Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Conflict - When to Avoid, When to Engage

I was recently preparing for a sermon from John 4 about Jesus and the women at the well. I listened to a sermon from James MacDonald from John 4:1-6, where Jesus avoided conflict with the Pharisees but engaged in the Jew/Samaritan conflict. Here are some principles to help you determine when to avoid conflict, and when to engage.
John 4:1-5
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John  (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

"He left Judea and departed again for Galilee."

Is Jesus running away?  Let’s have interpretation by voting.  How many people say Jesus is not running away?  Incorrect. 

ANSWER:  He is 100% running away.  Now I don’t know if Jesus actually physically ran, but He is fleeing the scene.  Jesus is vacating the conflict.  Jesus is leaving.  Jesus is letting go. 

Proverbs [20:3], It is the wisdom of a man to stand aloof from strife.
Proverbs [26:4], Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him.

When to Avoid Conflict:

1.) When the opposition is longstanding and stubborn. 

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,  knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3:9-11

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.                2 Timothy 2:23

When it’s longstanding, think long and hard about whether today is the day to engage with that. 

“If you can’t pick the fruit, don’t bruise it.”  

for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. James 1:20

If beating the issue to death isn’t getting it done, it’s time to try something different.  It’s wise sometimes to stand aloof from strife.

2.) When it’s Personal. 

The Pharisees weren’t coming after somebody else; they were coming after Christ and His ministry.  And when the opposition is personal, when they’re going after you, when they’re attacking you, maybe that’s the time for you to be silent and let God defend you.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved,  never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Rom 12:18-19

Often, we get real passive when somebody else is being maligned and then get up out of our chair when we are attacked:  “How dare she say that about me!

Will you just trust God in that moment?  Will you give that over to the Lord?

3) When the opposition is unfair.

Don’t run from criticism that’s fair—face into it; learn from it; and humble yourself.

4) When the opposition is for God. 

When the opposition is what you’re doing for God?  That’s not something to face into.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?  But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,  but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous,that he might bring us to God,                1 Peter 3:13-18

When You Should Face Conflict

1.) When the person being wronged is not you.

Jesus walks directly through Samaria to deal with the white hot racial tensions between the Samaritans and the Jews. There he finds a woman, by herself, at a well at noon. She has been shunned by her society for her adulterous way. Jesus reaches out to her and extends grace.

2.) When the issue at stake matters to God.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."  Acts 1:8-9

The salvation of the Samaritans was not a minor issue. Racism was not a minor issue. These were not meaningless quarrels. Jesus engages in the battle.

3.) When the circumstances create proximity.

Jesus was on His way somewhere.  He was traveling from Judea to Galilee. He could do what other rabbis did and cross the Jordan to avoid Samaria altogether. Instead, Jesus dealt with this in a timely manner when the opportunity presented itself.

4.) When avoidance would make things worse.

Jesus could not avoid this issue without making matters worse. To bypass Samaria would have given his silent endorsement to the prejudice and contempt the jews gel for the Samaritans. 

I'm praying for God to grow our wisdom about when to face into it or, and when to flee conflict.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Why did Christ Die?

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Symbol of the Cross

Religions become associated with the symbol that represents what they believe. Buddhism is associated with the lotus flower. Judaism, the star of David. The crescent symbolizes Islam. The early church used the symbol of a fish (fish = “ichthys”), an acronym for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” (“Iesus Christos, Theou Huios Soter”).

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The return of Jesus and the Day of the Lord

The return of Jesus Christ has a dual purpose. 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 states:

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

This generation will not pass away

Jesus as entered Jerusalem, and is just days away from the Cross. The disciples come to Jesus and begin to ask Him about His return. He goes through a detailed list of things they are to watch for, describes His return, and then delivers this verse:

So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Mark 13:29-31

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Heresy, Association, and Second-Degree Seperation

The Elephant Room  has created quite a stir over what degree of association is appropraite with people who hold to different biblical and doctrinal distinctives. This event has created divisions within conservative evangelical circles, with men I lean into for guidence as a pastor on both sides. Justin Taylor,  Kevin DeYoung, and others have written reviews. Others have been harsh in their critiques of the event, specifically the inclusion of T.D. Jakes in the discussions because of Jakes "heretical" views on the Trinity and alignment wih the prosperity Gospel movement. James MacDonald has resigned from the Gospel Coalition.

I have little desire to blog into the storm of bloggers speaking into this controversy. I have attended both Elephant Room conferences, and my reflections on these events are as follows.

  1. It is easy to be a critic. God has blessed me with allowing me to spend time with some great leaders, both in ministry and in business. I am always reminded of a quote from Theodore Rooseveldt, that I first saw under the glass on the desk of my father-in-law, Robert VanKampen:   "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
  2. It is hard to listen. Before T.D. Jakes spoke a word, there was no way this could possibly end well. Sides were entrenched and while much was said, little was heard. T.D. Jakes is being labeled a "heretic" from both sides of the Trinity debate. Because so much attention before the event was focused on the Trinity issue, concerns over Jake's views related to prosperity and the Gospel were set aside discuss his position on the Trinity. Now the critique is focused on the lack of discussion on prosperity. Impossible to win when sides are already entrenched.
  3. I love James MacDonald. I count it a privilidge to call him a personal friend. I give much credit to him for my spiritual development. He has been a mentor. I think the thing I appreciate most about the Elephant Room is that James has been willing to take risks and absorb a wave of criticism to have influence over others, particularily young pastors. (I look back fondly at the first event when there was a ruckus of including Steven Furtick). It is hard to have influence from the critic's chair. Over our ten-year friendship, James has proven to be loyal while challenging me and helping me grow. James and I have had our differences - he never through me aside. He continues to influence because he has stayed in relationship with me when distancing himself would have been easier. 
  4. I am getting softer. When I was younger, I was more sure that I knew everything. I was quicker on the draw, eager to fight. I have been challenged by James and the Elephant Room to respond not just to a man's words but also to the man, understanding who he is. In the process, I don't think my doctrine or my convictions have drifted, just my pride.  Love does not require us to abandon beliefs, just listen before making judgments. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Praying for your cold, dark heart

What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." 
Mark 7:20-23