A few things I have learned, sometimes the hard way, about resolving relational conflict:

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Recognize that time is short and none of us are promised tomorrow. Avoiding the person is not the same as reconciling. Stubbornly ignoring the problem could result in never getting back to a healthy relationship if we won’t take steps now. 🌿

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart…” Hebrews 3:15 

Try to see things from the other person’s perspective. Is it possible that in their shoes, you’d feel the same way? Have you considered how they arrived at their conclusion? Was a word misspoken or an action misunderstood? Communication is key, and simple clarification may resolve the entire thing. 🌿

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility and patience.” Colossians 3:12

We must not squander the gift of being able to ask God to help us. He longs for us to come to Him- He doesn’t want us languishing in broken relationships, and He alone can touch hearts. The first step we take should be that of getting down on our knees to send prayers up to God asking Him to do what only He can: soften our heart as well as the other person’s, asking His favor, grace and healing. 🌿

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” I John 5:14 

Sometimes conflict is the result from being treated unfairly. Is there any lesson to be learned by going through an unjust hurt or trial? I believe so- it helps emphasize our own sin before a perfect and Holy God. It also can be a vehicle to build a deeper trust in God as we wait for Him to work on our behalf. 🌿

“Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord and he will deliver you.” Proverbs 20:22

Recognize that we all have different perspectives and opinions. Non-essentials like preferences should not take precedence over unity, especially between followers of Christ. 🌿

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1

If the conflict is between a believer in Christ and a non-believer, we cannot expect them to hold to our same beliefs. Pray for their salvation, knowing that the work of the Holy Spirit alone can adequately convict a person’s heart. 🌿

“The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” 2 Corinthians 4:4 

Believe the best about the other person. They’re not in our life for nothing. We all have redeeming qualities, as well as weaknesses. Choose not to fixate on their faults, just as we hope they don’t fixate on ours. 🌿

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” – Proverbs 19:11 

If at all possible, meet in person. Going the extra mile to meet face to face reflects a heart that is eager to seek reconciliation. Texting and phone calls don’t allow the mutual benefit of reading body language and expression, which can go far in helping convey not only repentance, but also sincerity and forgiveness. We cannot underestimate the ability to offer physical signs of affection. Hugs and handshakes offer their own powerful form of healing. 🌿. 

“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20 

Don’t deviate from the main point of the disagreement. Bringing up old hurts that have been dealt with will only cause more damage. Keep the past in the past and your eyes on the task in front of you: resolving the problem before the chasm between you grows. 🌿

“As much as it lies within you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:18

Own our part in the problem and leave room to admit it if we were wrong. Be willing to move into the space of humility and pray that the other person’s heart softens in response. 🌿

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves…” Philippians 2:1-3 

Be eager to embrace the gift of apology. Being a Peacemaker is a beautiful thing in God’s sight. Even if the bulk of the fault lies with the other person, it will not hurt us to be the first to move toward apologizing and reconciliation; in fact, we will be blessed for doing so. 🌿

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9 

Forgiveness is crucial. Do not dwell on what has been resolved. Move forward, grateful to have it behind you, and eager to look for ways to show evidence of a forgiving spirit. 🌿

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if anyone has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 

Nurture what has been newly planted with care and tenderness. If a relationship has suffered, lavish it with gentleness and love, not allowing it to fall into disrepair again. 🌿

“Be kind one to another, tenderhearted and forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

If the other person refuses to reconcile, accept it with graciousness, recognizing that such undemanding kindness may pave the way for a future day. Let them know you will patiently wait for them to be ready. Pray for them. Don’t speak poorly of them. Don’t grow bitter. Use the time while waiting to prepare for the day that hopefully they’ll be ready to talk. Show love and respect, and trust that God will work out the details in His time and His way. 🌿

“A hot tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” Proverbs 15:18

 

Dear Lord, give us teachable hearts, and a commitment to do what is right. Generously pour on us a compassion for those that are also walking this journey of life. May we spill over with forgiveness since we ourselves have been forgiven much. Help us stay steady in trial, hopeful in hurt and anchored in our trust of You and Your plan for our lives. In the matchless name of Jesus, I pray, Amen 🌿🙏🏻

 

 

 

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Being a Truth Teller

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It doesn’t always matter what you think.

Do you believe that? That there are some things not up for ‘debate’?

For example, wouldn’t it be foolish to argue against the fact of gravity? Although there may have been a time where people couldn’t explain how it works, or have an actual word to ascribe to it, nonetheless, gravity exists. Wouldn’t it sound ridiculous to hear someone say, “I don’t believe in a natural pull that causes mass to fall towards the earth, and keeps us from flying off into space”? Yes, it would. Some things are simply factual.

But what if that person were to say, “but that’s what I believe. You can’t question my opinion. It’s how I feel”? Would we rush to accommodate their belief, to try to make them feel that their “opinion” on the subject held value; or would the loving thing be to tell them the truth, “It doesn’t matter what you think about it, the fact is that gravity does exist, whether you want it to or not. You need to change your way of thinking.”

We would want to move toward that person, and share truth with them, desiring them to come to a place of understanding, wouldn’t we?

That is what our response should also be toward people who deny the existence of God, or the fact that He has a standard of righteousness, by which all who are not found in Christ will be judged. Those of us who have put our trust in Jesus stand in his righteousness, not our own.

Psalm 14:1 tells us that, “the fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’” God calls the person who refuses to accept the truth of His existence, a “fool”.

Rather than rushing to affirm them and make them feel like their ‘belief’ holds value, it ought to cause us to lovingly correct their incorrect thinking, pointing them to the truth that a loving God created them, with a glorious purpose and value. But our own sin has separated us from Him.

The rebelliousness in human hearts is called sin. The refusal to look at things God’s way: sin. Choosing corrupt life patterns: sin. Seeking to come up with alternative methods to Heaven outside of His revealed plan: sin.

What hope has anyone, to break free from the grip of sin? The only way that God provided: through the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, for us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 That is the Good News of the Gospel! God sent hope for sinners into the world – and his name is Jesus!

Are we lovingly sharing with hurting people the fact that Jesus loves them, and died for sinners, so that those who put their faith in him can escape the coming judgment of God’s wrath? Those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus must use our time well, sharing the truth with men and women who need to hear this Good News. We need to be praying that hearts will be convicted of sin, minds be opened to understand truth, and souls have their eternal destination changed.

We don’t change the standard; we ask God to change the hearts of those who don’t yet understand the truth.

Paul instructed Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Are we prepared with the message that offers life? Its a privilege to share in the ministry of the gospel that brings salvation to all who hear and are changed by it’s message… let us be about our Father’s business, and tellers of the truth, while there is still time.

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The Fruit of the Spirit in Action

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In this red-hot environment of political debate, both “sides” have fallen into pits of self-righteous indignation, having ‘clays of opinion’ that quickly harden, without allowing outside thoughts to permeate that might soften the jagged edges that have formed.

The subject matters are more numerous than there are Olympic sports; stretching from Immigration, Abortion, Taxation to National defense, Cabinet picks, Supreme Court justices and beyond. Everything’s up for battle.

The methods of dissemination vary as well: protests, arguments via volatile comment threads, op-ends, Facebook posts, Twitter jabs, late night TV skits, University rallies and, far too rarely, discussions over cups of coffee. (Best not choose Starbucks for now)

Worn and stale labels are slung like so many horseshoes, each side hoping for a ringer, while both are guilty of assumptions of understanding, without actually communicating anything fresh.

But the truth is, no one understands fully the vast majority of the problems that beset us. The issues have become far too complex and complicated; cloaked in controversiality and beyond human reasoning.

Oh sure- I can say that I stand on God’s standard when I stand against such a thing as abortion. (And frankly, I do believe that). But my friend, with equal claim to the grace of God through the blood of Christ, stands just as adamantly for the legitimacy of organizations such as Black Lives Matter, citing past wrongs that caused the formation of such a group to begin with.

Who is “right”, and who is “wrong”? And who gets to decide? And what to do with the umpteen other topics, some that intertwine like bowls of spaghetti, confusing and chaotic? On principle I believe we all have the right to our opinions on many matters if based on the framework of God’s Word. But where does that get us as far as actually persuading anyone?

Certainly I would like to think that every human being could agree that a recent example, a woman, a teacher of pre-schoolers, no less, who was recorded screaming racial epithets and demanding that “all white people give up their @!$& homes and money and give it to black people now!” would be unanimously given a thumbs down. That it wasn’t is highly disturbing, and a clear sign of our times.

The fighter in me wants to insist that “the liberals had 8 years of policies enacted that conservatives had to cope with, and it’s our turn to show them the wonderful good that conservative principles can do for all, if only given a chance.” However, that just inflames the already heated atmosphere.

The weary part of me wants to pass along non-controversial pictures of funny pets and dinner recipes, and hide away from the raging debates. But if Christians won’t engage in the public discussions, are we ceding our voice of reason, and the ability to fight against our nation’s cultural and moral decay? Passivity and apathy are avenues to usher in tragedy, as seen in plenty of world horrors where good people did nothing to fight evil.

But, I wonder if there is another option?

One that invites differing opinions to be heard in an arena of open, respectful discussion; where labels are prohibited (as well as name calling and nasty language). Where thoughts are presented, with the underlying belief that everyone participating has our nation’s best interests at heart, and that one’s allegiance to and love of Jesus Christ isn’t debated, even if perspectives might be challenged, with kindness and cordiality.

That such a board of banter and thought, diverse yet fraught with – dare I say it?: Love, could exist, gives my heart a tug of hopefulness.

Perhaps, by adding a “water” such as Love to our clay, our opinions may form more gently, giving a chance to smooth those jagged edges away with which we have been slashing at one another, preventing the cuts that wound deeply, and instead, helping one another arrive at conclusions based on truth, justice, respect and love, as well as a willingness to wait patiently and prayerfully for one another as we walk this journey of life together. In fact, evidencing the fruit of lives that are controlled by the Holy Spirit –  of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

In this age of rages and rants and rampages, imagine how much better it would be, how mutually beneficial and edifying (let alone, providing a model for our children!) to come up with a better way to conduct public discourse that is solidly built on a platform of respect, kindness and love.

Is it possible? I don’t know… but I am willing to try it and see.
I Corinthians 13:1-13

What do you think? Let’s talk – you know – between friends.

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Roots of Bitterness

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I listened carefully and with sympathy to the woman who shared her story of pain. There was room for legitimate grief in what she had experienced. But the thing I began to hear the most was the thread of bitterness woven through her narrative. Years earlier she had been neglected, abused, misused, and unfairly treated. She had suffered at the hand of someone she had trusted. And she blamed God.

As I sat there, a phrase jumped into my mind that my dear Mom used to use with us girls: Mental Attitude Sin. I remember if one of us shared a woeful tale of some hurtful situation, she would listen and let us unburden ourselves; but it stopped there. “That was a painful thing you endured. But now you need to let it go and not let it develop into a sinful mental attitude on your part, honey.” Boy those were painful lessons.

There were times I felt like she didn’t understand. Couldn’t I soak just a little in the luxury of harboring anger toward the one who had wronged me? Nope – not with our Mom. She would remind us that self-pity parties were dangerous events to host, because they appeal to our fleshly desire to wallow instead of heal, to let it fester instead of forgive, and can build a thick wall that hardens us to the truth of how to become truly FREE.

All these years later, I am very thankful for her Godly wisdom. So many people are trapped by the stranglehold of bitterness. Yes, there are hard and painful circumstances that are wrong, cruel and sinful; but life isn’t always easy, and God expects us to come running to Him with our burdens and hurts, not to nurse them into reasons to become angry.

When we allow the pain to fester, we are hurting ourselves most. The definition of the word fester is: to rot, mold, decay, putrefy, rankle, smolder, gnaw away, spoil, deteriorate. Is that really something we want taking root in our hearts and minds??

Hebrews 12:15 tells us, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Roots are underground, out of sight, but left undisturbed, they grow and the “fruit” becomes evident. The fruit of the root of bitterness is resentment, heartache and left unchecked, hardness of heart.

So what is the solution? What should our response be to difficulty in life?

Hebrews 12:7-11, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Oh my dear sister, isn’t that wonderful news to hear?! I rejoice in the truth that God has designed even the hard things of life to become tools for good in His masterful hand!

If we willingly submit, even to painful circumstances, asking God to help us, and keep us soft and pliant for His glory, He will help us to endure – and bring us to the place where the “fruit” of righteousness and peace are produced in our lives. That gives me such hope.

This life is short – for the follower of Jesus, we have the hope of better things to come! Are we using the time we have here on Earth to forgive and release people from their sins against us, and to build a healthy and reverent submission to God? Or, are we working on making our root of bitterness stronger by staying out of God’s word and resisting His gentle prompting to come to Him to experience His healing comfort?

It’s a choice each person must decide for themselves.

What is your choice? Let’s talk – you know – between friends.

 

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