Conflict Resolution: God’s Example

This week we are going to focus on conflict resolution in our various relationships.  Have you ever noticed the bible is full of conflict?  The disciples of Jesus seemed to argue a lot, Jesus Himself was in constant friction with the religious leadership, and you might even call Paul the Apostle of conflict. He had to oppose Peter to his face, he had a sharp disagreement with Barnabas over John Mark, and he seemed to have to defend his apostleship constantly. We don’t have time to review all the examples throughout the Old Testament. Elijah and Ahab/Jezebel, Sarai and Hagar, Saul and David, Moses and Miriam/Aaron, just to name a few. The book of Job is mostly one big argument between Job and his friends.

Is it any different today? Do you have a single relationship in your life that hasn’t experienced conflict? Conflict goes all the way back to the beginning of man’s existence when Adam and Eve ate of the tree and created conflict with God. Today it is this essential conflict, between God and man, we are going to explore in order to learn how to resolve conflict in all of our relationships.

The most significant relationship we have in this life is with our God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Every single one of us has experienced conflict in this relationship because of sin. Look at Romans 5 and consider what God did to resolve this conflict.

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”  Romans 5:6-10   

God initiated the reconciliation:  “While we were still helpless…while we were enemies”, God took action. He didn’t wait for our willingness or even our acknowledgement of the problem.

Reconciliation did not depend on our “worthiness:  Notice the words used to describe us in this text…”helpless”, “ungodly”, “sinners”, and “enemies”. They don’t really scream of our worthiness do they? Did we deserve His efforts towards resolution?

God sacrificed, to His own hurt, to resolve the conflict because He loved us:  “God demonstrated His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Not only did God take the first step towards reconciliation for a bunch of unworthy enemies but He did it at great personal cost because He loved us. Not a warm fuzzy feeling but vulnerable, sacrificial, painful love. Conflict resolution starts with love.

God offers reconciliation but doesn’t force anyone to accept it:  The vast majority of people will reject the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Do you think God knew that when He initiated the plan for our redemption? Do you think Jesus knew that when He hung up there on the cross? Yet God still acted. God still reached out to resolve the conflict.

In sending and sacrificing Jesus, God provides us the motivation and the pattern to resolve conflict within all our relationships. We must have the trust and the courage to follow His example. But there is one last thing to consider. Think on past conflicts or current conflicts. How often is the conflict 100% one person’s fault? Usually both parties share some of the blame and even when someone else might start the conflict, my improper reaction will often escalate the situation. Now what about our conflict with God? Our choice to sin is what caused the conflict and it was 100% our fault and yet…God still reached out and provided us with a path towards reconciliation. What excuse are we left with?

________

Note from Aaron: We will pick back up on the Monday Beatitude series next Monday (May 16), Lord willing.

Beatitudes, Part 3

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

We are continuing our Monday series on the “Beatitudes” that Jesus delivered in His Sermon on the Mount. Today we are going to meditate on mourning. Blessed are those who are crying. Happy are the sad?

Is Jesus talking about everyone who cries? Are all tears promised comfort by God? I do not believe Biblically we can say that all people who are ever sad are promised to be consoled (Proverbs 1:24-33). Remember the context of these Beatitudes – Jesus is talking about the character and mindset of people who will be citizens in His kingdom.

One type of mourning that I know has a promise of comfort by God is when we mourn over our sins and lament our desperate condition spiritually before God. This is called “godly sorrow” by the apostle Paul and it leads to repentance without regret. This sorrow leads to eternal life, in contrast to the worldly sorrow that produces death (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Just a quick word here about worldly sorrow. You are sorry that you got caught. You are sorry that you lost something here on this earth because you got caught (reputation, possessions, illicit relationships, etc.). I am sorry I got a speeding ticket, but I’m not really going to stop speeding…I’ll just keep a better eye out for the cops this time. That kind of sorrow leads to death, and it does not have any promises of comfort in the end.

Take a look at James 4. Here we see the Beatitudes of Jesus from James’ perspective.

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:7-10)

What did James just say? “Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.” This, I believe, captures what Jesus is really talking about in the Beatitudes. This is the sorrow that truly leads to comfort by Jesus. It is the sorrow of David in Psalm 51 after he sinned with Bathsheba, and it is the godly sorrow of 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Specifically we are mourning over our sins. It pains us to know we have hurt God and broken His laws. The realization haunts us that those sins were laid on Jesus at the cross as He was slaughtered as our Passover Lamb. We lament and cry over our spiritual situation. As we look into the mirror of God’s word, we see that we are lost, broken, and helpless. We need a Savior.

Consider this parable by Jesus which I believe fits very well with this discussion.

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

The man who went to his house justified was the man who mourned. He beat his breast. Because he knew his position before God, he could not even look up into heaven. He needed mercy and salvation. According to Jesus, he got it. Comfort was promised because he truly mourned.

Watch this video. This garbage worker found an old piano that someone regarded as trash and began to play beautiful music with it. I believe that is exactly what Jesus does with us. He takes us when we are at our lowest, and through His grace He plays beautiful music as He restores us and revives us.

Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. (Psalm 51:8)

The Beatitudes, Part 2

“Clearly there has never been a teacher in human history more at odds with everything men in their wisdom have thought to be right than Jesus of Nazareth.” – Paul Earnhart

Last Monday, we began to consider the “Beatitudes” of Jesus in Matthew 5:1-12. Beatitude is a word which means “blessed” or “happy.”

When are you blessed or happy according to Jesus? Only when you are poor in spirit, hungry, thirsty, mourning and persecuted. Really? Would we think in our fleshly minds that a person who is hungry, mourning and persecuted is blessed or happy? Let’s start to dig into what Jesus is getting at in these Beatitudes.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

Who will take residence in the kingdom of heaven? Who are the sons and daughters of God in the Messiah’s kingdom? Those who are poor in spirit.

The word for poor here means to “crouch like a beggar.” A person who begs has no other option but to fall at the mercy of others for assistance. He has been reduced to begging for every little morsel because he, for whatever reason, cannot make it on his own. The pride and dignity have gone, the quest for a perfect image is out the window, he is simply helpless and powerless. “Somebody help me, please.”

Now, Jesus and other Bible writers often talk about poor people and rich people, but I do not believe Jesus in this context is talking about money. He is talking about souls, attitudes and the condition of our hearts.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

Let’s look at an example to illustrate Jesus’ words.

David, after he sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband killed, was rebuked by the prophet Nathan and punished by the Lord (2 Samuel 11-12). Psalm 51 was written by David during this dark time in his life as he sought forgiveness and healing from God.

We are told in Psalm 51 what kind of spirit God is looking for, and it parallels perfectly with Jesus’ statement about being “poor in spirit.” David wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). The word broken here means “crushed, torn, burst.” The word contrite here means “to collapse.” A broken spirit is what David had. All pride was gone. All desire to live for self was gone. He was empty. He was spiritually destitute. He collapsed before God because his soul was crushed and only God could heal it and revive it.

God is looking for broken spirits. He is looking for the poor in spirit. Until we have exhausted all other options and have spent our time, energy and being on all the things of this world that do not truly satisfy, then we just don’t look to God as our only hope. We need to be broken first. That is the painful reality. We have to become poor so that we can be rich.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you…” (James 4:8).

Another example that I believe perfectly illustrates this principle is the woman with the blood issue who reached out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:42-48). She had spent all her money on doctors and treatments, but only grew worse. 12 years of suffering that seemed endless. She had no other option left. The woman was anemic, weak and dying. Then she heard about Jesus of Nazareth. Through her powerlessness and helplessness she reached through the crowd in faith and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. She believed with full confidence that if she just touched His garment she would be healed.

Jesus stopped in the crowd that was “thronging” Him, turned around and asked, “Who touched My clothes?” Peter and the rest of His disciples thought that was pretty crazy, considering everybody was touching him. They were being knocked around all the time because of the crowd. But Jesus recognized the touch of faith. He recognized the touch of a person who was poor in spirit.

Final thought, “Does Jesus know your touch?” Is your touch the one of someone who is “poor in spirit,” or is your touch just one of the crowd?

The Beatitudes, Part 1

For the next several Mondays, we are going to look at what are called the “Beatitudes” from Matthew 5:1-12. The word “Beatitude” is from a Latin word for “blessed” or “happy,” which if you look at how each verse begins from verse 3 to verse 11 you can see why. Jesus began each statement with “Blessed” or “Happy” is the person who has certain qualities.

Please take time this morning to read Matthew 5:1-12. For this morning, I will make a few quick initial observations.

Kingdom Citizens. Jesus is the King, the Messiah, and the King decides who will be a citizen of His kingdom. His kingdom is like no other, it is a kingdom not of this world (John 18:36). His focus as King of a heavenly kingdom is totally opposite of the mindset of a king of this world. If I am to be a citizen of Christ’s kingdom, what character traits is He looking for in me?

Paradox. Think of how crazy this must sound to someone of the world. It might even sound crazy to you. Jesus said, “Happy” are the poor, the mourners, the hungry, and the persecuted? That just doesn’t make sense to my human mind. If you really take time to think about that, it says loudly that Jesus’ kingdom is like no other. If we want to be a part of His kingdom, we have to turn our thinking upside down and inside out.

Compare the Book of James. I encourage you if you want to study more and go deeper to take the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7 and compare it with the book of James. James highlights and reiterates a lot of points that Jesus made in this sermon.

Next Monday’s article: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Lord Teach Us To Pray

It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).

Something different about Jesus’ prayers. Jesus’ disciples (followers, students) saw something about Jesus and His prayers that they wanted in their own lives. I’m pretty confident that as Jews, these men grew up praying all the time and they heard tons of prayers by others around them. But something had to be unique about Jesus and His prayers that caught their attention. God bless these men for having this kind of honesty. They wanted to grow in prayer.

How about you? How is your prayer life? If you were to take an honest assessment of your relationship with God through prayer, how healthy is that relationship? Communication is vital to any relationship, and prayer is how we communicate with our Father in heaven.

Prayer must be taught. John the Baptist taught his followers how to pray. In Luke 11, we see Jesus accepting the request to teach His followers how to pray. Let me ask you this morning, have you sat down with a wise Christian and asked, “Can you teach me to pray?” Do you feel funny about the thought of asking another Christian to help you learn how to pray? Is that a valid feeling? If prayer was so vital to the life of Jesus Himself, shouldn’t we as men seeking to follow Christ consider taking time to really learn how to communicate with our Father in heaven?

Are you teaching others how to pray? Let me ask those men who have been Christians for a long time: Have you made it a point to sit down with a young person or a new follower of Jesus in order to share with them the value of prayer? I’m afraid that far too many times we just assume a person is going to “figure it out.” This is something that has convicted me personally as a teacher and as a parent. Prayer should be one of the first things we teach a young Christian to do. Notice that the first Christians, fresh out of the waters of baptism (Acts 2:41), “devoted themselves continually…to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

Men, my encouragement for all of us today is to devote ourselves first and foremost to prayer. Let us all seek to grow in our own relationship with God through prayer. Don’t be ashamed or humiliated to ask someone to help you with your prayer life. Also, men of age and wisdom, please look around to those young in the faith and make it a point to sit down with them and teach them about prayer.

“Devote yourselves to prayer…” (Colossians 4:2).

Note from Webmaster: Please add mensdailybriefing.com to your “Approved Sender” list, within your email client, in order to assure receipt.  If you are not seeing the emails after successfully registering, please check your “Junk Email” or “Spam” folders.

Bread – One Loaf at a Time

The ravens brought Elijah bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook (1 Kings 17:6).

Elijah the prophet was running for his life.

God called Elijah to stand before the most wicked king and queen combo ever to reign in Israel, Ahab and Jezebel. Because of their wickedness, Elijah called for a famine upon the land, a famine which would last by the way for 3 1/2 years. As Elijah left the palace, God directed him to a certain brook saying that He had “commanded the ravens to provide” for Elijah there.

Stop…What was that, Lord?

Now, I know that many reading this are big planning type guys. Some are engineers. Some are in the corporate world. Some are professors at major universities. Some are church leaders. Some are in the military. Some are firefighters and paramedics. Your careers revolve around and depend upon planning things out to the most minute detail. You must prepare for every contingency. Your success rests on your ability to anticipate every possible scenario. Think of how you might initially react to God’s words here? Big black birds will bring you food, and you will drink from the brook.

Sorry, but that’s not a plan, Lord. Tell me what you really have planned.

But that was exactly God’s plan for Elijah. God commanded ravens (unclean birds to the Jew) to bring Elijah “bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening.” Bread – One Loaf at a Time. I’m not sure how the birds carried that bread – maybe each raven carried a little bit of bread for him. From where did they get this bread? Walmart? It really doesn’t matter, because what matters is that God took care of Elijah, and He did it in a way that defies human understanding. Please take note that in the morning, Elijah did not receive his food for the evening! He only received his food for that morning, and he had to wait upon the Lord (and the big black birds) for his evening meal. God gave Elijah exactly what he needed for that moment in time.

What lesson do we learn through Elijah? Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11)! One loaf at a time. Elijah had to completely surrender his will to the Lord and trust Him fully.

This is the same lesson God tried to teach the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years (which many of them never learned).

“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

God humbled them. How did He do that? He “allowed” them to be hungry. He allowed them to get thirsty. He made them uncomfortable for awhile in that hot wilderness. Why? He wanted them to think past their digestive tracts and get on a higher plain spiritually.

Solomon’s prayer for Israel was that God “may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day requires” (1 Kings 8:59). We all have different needs on different days…some days I’m doing well, while on other days I’m just needy! Regardless, God gives His children each day and at each moment what we need. He gives us bread – one loaf at a time.

That bread may be encouragement in the form of a person who looked with tenderness in your eyes and said the very words you needed to hear. It might be a check in the mail that came at just the right time. Maybe it was a person who showed up to help you when you were getting tired and ready to throw your hands up. That bread could be in the form of a little child that says something that brightens your day. You might have listened to a sermon on the way to work that was exactly what you needed. I don’t know what that “bread” may be for you, but God knows. He will take care of you, one loaf at a time.

Because He First Loved Us

“We love, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19 NASB)

God is love!  We are men created in His image who endeavor to be His faithful children.  Why is it then we as men struggle to love the way He loves and in the way He has called us to love?

Do you find yourself longing to be more loving?  Do you want to learn to forgive?  Are you finding it hard to put others first?  Do you need to be more longsuffering?  Is generosity an elusive virtue for you?  Are you having trouble putting up with ungrateful family members or cranky neighbors?

Why?  Could it be we are missing a step?  If we have never received His love or neglect to receive His love on a daily basis, how can we love others?  The critical first step in loving is to not look to those who we want to love, but to look to our God and Father who IS LOVE!

The secret to loving is receiving love.

We love, because He first loved us.  We can love like God if we first receive His love.  We can love like God if we seek and receive God’s help.  If we haven’t received God’s love in our lives, then we cannot give love to others.

Think of it in the context of a checking account.  If I told you to love without telling you that you are loved is like telling you to write a check without making a deposit in your checking account.  What would happen in this case?  Your account would be overdrawn!  Are your relationships overdrawn?  Do you have a heart with insufficient love?  Then make a deposit!

That is what the apostle John is modeling in 1 John 4.  He tells us that we must make a deposit before we can write a check.

9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

Only then, after we have made such an outrageous, eye-opening deposit, does John call us to pull out the checkbook.

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

The secret to loving?  The secret to loving is LIVING LOVED!

Today, instead of looking to others for love…look toward God.  He is love!  He will fill you up and His love doesn’t disappoint.  We will be disappointed by those we try to love.  Yet, if we are full of God’s love, we will weather the storm and demonstrate love even when we don’t want to, aren’t loved back, or can’t believe loving another will make one bit of a difference to them.  Hold fast to God’s love, make that deposit, and be amazed by the returns, thank Him and praise Him!

Like the Spring Rain

“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hosea 6:3).

Welcome Spring! It was a welcome site to go to the car and see buds from the maple trees that had fallen on the car yesterday morning. I’m so ready. Warmer weather, birds singing, flowers blooming, trees blossoming, green grass. Love it. Even though I’m allergic to most of it, I absolutely love seeing all of God’s beauty and renewal in the Spring.

My wife, Anna, purchased an egg incubator so that we could hatch our own chickens for the first time this year, and for the first time we were able to witness for ourselves a chick hatch. To see this process up close and personal was just incredible. God is awesome. His creation is awesome. What He does for us daily is awesome.

In the above passage in Hosea, the prophet was urging the people to “press on to know the Lord.” If you back up to the beginning of that chapter in Hosea, he was encouraging the people to return to the Lord to seek His forgiveness and healing. The promise given by the Holy Spirit through Hosea is that if they were to come back to God, He would “heal,” “bandage,” “revive” and “raise” them to life. That is where Hosea then compares God coming to them with the spring rain.

Through the winter, everything seems gray and brown. But then the spring rain comes, and then we have greens, purples, reds, yellows, and oranges. We have life again. We are revived again. There is hope and promise in the Spring.

If you are finding yourselves in the winter spiritually, I hope this will encourage you to come to the God of the Spring Rain. Maybe today you feel like you are in a blizzard with 10 feet of snow and 30 degrees below zero windchill. Your life is not where it should be with God. Return to God through the blood of Jesus Christ and come to His throne for mercy. He will revive you and make you new again by showering His grace and mercy upon you.

Sugar Smash

Sugar Smash, by Jason Salyers

Waking up, progressing downstairs, mobile phone in hand, the day begins with the coffee button depressed, and since wakefulness has not completely materialized, a quick game on the mobile device in which little candy pieces are moved into alignment and destroyed. In this “sugar smash” game (the real name has been changed to protect the innocent…), one must destroy pieces of candy in an effort to clear the screen. The levels have progressed onward and multiple challenges have occurred.

However, this game involves frustration. Just when an individual thinks they are going to win the level and move onward to the next challenge, the right pieces of candy do not materialize, or the moves run out. Obviously, the fault for this unsuccessful venture rests solely on the game itself; or does it?

The majority of the time levels seem unconquerable: early morning, late at night, or when hastily playing. In other words, the levels become harder when tired or in a rush. Discovering this, application presents itself towards the life of a believer.

The Apostle Paul urged the Corinthian believers to understand a foundational principle in regards to temptation; “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Throughout the Old Testament and into the New, a promise given to all men: “God is Faithful.”

In a silly game like “sugar smash,” men and women get frustrated because the “game just does not give us what we need!” Which, in the case of the game, may be true. With God though, God has “granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).” God grants to the believer, what the believer needs, but because of exhaustion or hastening “to-and-fro” believers can miss what God has provided.

Paul told the Corinthian church “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33). This verse directly applies to the worship service, but the principle can also be applied to an individual’s life. God does not attempt to frustrate or confuse His children. Instead, when temptations or trials in life occur, believers must recognize God grants an avenue of escape and endurance.

Problems in this life are greater and more significant than “I need to get a speckled candy!” Believers become discouraged when tired, frustrated, or rushing. God is faithful though, and He will always be there for His followers:

“Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. (Psalm 118:5-7)”

A Little Food and a Lot of Faith

Friends,

Here is a link to a great sermon by a man named Ralph Walker on the feeding of the 5000 by Jesus.

A Little Food and a Lot of Faith

If you wish to read in the Bible further, start in John 6. The feeding of the 5,000 is only one of two miracles that are recorded in all 4 Gospel accounts.

You could listen to this today on your lunch break as you meditate upon the Bread of Life.

God bless,

Aaron