Conflict seems to be as common to human life as breathing. Whether in marriages, families, friendships, the church, or social settings—we have conflict. My concern is not so much how to prevent it, but how to mitigate its storm and lessen its wounding.
The Bible asks and answers a very appropriate question:
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:1-2)
What’s Who’s the Problem?
The primary source of our conflict is within us. We crave something often times from someone. When we do not get it then we get very upset. Our passions or desires are at war within us. We are not getting what we want (usually under the headings of honor, comfort, or control) so we lash out. We then try to manipulate the other person actively by doing things like yelling or even physical aggression or we do it passively by ignoring them with the silent treatment. Whatever extreme we are on we can be sure that it is our unmet cravings of our heart that are fueling this conflict.
We are accustomed to reading of politicians and diplomats laboring earnestly to resolve international conflict through peace treaties. But, what tends to happen after an agreement is signed? It seems as though before the ink is even dry, there needs to be another summit to make another treaty because the former one has already been violated. Peace seems to be as elusive as it is desired.
This is why it is particularly striking to read that God is called the God of peace (Heb. 13:20).
Fact, Feeling, or Both?
When you first read those words how do you think of the word peace? Do you think in subjective terms—I feel a peace from God, or objective terms—I have peace with God? Most people tend toward the first while assuming the second. I want to convince you that the author is referring to the second and that the subjective peace comes as a (blessed) result of it.
How is God the God of Peace?
What does this mean that God is the God of peace? God is the source of peace, maker of peace, and the one who gives peace. There is no true and lasting peace outside of him.
As a Dad there are many times that I see our children provide direct insight into the heart of humanity in a refreshing way. An example that most of us have seen is a child that does not want to be left alone. They may be sitting in their room playing with a toy and then all of a sudden start crying and yelling, “Dad! Dad! Where did you go?” Our daughter was in a store with my wife and, in plain sight of her mom, but mom was not in her plain sight. Suddenly she cried with desperation, “Moooom?! Moooooom!!” My wife answered, “Right here honey.” To which she grabbed her Mom by the leg, pressed her face against her and said, “I thought you had left me here. I thought I was alone.” My wife answered, “No, sweetie, Mommy would never do that. I was right here the whole time.”
Our Self-Sufficiency has a Leak
The Book of Hebrews is a tense letter. It’s gloriously tense, but tense nonetheless. There is an issue on the ground that the writer is dealing with. Many in the congregation are feeling the pull away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ back to their familiar system of Judaism. There are social, financial, and religious pressures abounding. The pinch is pronounced.
The writer’s strategy is to lift high the banner of Christ’s unmatched sufficiency, beauty, and utter supremacy. In each case he shows Jesus to be a better priest, king, sacrifice, and mediator of a New (and better) Covenant. And with each emphatic statement he blasts holes, by way of comparison, in and through the supporting structures of what was alluring them. Wherever you turn, if you turn from Christ, you turn to something less.
I find it fascinating how he begins to land the plane in chapter 13. After providing a number of clear responsibilities for the believer in verses 1-6, he begins to talk about the family life of the congregation. What fascinates me is he tells them to look back before he tells them to look ahead.
“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)
These leaders here are those who spoke the word of God to them. The writer of Hebrews is reminding the congregation to not forget those who have gone before them. More than likely these leaders that …
When I first became a Christian I had a bad mouth. I am thankful that over time God worked to change my heart, and as a result, my mouth. I knew right away that talking in a particular way was offensive to God and others. It does not have a place among those professing faith in Christ because it does not give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29). This is pretty straightforward.
But, I’ve noticed that many Christians are still plagued by a foul mouth. They say things that are offensive to God and to others. I suspect that many don’t even realize it either. Like a new convert who remains fluent in the sailor’s tongue the Christian may not realize what they are saying or its theological impact.
So let me give you a couple of 4 letter words that Christians should mortify with quickness: “luck” and “fate”. These words and their concepts are unbiblical and atheistic. Luck communicates randomness while fate describes a inevitability of something happening without a purpose. Both are blind and impersonal.
Undermining & Obscuring who God is
I say they are Christian cuss words because they undermine the key biblical doctrine of God’s providence. This word providence may be a new word for you, but it is an important word. It is a word that we as Christians need to know and delight in. We are often so quick to simplify and redefine words, but in doing so we can be losing something of our identity as …
Christians are to be content. We see this modeled in Scripture in the life of the Apostle Paul (Phil. 4:9-11). We also see it commanded in Hebrews 13:5. In previous blog posts (here, here, and here) I’ve attempted to define what contentment is and why we must pursue it. Well, what is contentment? I’ve defined it the following way: Contentment is the inward, quiet spirit that joyfully submits to God’s providence.
How do you know if you are discontent?
1. Are You Grumbling about the Present?
If we are grumbling (complaining) about something that we are going through right now then we are arguing with God. We are saying that we should not be going through what we are going through. Our present experiences serve us like a magnet to draw out either our discontentment or our contentment. If we are grumbling then we can be sure that we are not content. We are essentially saying that God is getting it wrong.
We must see that such discontentment questions God’s wisdom, goodness, and power.
2. Are You Bitter about the Past?
Everyone has endured hard days. Some have endured harder than others, but all have felt the sting of sin and pain that our fallen world provides. Many people live under the cloud of their past experiences and become increasingly bitter. Over time we revisit and analyze the situations from the perspective of a victim, only to feed our bitterness. We cannot be content in the present when we are …
Last month I read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I was vaguely familiar with the story but definitely unfamiliar with the characters. As I read I was intrigued by Atticus Finch. At every turn he seemed to give people the benefit of the doubt and even (perhaps to a fault) willing to cover character defects with loving understanding.
It is the interaction with characters like these that showcase some of the pleasures of reading. When we read we find ourselves reacting. These reactions serve to reveal what is in our hearts.
In my case, Atticus kept on surprising me, even after I thought I had him figured out. Over the course of the book these reactions betrayed my heart. For example, he surprised me with his comments about and perspective on Mrs. Dubose. She was a mean, rude, racist woman. She stood against a lot of what Atticus gave himself for. She was also a morphine addict who had vowed to get clean before she died. And she did. After her death Atticus talks to Jem and Scout and says,
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to …
I am taking up the topic of contentment in a few articles here on the blog. In a previous post I began writing about what contentment is. This second article continues to focus on the nature of contentment and how we go about learning it.
Contentment is Spiritual
We are staying on track if we stick with our definition of contentment: Contentment is the inward, quiet spirit that joyfully submits to God’s providence.
It is the key for us to understand that contentment is spiritual. Through the gospel, God is working a change in his people. Part of this change that he is working is a change in how we value things.
In Romans 1 we see the ugly pattern of sin. Tragically, we appraise created things as more valuable than God himself. We believe the hollow and hissing promises of the tempter, and like our first parents, exchange God’s truth for a lie, and worship and serve creation instead of God.
What does the gospel do? It unfastens us from finding our meaning, purpose, and identity in created things and enables us to find it in God himself. Remember, this is the way creation was designed to work prior to sin entering the world.
If you drive through rural New England towns you will notice an abundance of stone walls. These walls served as property markers hundreds of years ago; and, because they were well built, many remain to this day. However, while the walls remain, the art of building a stone wall has nearly faded away. The craftsmen, who, in a previous age were plentiful are now dwindling to a small number.
A few years ago my dad (who lives in New England) wanted to have a wall built on his property that reflected some of the old world craftsmanship. As he inquired as to who could do it, he found that the list was remarkably small. He got his guy, but, he was booked for months. When he finally came he was like a guy from another age. His tools, work ethic, and even the way he spoke about the wall seemed to be from another time. He represented some of the lost art of mason work.
I wonder if you have experienced something like this when you read Christian biographies or theological works from previous generations. I know I have found myself convicted and a bit taken back by my own shallowness when considering their devotion and depth. One such area is the topic of contentment. When I read The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs, or The Art of Divine Contentment, by Thomas Watson, I feel like I am hearing from men from another world.
Because of the gospel, which displays God’s love for us, Christians are to love others in the same way (1 Jn. 3.16). However, we often struggle with understanding and applying this verse. One helpful clarification is the distinction between “loving” and “liking” people.
Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones is extremely helpful in drawing this distinction for us. What follows is a quote Life in Christ a collection of his sermons on First John.
So let me put it like this: we are not called to like the bretheren, but we are called and commanded to love them. Furthermore, I would assert that loving and liking are not degrees of the same thing but are essentially different.
What is liking? What is it to like a person? Well, I would say that liking is something natural something instinctive ore elemental, something that is not the result of effort; you find yourself liking or not liking. In other words, liking is something physical and unintelligible.