As people living in 2016, conflict is part of our daily lives. We may not be a part of all it, but it is always present. We can see through wars, divorce, politics, deceitfulness, daily news programs –especially being an election year -- that conflict is everywhere. There are some who seem to find it wherever they go. There are some who seem to seek it out. There are others who want to be rid of conflict but cannot seem to free themselves of it. It can become tiresome to constantly be surrounded with conflict and negativity. Sometimes you may even want throw your hands in the air and give up. Before we do that, let’s seek out some guidance from the scriptures.
Focus on what I can do. The first thing we need to establish is that we can only change the way WE deal with conflict. Since sin is in the world, we are not able to escape conflict that is bred by sin (Romans 5:12-14). We may look to individuals who create this discord in our lives to change, but we can only control ourselves. Being the fallible beings that we are, we have to recognize we have enough of our own issues to fix. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how [a]can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Once we shift our minds to focus on improving ourselves, then we can begin the transformation to rise above the conflict around us.
What is the heart of the matter? Secondly, I must look at my heart as Matthew 15:18 says, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” The heart is where we must begin. Being introspective is not always an easy thing to do. To truly look inward, take inventory, and purge out things that are unholy takes a lot of time, focus, and sacrifice. Even the apostle Paul had to exercise discipline daily in order that he could remain unspotted from the world (I Corinthians 9:27).
In our lives, there were a lot of factors to date that helped shape the way we interpret the world around us now: our parents, our tragedies, our successes, and influential people. Many of those we have no control over; however, we have control over present influences on our hearts. If we look internally, more often than not, we will see that we need to make changes with those influences. Making those changes can be very difficult, because this could mean that we have to do something different than what we have always done or been taught. This may result in a change of our recreational activities, our friendships, our actions and reactions, or even our jobs. We must guard the influences that affect the development of our hearts.
Bridle your tongue. In our culture, “being right” often trumps all other things including feelings, facts, and common sense. In our dealings with others, we seem to have this “I will win” attitude. Sometimes we take the competitiveness a bit farther and say “I will win at all costs.” This is counterintuitive to what the bible says. James 3:5-12 talks about how destructive our tongue/speech can be. Since the tongue can cause so much damage, James begins his book with instructions for us to be “quick to hear and slow to speak” (1:19). In the proverbs (21:23), it says, “Those who guard their mouths keep themselves out of trouble.” Though it is counter to our culture, God (who is our Creator and knows us) encourages us to hold our speech and reactions for “it is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt” (Proverbs 17:28).
Look through Godly lenses. Perhaps the greatest tool in battling the conflict around us is in having Godly perspective. When we are able to see this short-term world with its small problems in view of an eternity in Heaven, the problems can seem a lot smaller. In Isaiah, God tells His children in the midst of captivity to “wait upon the Lord” and He would renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). We are promised over and over again that if we walk in His ways and keep to His paths, He will work good for our souls and salvation (Romans 8:28). Even in prison, Paul was able to say the words, “Rejoice, and again I say, ‘Rejoice!’” (Phillippians 4:4) He was able to say this, because, in spite of the circumstances surrounding him, he delighted in the Lord and knew God is good and loves His children. God’s promises are true and will come to pass (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Application of these principles is easier said than done. Like Paul said, it takes a daily discipline and self-reflection in order to gain a heart that loves the Lord and is pure. In the end, if we will seek this mindset and walk in the ways of the Lord, we are promised that “when a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him (Proverbs 16:7).”
Teenage years can be one of the most trying times of your life. Not knowing what career you want to go into, or who your spouse is going to be can be daunting. Sometimes, you are deciding whether you want to do right or wrong. Just know that your decisions in this period will impact you for a lifetime: what spouse you choose, what career you pick or how your life will end up, whether good or bad.
One such decision is how we treat our parents. We all love our parents and don't intend to hurt them, but what you do can affect your mother and father. Proverbs 17:25 talks about “a foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to his mother.” It is wise to honor your father and mother. Ephesians 6:1-3 says “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” Our choices will impact our parents.
Some decisions will be about what activities you get involved in. A lot of teens experiment with alcoholism, but Proverbs 23:19-21 explains that being a drunkard can cause you to become poor. Only following God can make your life good on earth and even better in heaven.
We have to surround ourselves with the right kind of people. In I Corinthians 15:33 it says, “Evil companions corrupt good morals.” Even though it may seem like it is not a big deal to be around someone who isn’t living right, they are influencing you and corrupting you though you may not be aware of it. On the other hand, if you choose friends who are seeking God and living right, they can encourage you when you are weak. “Two are better than one for they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow,” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
One of my favorite scriptures is James 4:7. “Submit yourselves then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The devil only affects you when you let him in your life. Try to use the power of God to get you through the devil’s obstacles. You will make mistakes but you can recover from those mistakes. Trust, believe and obey God and you will become stronger in things you never thought you would overcome. Just remember that whatever obstacles you come across, God will always be there to pick you up if you're ready to do what's right. Pray and believe in your prayer, and God WILL deliver.
1 John 1:5-10
We bandy around the idea of fellowship quite a bit. It is our excuse to go to ball games together and have people over. We often say we need to fellowship even more and recognize it as something that is vital to our spirituality. But what is fellowship? John in the passage above associates fellowship with truth in God’s word. With obedience. If we only have fellowship with each other when we are “walking in the light” then does that change the definition of what fellowship is?
At the end of the book of Hebrews, after establishing very thoroughly the need for endurance in the salvation of the blood of Christ, the writer winds down by discussing the sorts of sacrifices we need to make. In verses 15 and 16 this sacrifice is described as praise to God from our lips and “doing good and sharing”. Our Fellowship with God is characterized here with words such as sacrifice, praise, sharing, and doing good. I want us to rethink what it means to have “fellowship”. This is more than just hanging out with friends, this is deliberate action. Deliberate effort to uplift, encourage, and do good.
In both of these passages above fellowship is tied to positive action. The point is that fellowship goes beyond the casual social relationships we have with one another (and people of the world). Fellowship is something that stems from our love of God and our obedience to him. When Paul says in Galatians 2:9 that John, James, and Cephas gave him the “right hand of fellowship” is he saying that he was invited to bowling night? Or is he saying that he was accepted into the Christian community? Allowed to teach and listen, participate in singing and all the other activities of the Church there.
If then this difference between a casual friendship and fellowship is real, what then do we do about it? Do we make a concerted effort to be involved in each other’s lives in a way that stirs up good works? Do we make a concerted effort to uplift each other’s faith and faithfulness to God? Or do we go to ballgames and think that we have fulfilled our quota of “fellowship” time for the week? We as people have twisted this godly principle of fellowship into something secular and taken away its power of Christian encouragement. This doesn’t mean that we can’t go to ballgames or go to movies together, it does mean that we need to be aware of what Christian fellowship is and renew our efforts to grow together in faith. Over the next several weeks look for opportunities to talk to your fellow Christians about the sermons we will hear. Analyze this article and talk about whether you agree with it or not. Pray together, talk about Bible passages together, read together, look for every opportunity to fellowship. These activities shouldn’t sound tedious but if they do maybe that says something about how much you need true Christian fellowship. We can knit together or toss a football around, but unless we are taking the time to encourage one another to better exemplify the character of Christ we might not be as engaged in fellowship as we need to be.
Marriage is one of the greatest institutions that GOD has created, only second to the Church. Interestingly enough, in Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul compares marriage to the institution of the Church pointing out keys things in order for us to understand our role in both more perfectly:
vs. 22 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
vs. 23 “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.”
vs. 25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.“
In these passages God points out the hierarchy of both institutions and the similarities between them; Jesus being the head of the Church, the husband being head of the wife and the husband loving his wife enough to lay down his life down for her just as Christ did for the church.
This kind of commitment is not one that can or should be taken haphazardly. Someone who you are willing to die for is someone you are 100% committed to. A great example of this is a soldier during the revolutionary war. Those soldiers and founding fathers were 100% committed to their cause willing to give everything including their lives. Husbands, with that kind of commitment to our wives and our marriage it seems impossible to think we could ever disregard them.
In keeping with the comparison found in Ephesians, Christ would never give up on the Church and we should never give up on our marriage! Paul points out in Titus 2:2-8 that women should be encouraged to “love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” Women, to love your husband and to love your children is one of the most important things you can do, realizing that neither will be perfect and none of us are. Being committed to your marriage by helping and loving your husbands is one of the most important things you can do as a wife and giving your children an example of parents who truly love and respect one another, is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give your children.
Loving your husband or wife can be difficult, at times, but remember what Paul says concerning love in 1 Cor 13:4-8, “4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails.” How does Christ love you? How do you love your husband or wife?
Being committed to each other, and only each other, in your marriage is of the utmost importance. In Hebrews 13:4 the writer says, 4”Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. “ If thoughts ever come into your mind about sharing your bed with another you need remember two things: The commitment Jesus made to the Church and the commitment you made to GOD and your spouse on the day of your marriage.
My marriage has been the greatest blessing I have ever had, with the exception of Jesus dying for my sins. I have a wonderful wife and cherish her more than anything. Being committed to someone in marrriage is hard work, and if you are truly committed you will put the time and effort into to making it the wonderful blessing that God intended it to be.
Christ devoted his life to the Church and then gave His life for it. That is the kind of commitment we should have to Him and our marriages. Is your marriage a reflection of Christ and His Church? Are you committed to your marriage?
The idea of family changes daily. The Supreme Court recently changed how family may be defined by those of the world, however God had a plan. His plan was for one man to be married to one woman. Are you committed to family the way God intended?
Even from the beginning God created man in His likeness. He saw that man needed a helper so he created woman from man’s rib. From this God created the institution of marriage and the structure of the family with the man being the head of the house just as Christ is the head of the Church. Every member of the family has a role and responsibility to adhere to in order for the family to function as God has intended. If any member is not committed to their role it will strain the family as a whole and worldly concerns will take us away from Christ.
The NY Times published an article in 2013 stating that “the old fashioned family plan of stably married parents residing with their children remains a source of considerable power in America- but one that is increasingly seen as out of reach to all but the educated elite”. They back this up with a worldly reasoning claiming that to be happily married; a family must be able to afford it. Gods plan never placed any demands of income or status on us in order to be happy. Matthew 6:33 tells us to “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these will be added to you.”
The directives that God has placed on the family, when committed to by each member, will make the family stronger. The man is commanded to be the head of the house. This means spiritually, financially, morally, and security. Joshua 24:15 shows the type of leadership a man of God is to live by. Every man of God must take a stance "that as for me and my house; we will serve the LORD," and not the world. This decision is not the role of the woman but the head of the house. This is not a halfhearted decision or one that can be delegated. Any organization with weak leadership is doomed and cannot stand.
The value of the woman to the family cannot be overstated. Proverbs 31 describes the “excellent wife” and how precious she is to her household. There is nothing wrong with a woman working outside the home but that should not be her primary focus. The worldly view is one that frowns upon a submissive wife. The scriptures command that a woman be submissive to her husband (Eph 5:24). This is not to belittle or degrade the woman but simply the design of how God intended the family to work.
If the parents have shown their commitment to be evident and sincere as stated above then the final piece of the family should have a considerable advantage in following God's plan. The children are to obey their parents and show respect. This starts with the husband/father being strong enough to not only lead but correct when necessary. If a child is allowed to be disobedient at a young age then they will only grow further from their commitment as a member of the family. The parent/child relationship is not to be mistaken as friendship, but rather as God intended it to be. One where the child is to obey and respect as explained in Colossians 3:20.
One constant that will always be a factor in our commitment to our families is first and foremost or commitment to God. Anyone struggling with their commitment to their family should first examine their relationship with Christ and our Father in Heaven. Your commitment to your family can only grow stronger as your commitment to God and his service is strengthened.