Proverbs 14:4 is a fun picture of life. Where there are no oxen the manger is clean. But we need them for crops. So what gives? The point is life is messy. If we think we will get through life without conflicts or life we are delusional at best. The goal is not the absence of conflict the goal is how we respond and engage them.
The key to conflict is to not run or hide from it, but to engage with it. Often we run or hide because we've seen conflicts go poorly and have not idea of how to get through it clean. There are ways to get through conflict that are healthy and help move the relationship forward.
Engaging in conflict is one of the key ways to produce fruit. The other side of conflict is worship. We improve ourselves through conflict and also those whom we love when we engage properly. Conflict should be viewed as opportunities for growth, not land mines to avoid.
Life is messy
The reality is that life is messy and we need to be ok with that. When life is hard and not fair it doesn't mean the end nor does it mean no hope. Because we have the ability to choose we have the ability to change. The fight doesn't have to define our lives. Rather than focusing on clean stalls in a barn, we should look to the harvest of a healthy farm.
As we read the first few verses of Philippians 4 we see Paul urging people to help two people having a fight. This is an area that takes a lot of humility. Sometimes you need a third party to help resolve a dispute peacefully. Be humble. Get help. As God has uniquely gifted each person differently, there is a group of uniquely gifted people called counselors. They excel at helping people work through hard issues.
Fight clean, get a ref
Sometimes we can come to an impasse and we need someone to help make sure we're heard and making sense. Often a friend or a pastor can help with this. The issue is to make sure we're attacking the problem and not the person. But sometimes that is not enough. Friends and pastors do not day in and day out deal with hard counseling issues. Pastors often face issues, but counselors live dealing with hard issues day to day. If a friend works, great. If a pastor works, great. And if you need a counselor, that is great too.
Get a specialist
We take cars to the mechanic, we take kids to the doctor, sometimes you need to take your relationship to a counselor. Working on relationships is their area of specialty. I understand that some clergy view counseling in a negative light or see it as the Bible is not enough. There are counselors who love Jesus, know their Bible, and point people to Jesus. Counseling and the Bible are not exclusionary. It very much fits the body passages of Scripture.
When to do what?
Get wisdom from friends, guidance from your pastor, and follow it. Often that wisdom is that in this time of your life you need therapy. While pastors often give sound biblical counsel, their skill set is often not in counseling. And that is ok. We all have different areas of expertise. Proverbs says their is wisdom in a multiplicity of counselors. I've often listened to people describe situations and recommend to them a counselor who specializes in particular area. When a friend or pastor gives that advice, listen.
We all need help
At different times in our lives we need help. Sometimes friends, clergy, etc. are sufficient. And sometimes they see they're not and recommend counseling. We need to be humble and accept when people who love us say we need to get help. I've often heard people communicate failure when they need counseling. Counseling doesn't mean you failed. It means you need some one's help to succeed. We appreciate people who help us get back on our feet. Counselors do that.
In 2 Corinthians 5:18 we read a mission that is given to us by God. It is the ministry of reconciliation. The way Paul frames the mission for the church is interesting given Corinth isn't known for being all that peaceful. Connecting to the Gospel reorients our life. Any restored or new relationship does that.
Our mission was not contrived in a boardroom. God planned it out for us. As we see other Scriptures we see that plan was made before he created the Earth. We are not an afterthought in God's eyes. We are not even just a number. God planned for you to be on this mission. It gives us purpose and an aim in life.
We get caught up in this word too much. It's a common word in many countries, but in ours it takes on an overly religious context. Ministry simply means service. God called us to serve. Paul says elsewhere that the role of pastors is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Serving is a significant part of living distinctly Christian lives.
God is about restoration and bringing relationships together. God did that with us through Jesus. This involves forgiveness and building a new and fresh relationship. Hence, earlier Paul said we are a new creature. Reconciliation is more than just a God-man thing. It is also a neighbor to neighbor thing. The centrality of the Gospel connects to other aspects of our lives.
Be a peacemaker
The purpose of your life is to be a peacemaker. This was forged in God's mind before let there be light. This is an act of service. It is about healing relationships with people who bear his image. So when life is hard and not fair, when conflict arises, you're where God wants you to be. So engage and make something beautiful out what's broken.
The danger of living a disciplined life is that we give into the illusion of control. We cannot control outcomes, only how we respond to them. While the Bible calls us to live disciplined lives, we must leave room for God. The author of Proverbs 3:5-6 points that out well. It's a familiar passage we often forget.
You're not God
You cannot conceive of everything. Only God can do that. A big part of life is doing our best and leaving the results to God. You do everything right and have it blow up. At such times we try to figure out why, and we can't. Sometimes we bomb and everything works out too. Such reminds us that we're not God. We don't always understand what is going on, but we do know that God is at work.
Why ethics doesn't work
In studying the great works on ethics my class came to the conclusion that ethics as off because it's trying to figure out right and wrong apart from God. In all our ways need to acknowledge him. When we don't, things could go wrong. Hubris is the term that comes to mind. For example it was said that not even God could sink the Titanic.
Proverbs isn't warning us from action, but giving us wisdom to act. We must engage in life. Yes we may succeed or we may fail, but we must act. We must live. Again, the purpose of living a disciplined life is to be at our best to love others. That fulfills the greatest commandments. It means that when life is hard and not fair that we also rest knowing that God is at work. Act, plan, be disciplined, but remember to leave room for God.
As we read the last two verses of 1 Corinthians 9 we see the power of choice. We choose whether we are disciplined or not disciplined. The concept of "I can't help it' is often untrue. The purpose of building a disciplined life is to be at our best to love others. Ultimately love is sacrifice for another best. Many of us are not wired to be regimented. We are contrarian or creative. Living disciplined life will help us.
Know your bent
I find people have three bends to them: short, mid, or long term ability to be disciplined. We really need all of those types. We often choose not to be disciplined because we look at long tremors and get overwhelmed. Purpose of discipline is to be at YOUR best. A big part of that is learning how you're wired. If you're a short termer, focus on short one or two week spirts. Never mind. Focus on one weeks. If you're fairly disciplined but see yourself fall short, focus on 2-3 months goals and nail them. Discipline is a means to the end of being an amazingly loving person.
The purpose of challenging yourself in things that don't matter is it trains you to handle hard situations that truly do matter. Stretch and grow yourself. One of the keys to living longer is to stay active in growing your mind. That and friendships do far more for your long term life. While we age our capacities may not be as great, but that does not mean our ambition to be the best us possible has to.
Know your mission
What drove Paul's disciplined life was his mission to reach people for God. Each one of us has a part in that mission, though it will look different to each of us. God already has a Paul. He needs the best you. Articulate why God has you hear on earth. Do that. It is hard to be disciplined for disciplines sake.
So, get moving! I believe in you!
Some days you just need picture of Jesus. I remember a song growing up as a kids that said "I just want to see Jesus... To look full in his wonderful face..." The ministry of presence is a powerful thing, to just see that a person is there with you. It builds confidence and assurance when handling life's challenges. A signifiant part of being a christian is looking forward to the day when we see Jesus face to face.
As we read Daniel 7:9 and Revelation 1:14, Jesus' head is described as being white as snow. Think Gandalf the White, only cooler. When Jesus shows up in his glory people fall flat. It's a scary and majestic sight. And then Jesus says these sweet words: do not be affriad. How can that be? Jesus died for the sins of the world. We don't have to be afraid of a cool Gandalf looking dude because, while having all the majesty of being God, He's also our brother and friend. He sticks up for us. He is there for us. He works for us.
I am looking forward to the rapture when Jesus says that's it, y'all come home now. There is work to done in the mean time. And when we see snow, it reminds us of a lot of things. But a big thing it should remind us of is the desire to see Jesus. God provides and protects, and has a perfect plan. And I can't wait until we see Jesus face to face and the plan all comes together.
Today is a day we celebrate love. There are relationships that are vital to us that we set apart and do special things for. It is quit the thing to celebrate. Holiness is all about being set apart for something special. With God it is the bridge that must be overcome for a relationship to exist. But, no one is perfect. So what do we do?
What God did
As we read Psalm 51:7 or Isaiah 1:18 we see the beautiful phrase "water than snow." Snow becomes a picture of purity. This stands out during a fresh snow fall when everything looks completely magical. What's interesting in Isaiah is the contrast from red with the purity of white. One of the amazing things God did for his people was wash away their sin.
This picture of God washing away sin plays out in a similar fashion to a romantic comedy. One party acts silly and realizes their stupid mistakes and reconciles with the person they love. The person put the issues to bed because they want to be with the one they love. God overcomes the hangs up to have a relationship with us. We merely need to come to our senses and realize the incredible gift we have in him.
The finality and security in what God did for us is incredible. It is why we worship and desire to worship. God does huge things for us because he wants to be with us. And when we mess up? He makes us whiter than snow.
I don't recall the when and where, but there was a bad winter because there was no snow. This lead to concerns of drought conditions because of the need for water. As much as I loathed snow, I realized that snow has an important place in our environment. How then does the Bible picture snow as provision.
Have you seen...
God put job through the ringer. Snapshot, God trash talks Satan, Satan calls what he thought was a bluff. God lets Satan do what he wants short of taking his life, Job is stripped of everything but his frustrated wife. His friends explain stupid ideas that God rips apart at the end of the book. Job asks God why and God's answer is a serious of questions. As we read Job 37:6 & 38:22, we see God using snow as provision. That he controlled it. We struggle to figure out evil, but try to figure out how to just make all of nature work.
In its place
There is place for snow. Proverbs 25:13 we see there is a season for snow, and snow out of season in 26:1 is a bit of a problem. In 31:21 the noble wife does not worry about snow as her house is provided for. Again these are pictures of provision and the need for provision. So why is provision a big deal?
God is in control
Psalm 147 talks about the majesty of God. And winter is one of the tools God uses. Snow reminds us of the force and power of nature, and this Psalm tells us that power comes directly from God. Sometimes God freezes people out. While snow is dangerous and a pain, it is also a reminder that God provides and that God is in control. It makes us rely upon him.
There are 24 mentions of the word snow in the ESV translation of the Bible. Snow threw off the last few weeks, so let us look into some of the Bible's teaching on snow. While we are eagerly looking forward to that wonderful season we call Spring, there is much to learn from what we see in nature. Over this week we'll look at three aspects of snow: A picture of provision, a picture of judgement, a picture of holiness, a picture of Jesus. But first, a biblical reason to hate snow...
Not in the garden...
As we read Genesis 1 and 2 something is missing. SNOW! I mentioned this when teaching on Genesis and a student asked how I was so sure. Moses wrote that Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. It would seem that a God who made all things good, and place mankind naked while also creating all the rules of nature, would not put them naked in an environment that would cause frostbite.
The Earth was watered with a mist or dew. Creationist scientists believe that at the flood the vapor barrier was broken as well as waters from the deep giving us our current climate and landscape. As Adam was to tend the garden that God placed him in, every provision was made and it was very good. It was a perfect place with perfect provision with no need of security and only two rules: Be fruitful and multiply, and don't eat from a certain tree.
But... The Bible says we shall be whiter than snow...
The Bible gives us an amazing pattern of taking something bad and making something beautiful out of it. Snow is no exception. While absent in the garden, it becomes a means of provision and a picture of amazing things. (It also is a picture of not so amazing things. Yes, the Bible says we shall be whiter than snow, but snow is still part of a broken environment. It is consequence of sin.
And the point is?
God is not done with us. God does not give up on us. God heals. God forgives. God is as beautiful as or better than snow. We can rightfully be annoyed with snow and be frustrated when it comes in massive volumes (there are store houses of snow in heaven). We can also appreciate is beauty and the analogy the Bible makes of it.
In the wonderful world of our political discourse a message is going out there that says "facts don't care about your feelings." While true, there is a significant person who does: The Holy Spirit. As we read Ephesians 4:30, a stern warning to not grieve the Holy Spirit. The context? How we interact with each other and the way we communicate.
Don't be a jerk
Speaking the truth in love can be summed up int he phrase: Don't be a jerk when engaging with people. Yes, we all do that. We all make bad choices when we are tired, worn out, etc. Hence the teaching in Ephesians 4 that we "be angry, do not sin." Being like Jesus isn't ignoring negative emotions. Walking like Jesus does entail engaging situations with wise choices that seek people's best.
Tyranny of truth
When we speak in such a way that tears people down. When we act like a jerk. When we, as a friend would say, "hide behind God," we grieve the Holy Spirit. If one does a survey on messing with the Holy Spirit in the Bible, it does not look pretty. Being right does not mean you are right. The in your face, tactless, insulting engagements in the New Testament are very rare and settled on specific group of people. Too often I've heard "But I'm write and we're supposed to stand for truth." Yes, the Bible says that, and the Bible also describes and prescribes how we do that. Being a jerk and claiming God's will is the reason is lame. It actually hurts God.
But what if they're wrong!?
Another letter was written by Paul to the church of Ephesus called 1 Timothy. The church was a mess. They were doing things wrong. And in cleaning up that mess, Paul fleshes out what he said in Ephesians 4. It was a patient work, not an in your face work. The church was wrong, but the process of cleaning it up was both truthful and loving. Often the sentiment behind "facts don't care about your feelings" grieves the Spirit and does not build the other up. It's laziness not doing the work of ministry.