Church Conflict

2. I have a special appeal that goes out to jointly to Euodia and Syntyche: please, please, come to a common mind in the Lord. 3. (And here’s request for you too, my loyal comrade: please help these women. They have struggled hard in the gospel along side me, as have Clement and my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life,)  4. Celebrate joyfully in the Lord, all the time. I’ll say it again, celebrate! 5. Let everybody know how gentle and gracious you are. The Lord is near. 6. Don’t worry about anything. Rather, in every area of you life let God know what you want, as you pray and make requests, and give thanks well. 7. And God’s peace, which is greater that we can ever understand, will keep guard over your hearts and minds in King Jesus, – Philippians 4:2-9

You never know when it’s going to happen. Two people who one day are good friends, working alongside each other in the church, can suddenly get cross with one another. A sharp word from one, half-heard by the other: a bitter response, said hastily and without quite meaning it; then the slamming of doors, the face turned away in the street, the sense (on both sides) of hurt so great, and offense so deep, that nothing can mend it. I remember my grandfather, a pastor himself, telling me of such things. I in my turn have had to deal with such incidents, and I guess most pastors have done the same.

It is particularly sad and tragic when it occurs within a Christian community where the whole ethos ought to be one of mutual love, forgiveness and support; but the chances are that since each one will accuse the other of being the first to break the code, neither is prepared to back down. It then calls for a certain amount of shuttle diplomacy on the part of a pastor or wise friend before any progress is made.

But a word addressed in public to both parties might just break the deadlock (though you’d have to know what you are doing; it might make it worse.) We can assume that Paul knew what he was doing in verse 2. These things are better dealt with sooner than later.

Excerpted from Paul for Everyone – The Prison Letters written by N. T. Wright

This Way of Life

Reposted from Radical Mentoring

It’s so easy to ‘speak Christian’ but not really communicate. When we tell people to follow Jesus, it may feel like we’re telling people to stand in the corner of a round room. Phrases like “Give your life to Christ” and “Surrender to Jesus” describe a decision . . . a specific event, not a day-to-day guideline for living ‘this way of life.’

So I came up with eight practices that together, can make ‘this way of life’ a reality. I believe God’s Word supports all of these. So here goes . . .

  1. Love and accept people – Just as they are. Forgive them when they fail. Don’t create expectations for other’s behavior, especially for those outside the faith who don’t have the faith you have.
  2. Trust God with the outcomes – Peace over panic. Do the next right thing, remembering that He loves you, wants what’s best for you, and never leaves you.
  3. Relax in your identity – Strive no more! You are an adopted child of the King of Kings. You can’t be unadopted.
  4. Be generous – Trusting God allows you to give rather than hold back. Freely give your time, money, and grace without regard to being appreciated or getting anything in return.
  5. Develop your character – Faith in God makes it safe to do the right thing, as God defines it, even when nobody’s looking and when it’s going to cost you something.
  6. Live in community – Connect and commit to a church but even more, get connected and do life with at least one other Jesus-follower who knows your dark corners and whose life is headed toward Christ.
  7. Pray all the time  Listen to His voice in Scripture. Listen for His voice in your thoughts. Get in the habit of praying and listening, even a simple prayer like “I love you, Lord, I trust you, Lord, I need you, Lord, I thank you, Lord.”
  8. Intentionally mentor – Live your life for others. Be intentional about engaging with people for the purpose of helping them find and follow Jesus. Look for mentors to help you grow as you mentor one, two, or a group of folks who may be behind you in their spiritual journey.

Faith empowers us to live ‘this way of life.’ But faith in God as a concept won’t cut. It takes faith in a “friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Faith in an omnipotent God who wants you to trust Him enough that you can do all eight of these things consistently and with confidence in order to “have life and have it to the full.”

Scripture: Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7)

There is Always Something You Don’t Know

Reposted from Radical Mentoring

A lot of us work somewhere that’s not ‘headquarters.’ Not ‘corporate.’ Not ‘the home office.’ That was me once. When the orders were handed down to us in the field, they sometimes seemed dumb. Out of touch with the real-world situation on the ground. I’d say, “What are they thinking up in the ivory tower?”

Then it happened.

I was promoted and transferred to corporate. One of my first tasks was complicated with all kinds of HR and union concerns . . . things I had no knowledge of a few weeks earlier. When the new instructions went out to the field, my phone lit up. “Regi, what are you thinking?” “It sure didn’t take you long to forget what it’s like out here.” “You’re just like the rest of them . . . out of touch and totally insensitive to the headaches you’re creating for us out here!”

My boss picked up on it. He took me aside and taught me something I’ve never forgotten. He said, “There’s always something you don’t know.” In a lower-level job or a remote position, there are things people ‘upstairs’ know that you don’t. We never have the whole picture.

This same principle applies in everyday relationships. When your wife comes home acting cross and impatient, there’s something you don’t know. When someone races past then cuts you off in traffic, there’s something you don’t know. When your teammate turns critical and negative, there’s something you don’t know.

And when God doesn’t cause or allow things to work out the way you want them to, there’s something you don’t know. A lot of what we don’t know will never be known until we’re there with God in the next life.

Lean into what you do know. God is good, and God loves you. That’s really all you need to know.

The Difference Between Fathers and Mentors

Reposted from Radical Mentoring

Fathers can be mentors, but mentors aren’t necessarily fathers. Mentors choose to mentor, but once a man becomes a father, he is always the father. I believe that’s why God chose the father-son paradigm to explain the relationship He wants with us. God as the permanent, perfect, never going away, never giving up, always giving and forgiving Father. And me, the beloved but immature son.

Because our role as a father is permanent and not optional, it’s easy to live it out unintentionally. To relax into routine, blindly replicating what our fathers did. Responding to our kids out of authority and arrogance versus love and understanding.

And it’s easy to take fathers for granted. Our kids get used to receiving the love we give and the way we give it. Over time, it’s routine. And invisible.

Mentoring is for a season. Fathering is permanent. Mentoring is usually around a goal, or a specific skill (i.e., I mentor to lead men toward God-centric lives.) Fathering isn’t specific. It offers opportunity and duty. It has no limits. It’s about finances, health, life skills, family responsibilities, and submission to authority.

As a father, mentoring is an ‘above and beyond’ opportunity. One of my greatest blessings was having my son in one of my mentoring groups. Stepping into the role of mentor helped us reframe our relationship into a more mature one. It added objectivity for both of us. It wasn’t just dear ol’ dad harping on something. It was group assignments where the value was apparent, and the whole group was involved. Looking at me, seated at the head of the table, facilitating the conversation and sharing my heart, he saw an older, wiser man who wanted to add value. Rather than a critical, meddling, overreaching dad trying to change his son.

This being a holiday week, offers an excellent opportunity for a check-up on our fathering work. Find a time to get each of your children off to the side and ask this question . . .

“Tell me three things I can do (or stop doing) to be a better father for you?”

Don’t argue. Don’t defend. If you ask questions, make sure they’re for clarification, not opposition. As soon as you can, get somewhere and write them down. Word for word. Next week, ask God to show you what He would have you know from this, and what He’d have you do with what you’ve been shown. Set some goals, put some to-dos on your calendar and follow through.

As you look at this feedback from your kids, look for opportunities to mentor. Think about what they are interested in learning or doing . . . areas where you might be able to mentor them.

Have You Heard The Clanging Door

Reposted from One Place

Nine-year-old Al trudges through the London streets, his hand squeezing a note, his heart pounding with fear. He has not read the letter; his father forbade him to do so. He doesn’t know the message, but he knows its destination. The police station.

Young boys might covet a trip to the police station. Not Al. At least not today. Punishment, not pleasure, spawned this visit. Al failed to meet the family curfew. The fun of the day made him forget the time of day, so he came home late and in trouble.

His father, a stern disciplinarian, met Al at the front door and, with no greeting, gave him the note and the instruction, “Take it to the jailhouse.” Al has no idea what to expect, but he fears the worst.

The fears prove justifiable. The officer, a friend of his father, opens the note, reads it, and nods. “Follow me.” He leads the wide-eyed youngster to a jail cell, opens the door, and tells him to enter. The officer clangs the door shut. “This is what we do to naughty boys,” he explains and walks away.

Al’s face pales as he draws the only possible conclusion. He has crossed his father’s line. Exhausted his supply of grace. Outspent the cache of mercy. So his dad has locked him away. Young Al has no reason to think he’ll ever see his family again.

He is wrong. The jail sentence lasts only five minutes. But those five minutes felt like five months. Al never forgot that day. The sound of the clanging door, he often told people, stayed with him the rest of his life.1

Easy to understand why. Can you imagine a more ominous noise? Its echo wordlessly announced, “Your father rejects you. Search all you want; he isn’t near. Plead all you want; he won’t hear. You are separated from your father’s love.”

The slamming of the cell door. Many fear they have heard it. Al forgot the curfew. You forgot your virtue. Little Al came home late. Maybe you came home drunk. Or didn’t come home at all. Al lost track of time. You lost your sense of direction and ended up in the wrong place doing the wrong thing, and heaven knows, heaven has no place for the likes of . . . Cheaters. Aborters. Adulterers. Secret sinners. Public scoundrels. Impostors. Church hypocrites. Locked away, not by an earthly father, but by your heavenly one. Incarcerated, not in a British jail, but in personal guilt, shame. No need to request mercy; the account is empty. Make no appeal for grace; the check will bounce. You’ve gone too far.

The fear of losing a father’s love exacts a high toll. Al spent the rest of his life hearing the clanging door. That early taste of terror contributed to his lifelong devotion to creating the same in others. For Al — Alfred Hitchcock — made a career out of scaring people.

You may be scaring some folks yourself. You don’t mean to. But you cannot produce what you do not possess. If you aren’t convinced of God’s love, how can you love others?

Do you fear you have heard the clanging door? If so, be assured. You have not. Your imagination says you did; logic says you did; some parent or pulpiteer says you did. But according to the Bible, according to Paul, you did not.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

…Paul was convinced. Are you? Are you convinced that you have never lived a loveless day? Not one. Never unloved. Those times you deserted Christ? He loved you. You hid from him; he came looking for you.

And those occasions you denied Christ? Though you belonged to him, you hung with them, and when his name surfaced, you cursed like a drunken sailor. God let you hear the crowing of conscience and feel the heat of tears. But he never let you go. Your denials cannot diminish his love.

Nor can your doubts. You’ve had them. You may have them even now. While there is much we cannot know, may never know, can’t we be sure of this? Doubts don’t separate doubters from God’s love.

The greatest discovery in the universe is the greatest love in the universe–God’s love. “Nothing can ever separate us from his love” (Rom. 8:38). Think what those words mean. You may be separated from your spouse, from your folks, from your kids, from your hair, but you are not separated from the love of God. And you never will be. Ever.

Step to the well of his love and drink up. It may take some time to feel the difference. Occasional drinks won’t bedew the evaporated heart. Ceaseless swallows will. Once filled up by his love, you’ll never be the same.

The fear of love lost haunted young Al. But the joy of a love found changed the disciples. May you be changed. The next time you fear you hear a clanging door, remember, “Nothing can ever separate us from his love” (Rom. 8:38).

We Are Complete

Reposted from Radical Mentoring

My church just had its annual Man Night. Quite a production with campfires, bacon snacks, brownies and milk, film clips . . . you know, real guy stuff. At the end of the main talk, 6 truths about identity were put up on the screen along with this question, “Which of these do you struggle to accept and believe about yourself?”

Here are the 6 . . .

  • I am forgiven
  • I am not alone
  • I am chosen
  • I am complete in Christ
  • I am significant
  • I am loved

Now I’ve been walking with God for a long time so I assumed nothing they could throw up there would trip me up. But my eyes locked on this one . . .

I am complete in Christ

Do I really believe that? Isn’t that arrogant? What happened to “I’m a work in progress”? What about sanctification? Growing in holiness? If I start believing I’m complete, won’t I get lazy?

This ‘big idea’ of being complete comes from Colossians 2:10 where Paul writes, “you have been made complete in Christ.”  Another translation says, “in Christ, you have been brought to fullness.” Through Jesus, I am complete. That means full. You can’t be more complete than complete. More full than full.

If I think ‘spiritual’ things like church work, giving, reading, writing, speaking, or mentoring are about trying to become complete, I’m wasting time and insulting the Father by discrediting His work of amazing grace.

My identity says I am complete in Him . . . that’s who I am. But I want to mature in my faith . . . to become more like who He is.1 I’m more likely to do that in community with other Jesus-following men. I want to know and understand the Bible and apply it to my everyday life in a meaningful way. I want to grow in personal holiness . . . being honest, bouncing my eyes, avoiding temptation. I’m learning to walk intimately with the Father by praying without ceasing, praising Him and thanking Him throughout my days. And I want to bring Him glory by loving my wife, my kids and every other person with the love of Jesus. We never get better at this stuff flying solo. We need the love and eyeballs of other trustworthy guys we invite into our dark corners.

So here’s my net-out. Believing “I am complete in Christ” means shutting down any doubt about my salvation or my status as an adopted son of the King of Kings. It means cranking up my efforts to grow in my faith, but not being duped into believing I have to perform for my faith. Out of gratitude for His love and for making me complete, I choose to pursue spiritual growth and Christian service.

Scripture: For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form. And you have been made complete in Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)