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Why We Must Embrace Healthy Conflict

By Dillon Smith -November 11, 2021

The pain of small conflict now will protect you from catastrophic conflict down the road.

I hate conflict. Maybe you do too.

Your heart rate rises, you get goose bumps, and you oftentimes want to say something you would later regret.

For those of you who don’t mind conflict, odds are, you work with many people who don’t like conflict. This article will give you a better idea of how their brains work, and how you can work with them in the future.

To give you some context on where I am coming from, here are my top five strengths on Strengthsfinder:

• Restorative
• Harmony
• Connectedness
• Belief
• Includer

I am not wired for conflict.

So, why am I writing an article about how it fuels growth?

Because it does. I have been wrong about it for years, and I see many pastors and leaders who struggle with it in the same way I do.

My train of thought makes sense to me: I don’t want to risk damaging a relationship for the sake of improvement.

That motivation feels right to relational leaders, but it is often the wrong move. And everyone in your church probably sees it.

If you want your church members, volunteers and staff to grow, both in numbers and in maturity/discipleship, you need to embrace little moments of conflict.

But Dillon, conflict in the church is bad, right?

Wrong. Not all conflict in the church is bad.

I totally agree that:

Nobody wins in an unhealthy church split.

Nobody wins a screaming match in the office.

Nobody wins when a church makes a decision to close its doors.

These are all disasters that are packed with division and conflict, but they can be avoided.

How do we avoid them?

I’ve had to learn that minor moments of healthy conflict help you avoid massive moments of division that lead to disaster.

It’s like a flu shot. You get a little bit of the disease (hard/uncomfortable conversations) that your body can handle so that you don’t end up getting the full-on flu (division and disaster) later.

The same thing happens in marriage. If you never talk about the things your spouse does that bother you, one day you end up blowing up at them, and you both leave that conversation hurt and angry.

Your blowup could have been avoided if you would have had a minor, difficult conversation about their habit earlier.

That earlier conversation is difficult, but not as difficult as the later conversations that are inevitable if you bottle it up.

We have to talk about small issues before they become big issues.

Your church is the same way. Minor moments of healthy conflict help you avoid massive moments of division.

Here are four concepts with regard to healthy conflict that will help your church grow:

1. AVOIDING CONFLICT IS AVOIDING TRUTH.

Here is the problem with avoiding conflict as a Christian: Part of speaking the truth is inherently confrontational.

A church that doesn’t know what it’s against can never know what it’s for.

It’s critical to know what you are for as an organization, but if you are fighting for something, that implies you are also fighting against something.

Your people need to know what they are fighting against. If you don’t define their enemy, they will.

There are a few things the church and its leaders need to be openly in conflict with at all times: Christians not acting like Jesus, anti-Christian teachings, and at the very base of it all, the gospel not being shared with more people.

We see just how quick we need to be to address these things in the writings of the apostles John, Paul, and especially in the life of Jesus.

They were careful how they approached it, but they embraced conflict and stood up against the worldly tendencies seeping into the church.

We need to do the same.

As church leaders, we have to be ready to have:

Hard conversations with our members about the sin in their lives.

Hard conversations with those outside the church who say things like, “We all follow the same God, right?”

Hard conversations about the importance of reaching more people with the gospel.

2. CONFLICT GROWS YOUNG LEADERS.

People don’t grow until the pain associated with not growing is greater than the effort it will take to grow.

Read that again. (This is based on one of my favorite of Carey Nieuwhof’s quotes.)

When I first started working for Carey, I had a ton of growth I needed to undergo in a short amount of time.

He knew that I would likely need to experience pain to grow, and he had to find a way to lead me into that.

As my boss and coach, he used strategic bits of manufactured pain and conflict so that I would become the leader I needed to be. I go into detail about what exactly he said here.

Because Carey cared about my development, he allowed me to undergo some short-term pain so I could experience growth that would benefit me the rest of my life.

As a leader, if you love your people and want to see them grow, you should do the same.

3. CONFLICT LETS YOU HAVE THE AWKWARD CONVERSATIONS YOU’VE BEEN AVOIDING.

Imagine you have a volunteer who needs some coaching. Maybe they shake guests’ hands for just a little too long, or they don’t actually address first-time guests when they are greeting, or maybe they carry an odor that is a bit discomforting to anyone they serve coffee to.

You want to say something to them, but they are working for free so you don’t want to offend them and have them leave the church or stop volunteering, so you just don’t risk it.

This is a massive mistake.

What if you had a close friend with a similar issue?

Should you embrace the moment of conflict and tell them what they are doing wrong? Of course.

You would be a terrible friend if you didn’t tell them.

You are doing the same thing when you don’t call out your volunteers.

If you love your volunteers and the people they are serving, you will hold them accountable to doing their best. The only way to do that is to have hard conversations when necessary.

Obviously, be careful how you go about it, but if you are willing to have these conversations early, your volunteers will thank you and will stick around.

If you don’t do this, mediocrity takes over your organization, high capacity volunteers will stop volunteering, and first-time guests won’t come back.

Carey writes a bit more about keeping high capacity volunteers here.

4. CONFLICT CAN REMOVE THE TENSION FROM YOUR TEAM.

If you don’t address building tension in your organization, eventually it will address you, and it won’t be pretty.

No matter how healthy your organization is, staff members get hurt, and tensions grow.

It happens to you, too. One person questions your authority or gossips about you, and you are silently angry and bitter for the rest of the day.

Many leaders, including myself, push through the pain and act like it isn’t affecting them. But it is.

We tell ourselves that staying quiet is the strong thing to do.

But just pushing through and not dealing with pain from coworkers doesn’t result in a stronger leader or organization.

So what should we do?

When someone hurts you, go to them ASAP. Have a hard conversation. Don’t run from the hurt. Jesus didn’t, Paul didn’t, and neither should we.

When you set the tone for your team of embracing healthy conflict and requiring them to do the same, you create a culture where your team chooses the small pain in the moment rather than the catastrophic pain down the road.

Your decision to embrace conflict will change the entire trajectory of your staff and organization.

If you don’t already practice this, this is a change you need to make.

This article originally appeared on CareyNieuwhof.com and is reposted here by permission.

Before You Leave Your Wife

Five Words for Struggling Men

Article by Marshall Segal

Staff writer, desiringGod.org

I used to wonder why so many marriages ended in divorce. Why so many of my friends through grade school, high school, and college were the children of divorce. And then in the years after college, why so many of my peers had already been divorced.

And then I married. And like any other married person, I suddenly felt how painfully hard communication can be between a man and a woman. I groaned over how grueling decision-making often became. I saw how marriage drew more sin out of me than any other relationship had before. I was confronted with how proud, defensive, and sensitive I can be when I am sinned against. I stumbled into all the typical (and explosive) marital land mines — budget, schedule, cleanliness, conflict, in-laws. I began to trace just how much our family backgrounds were shaping (and often straining) our new family.

Dating had sweetly accentuated our similarities; marriage profoundly stressed our differences. What had felt so compatible, so safe, so, well, easy at the altar, suddenly felt, at times, impossible. In other words, we discovered why many people get divorced.

And while the number of divorces has swelled in recent years, at least in America, temptations to give up and abandon our vows are almost as old as marriage itself. Since that first husband and first wife tasted the awful fruit of sin, Satan has seeded the thought that divorce might actually be better than marriage — that, whatever God might have said about marriage, surely he would understand why it would be different in our case.

God confronts temptations toward divorce directly with a tough but hope-filled word through the prophet Malachi, a place we may not think to look for marriage counsel and clarity. I don’t intend to address here husbands who have suffered adultery or abandonment. The men in Malachi’s day, and the men I have in mind, were husbands whose love had grown cold. They left because they thought another woman, another marriage, another life might finally satisfy them.

Five Wakeup Calls from God

The minor prophet Malachi gives us a surprisingly clear and profound (and often overlooked) vision for marriage.

“Sinfulness in marriage always begins with sinfulness in our relationship with God.”

In Malachi’s day, husbands in Israel were divorcing their wives because their hearts had grown cold (Malachi 2:16), and because many of them wanted to marry foreign women (Malachi 2:11). Why foreign women? “After the return from exile in Babylon, Judah was a small, disadvantaged region of the Persian Empire, surrounded by much more powerful neighbors. In such a situation, marriage connections were a useful means of gaining political and economic advantage” (Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi, 133). Essentially, many of the men had abandoned their wives in search of a better life. They decided to provide for themselves, even if it meant sacrificing their bride and children.

Times were bleak as the people returned from exile. The letter begins, “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’” (Malachi 1:2). The people were feeling abandoned by God. Suffering made them desperate, some of them desperate enough to abandon their covenants and desert their families. Beneath the marital infidelity was a deeper fear and wrestling — not with a spouse, but with God. Sinfulness in marriage begins with sinfulness in our relationship with God.

So, knowing something of what these men were facing and how awfully they responded, how does God confront them and call them to repentance and faithfulness in marriage? He rebukes them by reminding them what marriage is and why it’s worth guarding and keeping with all our strength. And in doing so, he gives us five great words for Christian husbands tempted to leave.

1. You made a promise.

The Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. (Malachi 2:14)

Though she is your wife by covenant. As God confronts these men who have gone after other, more desirable women, what does he remind them of first? You made a promise. From the very beginning, God said, “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Hold fast here does not mean a warm, affectionate embrace, but an exclusive and steadfast devotion — a covenant (Deuteronomy 10:20Proverbs 2:16–17).

When you vowed, before God and witnesses, “I take you, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part,” what did you mean? Was your vow merely an ambition — “Well, we tried . . .” — or was it a promise?

A wedding is a celebration not of love found, but of love declared, love promised. We make promises precisely because, as committed as we feel in our white dress and rented tuxedo, we may want to leave one day. Because marriage really is hard. If we abandon our promise when it doesn’t serve us anymore, we prove that the vow wasn’t really a promise, but just a formal way to get what we wanted.

2. Divorce vandalizes what God made.

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? (Malachi 2:15)

As any man considers divorce, he must remember that marriage is far more than “the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship.” A marriage is a joining together of a man and a woman by God. And not just by God, but with something of him in their union — “with a portion of the Spirit.” This is not merely a social or physical union, but a spiritual one. And as many a wedding officiant has noted, “a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12) — husband, wife, and Lord.

“A wedding is a celebration not of love found, but of love declared, love promised.”

The picture the prophet paints comes close to one Jesus himself paints in Matthew 19:4–6 (quoting Genesis 2:24): “Have you not read, . . . ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Divorce rips apart a divine masterpiece. However you met, and however you dated, and however you decided to marry, God married you. God made you one. Would you undo what he has done?

3. Divorce lies to children about God.

And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. (Malachi 2:15)

God made marriage to be an abounding, multiplying, fruitful covenant. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’” (Genesis 1:27–28). When he made husband and wife, he was seeking offspring.

And not just any offspring, but offspring that would love, honor, and obey him: “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6). God wants godly offspring from our marriages.

These offspring are not always biological: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). So we do not have to bear sons or daughters to carry out God’s charge to be fruitful and multiply. In fact, the most important and enduring dimensions are spiritual (making disciples), not biological (having babies).

So how might your divorce affect your children spiritually? What damage, over decades, might it do? If faithful marriages retell the story of the gospel (Ephesians 5:25), inviting our children into the indescribable love of God in Christ — what would divorce say to them? Imagine the barriers it might drive between them and God. Imagine how the pain and betrayal might make them question his love and faithfulness. Imagine how your divorce could confuse and unsettle their faith (and the faith of other young people who look up to you).

4. Divorce soaks a soul in violence.

The man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 2:16)

The strongest word to these husbands comes at the end: if a man divorces his wife for lack of love, he “covers his garment with violence.” It sounds terrible enough, even to modern ears, but what does it mean?

The garment is a common metaphor in Scripture that unfolds the quality of a person’s character. The psalmist says of the wicked, “Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment” (Psalm 73:6). Similarly, in the New Testament, Jesus says to one of the seven churches, “Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4). He means that they had kept their souls unsoiled by the stains of unrepentant sin.

And violence is a picture not only of the cruelty of divorce. It is a violent act, especially in that day, when a woman was far more dependent on her husband for provision and protection. Even today, to abandon your wife is an act of violence against her (however civil the proceedings may have been). A man who divorces his wife harms the one God gave him to protect.

But violence is about more than relational brutality, because this man wears violence as a garment. Violence is not just what he does, but who he is. He has not just ended his marriage with violence, but he has soaked his soul in violence. This kind of corruption is what God saw when he looked out over his fallen world: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11). And how did God respond? With righteous and devastating judgment against them (Genesis 6:13).

And so this violence, this soul-steeped sinfulness, is not just violence against a wife, but violence against God — against his will and commands. The violence is not simply marital harshness, but aggression toward God. It’s the kind of rebellion that invited the flooding of the whole world.

5. God listens to men who stay.

How we handle marital struggles is so crucial, in part, because God has tied our faithfulness in marriage to our experience of God. No man can abandon his wife and still thrive spiritually. “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). Even if a man thinks he can thrive spiritually while neglecting or abandoning his wife (or if he fools those around him into thinking so), it is only a mirage that will end in destruction. And that destruction will harm far more than him.

Malachi strikes the same warning as he confronts the men: “You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand” — in other words, you weep because your prayers are being hindered. “But you say, ‘Why does he not [regard us]?’ Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless” (Malachi 2:13–14). God refused to receive their offerings or answer their prayers because they had refused to love their wives.

“A man who divorces his wife harms the one God gave him to protect.”

How you treat your wife will affect how God treats you. Not because husbands earn his love by our works, but because our works reveal our faith. If we’re faithful in marriage only when it’s pleasant or convenient, we betray how small God and his commands really are in our eyes. We show whether we are truly men of faith or faithless men. And faithless men do not have the ear of heaven.

Guard Yourselves in Spirit

As God confronts these men and calls them to remain faithful to their wives, he charges them, more than once, “Guard yourselves in your spirit” (Malachi 2:1516). In your spirit. What might that look like for Christian men in struggling marriages?

More than anything, it will mean deep, meaningful, and regular fellowship with the faithful Groom of our souls. The Groom who gave himself for his filthy and unfaithful bride, the church, that he might sanctify and cleanse her (Ephesians 5:25–26). The Husband who, despite how far his wife had run, how many lovers she had known, how often she had lied and left, still says to her — to us,

In that day, declares the Lord, you will call me “My Husband.” . . . And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. (Hosea 2:1619–20)

Men who might leave would do well to spend more time asking why God hasn’t left yet. More time below the beams that bought their forgiveness and life. More time meditating on the wedding day to come, when we will sing,

Let us rejoice and exult
     and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
     and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
     with fine linen, bright and pure. (Revelation 19:7–8)

If we lack the strength, patience, and resources to stay and love, it is not because God has not provided them. It is only because we have not loved the bride of our youth with the endless help of heaven.

Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have two children and live in Minneapolis.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/before-you-leave-your-wife


The Word of God Comes Alive in Conflict

Article by David Mathis Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

Our conflicted times may pale in comparison to history’s greatest conflicts, but in our own generation, the stresses, strains, and uncertainties of the last fourteen months have been unusual. Many of us are manifestly more on edge. Fuses seem shorter. Words, harsher. Moods, more burdened. As we’ve run on empty, previously dormant fault lines have opened up in our families, among neighbors, among longtime friends, and even in our churches.

Of course, what we experience as conflict comes in different layers. We experience societal, even global, conflicts, like the pandemic. But when conflicts erupt in our family, on our block, between longtime friends, in our own once-harmonious church, these are personal. They have faces we recognize. When another person, whether far away, or especially so when close to home, seems set on our humbling, silencing, or firing, whether justly so or not, we feel a personal sting unfelt in other trials.

Come Alive

One precious truth to rehearse, and experience, in times like ours — and especially when conflicts and threats become personal against us — is that God’s word comes alive in conflict. God didn’t only give us his word to get us through life’s trials, but he also gives us trials to make his word come alive. In conflict, his priceless comforts fall less on deaf ears than they do during peacetimes.

In his wise plan, severe mercies, and good providence, God takes his children’s lives through cycles of relative peace and conflict, no more than we can bear. Peacetime Christians can find plenty of hope and strength in the Scriptures, but how many of us have discovered how so many parts of the Bible — if not the whole — teem with life and clarity when conflict arises, especially when it’s close to home?

Born for Adversity

The Bible itself was born in conflict. Its heroes did not live in comfortable, peaceful times. Such days do not require heroes. And so too the Bible’s writers, under God, and its first readers were often embattled: from slavery in Egypt, to life under wicked tyrants and kings, to psalmists and prophets running for their lives, to looming exile and oppression, to God’s own Son betrayed and crucified, to Christ’s appointed spokesmen opposed and imprisoned, to his fledgling church straining on the edge of survival.

Consider the patriarchs in the trials and fears of nomadic living. They had no city with its haven from wild animals and marauders. The next stop for God’s people was Egypt, eventually to be oppressed by Pharaoh. Then back into the trials and fears of the wilderness for forty years.

“God didn’t only give us his word to get us through life’s trials, but he also gives us trials to make his word come alive.”

Once established in the land, and having endured relentless conflict under the judges, even Israel’s greatest king, and its sweet psalmist, was pursued by his own friends, betrayed by dear companions who turned into enemies and threatened his life. How many were David’s foes — both before he took the throne, and even as he reigned as king. He was sought by Saul, and fled to the wilderness. Later he was betrayed not only by his own son, Absalom, but also by his most trusted counselor, Ahithophel. Even Joab, his own cousin and longtime right-hand man, proved unfaithful.

Old and New

So too great David’s greater son, Jesus — how many were his foes! The authorities plotted against him. Scribes and Pharisees, on the one hand, and the rulers and chief priests, on the other — political rivals crossed the aisle to conspire against him. Carnal masses came to fill their bellies and dispersed at the word of truth (John 6). In the end, the cowardice of Pilate, the cruelty of Rome’s soldiers, and the taunts at the cross, even from the fellow crucified, would be eclipsed by the pain of his own men betraying him, denying him, and fleeing for their own lives.

Even the early church lived in conflict, under growing threat of persecution. First reviling, then imprisonment, then Stephen, the church’s first great orator, was stoned on the spot. The rulers cut off James’s head, and planned to do the same to Peter. When one of the church’s lead opponents became radically converted on the road to round up Christians, he too was pursued and opposed one episode after another. How many were Paul’s foes: legalists and Judaizers, pagans and licentious scoffers, sophists and apostates.

Then Paul had to deal with young, immature, conflicted churches spread across the Roman world. His cares included not only unbelievers who sought his life but “the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28). Most pressing of all was not conflict with the opponents but conflict in the trenches, turmoil within the congregations, as in Philippi (Philippians 4:2–3), Rome (Romans 14–15), and Ephesus (1 Timothy). Paul himself was no stranger to the sting of personal conflict as he divided with Barnabas over John Mark (Acts 15:37–40) and found Peter in error in Antioch and “opposed him to his face” (Galatians 2:11).

Shine in the Shadows

Yet here, in the shadows of conflict — in its tensions, threats, and insecurities — here is where the light of truth shone out all the clearer. Timeless epistles were forged. Truth took a stand. Light thrashed against the darkness. Conflict clarified not only the mission, but the source of strength: God himself in Christ.

Instead of Christ’s messengers being silenced, they took heart. As Paul said to the Thessalonians, “Though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict” (1 Thessalonians 2:2). Conflict? No, it’s not pleasant. But it is a great opportunity for our God. He speaks into conflict, and his words come alive with fresh power to those who are embattled.

Later, writing from prison, Paul encouraged the Philippians that it was a gift (“granted to you”) to “suffer for [Christ’s] sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (Philippians 1:29–30). Moving and speaking to spread the gospel brought conflict. And in that conflict, the word of God did not fade. It flourished.

No Surprise

Our conflicted times, and conflicted relationships, do not increase our earthly comforts, but they need not shake our confidence in heaven. The Scriptures were forged in such times, in the most challenging of days. The lead characters suffered. They did not live easy lives. The greatest figure of all, God himself in human flesh, anticipated as Messiah for centuries, was executed in public on a horrible Roman cross. And no servant of Christ is greater than his Master.

How tragic, then, when we allow the swelling of tensions and the uptick of trials to push us away from God’s word, rather than to him. God gave us his word for pandemics. And for civil and political unrest, and for crises of public information. We see afresh, in such times, how God’s words are the one real rock in a world of sand.

“Our conflicted times do not increase our earthly comforts, but they need not shake our confidence in heaven.”

Our foes today may feel like many: from within the church, and without. From professing believers and unbelievers. Perhaps someone we once knew well and who was close to us now has turned on us in some way, whether through betrayal, denial, or abandonment. Our God is not surprised by the many dangers, toils, and snares that come upon us. Neither should we be (1 Peter 4:12). Our conflicted times are in his hands, lovingly sifted through his fingers, in all their pain and difficulty. And they are a setup: for the beauty and strength of his voice.

For Times Like These

As we endure fightings without and fears within, what a Savior we have who has gone before us, promises to be with us (Matthew 28:20), and has poured out his own Spirt on us for precisely such times. In his own conflicted days on earth, he turned to the word of his Father, rather than away, when pain pressed in on him. God’s word was his life and preserved his faith — not just in the wilderness but even at the cross itself, where the Psalms he had learned and cherished from childhood found the very setting they long anticipated, even as they flowed from the embattled life of a great king a millennium before.

God’s words have been a peacetime balm for countless millions. Cherish them, meditate on them, find strength in them on the brightest and warmest of days. And as our days of great peace come, may the clarity and power of God’s words not abate. But when life gets hard, opposition arises, enemies approach, and peace collapses into conflict, lean hard on the words of God. They swell in their power and thrive at new depths in assaulted souls.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-word-of-god-comes-alive-in-conflict

Do You Defuse or Feed Into?

By Reverend Paul N. Papas II
1 November 2010

If you are alive you have conflict.

We all make choices which may please ourselves or others. When we make a choice it is usually because we have weighed the options. While weighing the options we found good and bad reasons for each possible solution.

A New York lawyer went duck hunting in the mountains of East Tennessee recently. He shot and dropped a bird, but it fell into a farmer’s field on the other side of the fence. As the lawyer climbed over the fence, an elderly farmer drove up on his tractor and asked him what he was doing.

“I shot this duck, and it fell in this field, and now I’m going in to retrieve it.”

“This is my property,” the old farmer replied. “And you are not coming over here.”

“I’m one of the best trial lawyers in New York,” said the lawyer. “And if you don’t let me get that duck, I’ll sue you and take everything you own.”

“Apparently, you don’t know how we do things in these parts of Tennessee,” said the farmer. “We settle disagreements like this with the Tennessee three-kick rule.”

“And just what is the Tennessee three-kick rule?”

“Well, first I kick you three times, and then you kick me three times, and so on, back and forth, until someone gives up.”

The attorney quickly thought about the proposed contest and decided that he could easily take the old-timer. He agreed to the local custom. The old farmer slowly climbed down from the tractor and walked up to the city slicker. His first kick planted the steel toe of his heavy work boot in the lawyer’s shin. The man fell to his knees. His second kick nearly put a hole in the man’s stomach. The old man then quickly delivered the third kick to the side of the attorney’s head. Slowly, the disoriented lawyer managed to get to his feet.

“OK, you old codger,” he said, “Now it’s my turn.”

The farmer smiled and said “Naw, I give up. You can have the duck”

I certainly don’t condone violence to settle a dispute, but the above example shows how the farmer chose to end the conflict by giving up and walking away.

This conflict could have continued until both were battered and bruised or one ended up dead.

There are a variety of things that could impair a person’s thought process. We hear a lot about how drugs and alcohol affect and impair vision and the ability to thing clearly. Drugs and alcohol impairment can wear off with the passing of time. The choices made during that period of impairment may have lasting or permanent consequences, such as a drunk driver causing a fatal accident.

The impairment of thinking is caused by the chemicals in the brain which are associated with thinking being altered by the alcohol or drugs.

Unfortunately, there are people who through no fault of there own have an impairment in thinking because of a chemical imbalance within their brain caused by a medical condition of a Mental Illness. This type of impairment could manifest itself in many ways that others could find disagreeable. If you can imagine having an impaired thought process all the time, then you might have a better understanding how some people live with a medical condition of a Mental Illness.

A medical condition of a Mental Illness is treatable to a degree that many live happy, fulfilled, and productive lives.

Unfortunately, just like the New York trial Attorney, many people misjudge others who don’t fit into their mold or perception of how the world should be. When this misperception of others happens because someone even suggests that someone may have a medical condition of a Mental Illness that is the stigma that is hard to overcome.

Many who have a medical condition of a Mental Illness have learned what the farmer in the above story knew which is how to deal with confrontation by defusing it and not encouraging or feeding into it. Instead of a negatively portraying a person who has a medical condition of a Mental Illness we should learn from their many examples and contributions. Some who gave us good examples to live by are famous such as President Abraham Lincoln.

You really can touch and it won’t rub off.

Vote NO on Stigma.

https://preacher01704.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/do-you-defuse-or-feed-into/


“A soft and effeminate Christianity”

By Allan Erickson – June 2, 2019

OPEN THEOLOGY & INCARNATIONAL MISSIOLOGY

the·ol·o·gy – the study of the nature of God and religious belief.

Historic Judeo-Christian theology reaching back 6,000 years has always held that God is Almighty: all powerful, all knowing, always present, everywhere, all the time. For sixty years, this was my understanding, reaching back to Sunday school.

So imagine my surprise when our pastor began teaching Open Theology, a relatively new theology, positing the idea God does not know everything, that he is sometimes surprised by our behavior, that he changes his mind and his methods when surprised by our responses. Some theorists believe God was surprised by the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden, that he didn’t see evil coming.  Others note that Abraham and Moses appealed to God to change his mind and he did, all of this demonstrating the truth of Open Theology. Open Theists also claim God does not know all that is going to happen in future, despite his perfect track record in prophesy.  So part of the impact of Open Theology is to encourage people to question the inerrancy of Scripture.

When questions inevitably arose our pastor indicated we were not thinking this through properly. He insisted Open Theology was valid, clearly affirmed in Scripture, and further, it did not contradict God’s omniscience, “the state of knowing everything.” One person put it pointedly: “If God does not know everything, then He is not God.”

It is the height of cognitive dissonance to suggest God knows everything, and then in the same breath claim He does not know everything, concluding there is nothing wrong with such a belief system! Clearly, Scripture proclaims from cover to cover the omniscience of God.  God himself tells us He is all knowing. So what is this foolishness about?  This article helps with a more detailed treatment:  A Critique of Open Theism.  In further study we find that Open Theology is an attempt to synthesize Scripture and Greek philosophy, heretical in the view of the majority.

If sound doctrine directs the effective work of the Church, then errant theology destroys sound doctrine and renders the work of the Church impotent. If a pastor’s job is to evangelize and disciple, how is it a job well done to teach that God is double-minded, unreliable, superficial or inconsistent?

Can any theology of doubt strengthen faith?

In seminary, another theology eventually discouraged my faith and further attendance. Out of the blue, seminary professors and administration proclaimed students would be marked down for using male pronouns in reference to the Father. We were told referring to “He” or “Him” reinforced patriarchy, the sin of excluding females. Thus, if we prayed to “Him” or wrote about “Him,” we would receive a lower grade.  This was not subject to discussion.  It was settled theology.

I suggested we were asking the wrong question: that the better question would be, “Lord, why do you refer to yourself both in terms of maleness, and in terms of femaleness?” My suggestion was treated as impertinence. Consequently I stopped going to seminary. This was about 25 years ago.

Errant theology goes a long way toward causing confusion. God is not the author of confusion. He is the author of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:33)

Now we have something called “Incarnational Missiology.”  This theology invites us to “rethink” the nature of missions. As with Open Theology and our perception of God the Father, we are encouraged to question without merit and revise belief without grounds.

At a church we no longer attend, our daughter was enjoying youth group as a 6th grader. She enjoyed socializing with friends and playing games, having a good time each week. The teaching of Scripture was a bit on the light side, but, we believed she was growing in faith. We would soon be jolted back to reality.

One week she came home with something troubling her. She reported a transgender individual had joined youth group.  Our daughter had questions of course. Apparently the transgender person had immediately notified everyone she was a boy in a girl’s body. This caused a great deal of confusion and concern, the primary concern being, ‘How do we rightly respond?’

As with so many ‘cutting edge theologies,’ Incarnational Missiology employs many, many words and Scripture references to explain a systematic approach to ‘rethinking.’

Essentially the idea is we must engage the world with sensitivity, focusing on relationships. We must be present ‘incarnationally’ and influence people by maintaining a soft and accepting proximity. Apparently the idea is this: if we are very, very nice in constant contact with the lost, good will rub off and they will eventually come around. The proclamation of the Word and the call to repent of sin are put on the back burner or removed from the stove altogether. In other words, the real medicine is withheld.

So, when we asked staff how they were going to handle the advocacy of transgenderism within youth group for 6th graders, we were told, “These things take time.”  Staff indicated an awareness the issue could not be ignored but there was no plan to intervene on behalf of the child’s welfare, and no plan to disciple Christian kids on how to rightly respond, in love. The answer, according to staff, was to make sure the child felt warmly welcomed.

Obviously my wife and I discussed all this extensively, including our daughter in many of those discussions. It felt as if the LGBTQ movement had kicked down my door and demanded my 6th grade daughter affirm them unconditionally.  Further, it felt as if our church was more concerned about offending someone than taking a principled stand, trusting God with everyone’s highest good.  The child’s welfare, though not ignored, seemed a lesser priority compared to political activism, cultural warfare and conflict avoidance.

There was no reconciliation between my feelings and the theology being applied: I was convicted about sin, but called to ignore it. It felt as if my daughter’s spiritual growth was not as important as accommodating and even affirming aberrant behaviors.  Then, it dawned on me.  It wasn’t about my feelings. It was about God’s will for people.  It wasn’t about their feelings either.  It was about redemption.  Once again, Scripture came to the rescue.

God’s Word calls on all unbelievers and believers to repent of their sin—no matter the sin—and enter the newness of life. Only by repentance can we experience the marvelous liberation God delivers! Sin is a cruel task master! Why would we leave a suffering person in sin?  It’s cruel!  God commands us to show people the way out!

God commands believers to witness to His liberating power. He commands us to preach the Word, always.  He urges us to share His love with everyone, everywhere, but nowhere does he suggest we accommodate sin, or preach a different gospel.  In fact he condemns compromise.

It has been a year since the transgender girl declared she was a boy in a girl’s body. Reportedly, she now insists people call her by her new male name.  She is still warmly welcomed in youth group yet she is apparently further away from salvation.  Is it right then to doubt the value of “Incarnational Missiology?”

Notice that with Open Theology, so-called patriarchy in the Bible, and Incarnational Missiology, all seek to address some kind of discomfort we experience. We are not comfortable with evil in the world so to deal with the discomfort we theorize God is not all knowing.  We dislike patriarchy so we assume God made a mistake and presume to edit his Word, taking out all the male pronouns.  We are repulsed by the leather-lunged preachers of the past, shunning the sense of guilt that leads to repentance, so we come up with a touchy-feely gospel to make it all cushy and comfortable.

The work of the church is to present the Gospel, urge repentance, evangelize the lost and disciple believers. It is a mission presented straightforwardly in the Scripture.  It is not complicated.  And it is not a soft, accommodating mission.  It can be very rugged.

But why do we complicate it?

Why do we think we have to ‘rethink’ or ‘revise’ or ‘redo’ what Jesus and Paul and others clearly modeled for us? Why do we come to believe a Gospel that a 1st grader can understand must somehow be refashioned by Ph.Ds so that the world will be accommodated?

In truth, our churches are weakened, even destroyed, by the author of confusion. As he did in the Garden, he tempts us by questioning God’s word and His character, and by enticing us to play god, rather than worship Him in spirit and truth.

Please consider, in conclusion, the wise words of a 19th century Scottish pastor:

A SOFT & EFFEMINATE CHRISTIANITY

Horatius Bonar (1808 – 1889) Scottish churchman and poet

For there is some danger of falling into a soft and effeminate Christianity, under the plea of a lofty and ethereal theology.

Christianity was born for endurance…It walks with firm step and erect frame; it is kindly, but firm; it is gentle, but honest; it is calm, but not facile; obliging, but not imbecile; decided, but not churlish. It does not fear to speak the stern word of condemnation against error, nor to raise its voice against surrounding evils, under the pretext that it is not of this world.

It does not shrink from giving honest reproof lest it come under the charge of displaying an unchristian spirit. It calls sin ’sin,’ on whomsoever it is found, and would rather risk the accusation of being actuated by a bad spirit than not discharge an explicit duty. Let us not misjudge strong words used in honest controversy. Out of the heat a viper may come forth; but we shake it off and feel no harm.

The religion of both Old and New Testaments is marked by fervent outspoken testimonies against evil. To speak smooth things in such a case may be sentimentalism, but it is not Christianity. It is a betrayal of the cause of truth and righteousness. If anyone should be frank, manly, honest, cheerful (I do not say blunt or rude, for a Christian must be courteous and polite), it is he who has tasted that the Lord is gracious, and is looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.

I know that charity covereth a multitude of sins; but it does not call evil good, because a good man has done it; it does not excuse inconsistencies, because the inconsistent brother has a high name and a fervent spirit. Crookedness and worldliness are still crookedness and worldliness, though exhibited in one who seems to have reached no common height of attainment.

 

Original here

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