home, at school, and even at church. One might say, “they should never take place at church.” Remember James is written to the church. We above all people should realize we still live in a fallen world and sin still has influence.

I drew tons of help in looking at these verses from a message delivered by CJ Mahaney. You can access the message here, but about the 40 minute mark it begins to quit. Still a great resource for 40 minutes.

Some other observations.

#1 These desires we have do not always mean their evil. However, whenever we elevate a good desire to the level of a ruling demand, then it has become an idol of our heart.

#2 Many times these conflicts do not involve biblical teaching, meaning you probably can’t point to biblical teaching to prove this is commanded. I mean, you might try but it won’t be consistent with Scripture as a whole. These are often preferences that we elevate to the throne of our heart.

#3 Many times these conflicts will prevent us, the church, from doing what Jesus commanded us to do. We will be so preoccupied with what I want that Loving God and Loving Others is the farthest from my mind and heart.

Well, there’s the recap. As we continue down this road of conflict resolution, we will soon set our gaze upon the topic of forgiveness. We want to look at this topic from both the perspective of the one asking for forgiveness and the one responding with forgiveness. What does true biblical forgiveness look like? Till then, have a great week!

Conflict Resolution

Who enjoys conflict? For most of us the answer is a resounding no one. However, if we really don’t enjoy it, then we ought to know how to deal with it. For example, I do not enjoy fixing things around the house. I really am no good at it and often the situation ends up worse than when I started. I can’t avoid the problem though. In fact, if I do choose to avoid the problem, then all that happens is the problem gets worse. Conflict is going to happen. We are people created by God to have relationships with Him and with others. Relationships will almost always involve a form of conflict.

Now, I don’t believe our greatest need today as husbands, wives, children, students, or pastors is better communication skills. I believe our greatest need today is to understand how God has told us to handle conflict. Many people have helpful tips, but only God knows what we need for growth in Christ and stronger relationships with others.

Conflict Resolution is the topic for the month of May in the Youth Ministry. Quite frankly it could be the topic for the year and we would still need more to learn. I am really praying for God to teach us all how to understand conflict more Biblically. I will frequently be updating this with material on this topic. I will be referencing different resources as well.

Chances are, you and I were in some type of conflict today with another person (someone we probably care a lot about also). What was the root issue of the conflict? Did I handle the situation in a way that honors Christ? Is there something I can do to help avoid it next time? Is it still unresolved and influencing bitterness in me? Does it have an impact on other people in my life?

I hope this month’s topic will be helpful to you and your walk with Christ.

Peacemaker Ministries–Good website with lots of information

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making–A book written from the realistic perspective that conflict is an opportunity for growth.