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The Word For Today

DEALING WITH CHURCH CONFLICT

Dr Gary Fenton says church conflict is a lot like championship wrestling - not nearly as painful as it looks! As a leader, you need to recognise the difference between: (1) Disagreement and conflict. Conflict exists when a group is stuck and can't make a decision. For example, two strong-willed church committee members had a spirited discussion, and the following morning a concerned young pastor met with them to iron out their differences. He asked them if they were ready to make a decision, or if their heated debate the night before had stopped them from moving on. After due consideration both conceded that while their discussion the previous night had resembled a street fight, it was more like a TV reality show, which is good theatre, but where the participants don't quit when things get heated!

(2) Reconciliation and resolution. Resolution is about coming up with answers; it's about bringing people into relational unity, not necessarily into agreement. The fact remains that while some issues will never be resolved, they can still be reconciled. It's in the process of seeking resolution that you learn to compromise and find middle ground.

(3) Being peaceful and being a peacemaker. A pastor who refused to get involved in church controversy was a constant no-show at board meetings. He justified his absence as 'the desire to be peaceful'. But being peaceful and being a peacemaker aren't the same. Peacemakers don't sit on their hands...they're in the thick of things trying to reconcile the parties...they're risk-takers who are willing to enter the fray with an expanded heart. That's why 'those who work for peace...will be called the children of God.'

Soulfood : Zech 9-11, Lk 23:13-25, Ps 34, Prov 24:29-31

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WALK IN FORGIVENESS

The German philosopher Schopenhauer compared the human race to porcupines huddled together on a winter night: 'The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth. But the closer we get...the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth's winter, eventually we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness.' What's the answer? 'Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us' (Matthew 6:12).

President Ronald Reagan understood this. After an attempt on his life in 1981, his daughter Patti Davis said, 'The following day my father said he knew his physical healing was directly dependent on his ability to forgive John Hinckley. By showing me that forgiveness is the key to everything, including physical health and healing, he gave me an example of Christ-like thinking.' Perhaps your wounds are old ones: an abusive parent, a cheating spouse, a business deal gone sour. Or maybe they're still fresh: an overlooked promotion, an unpaid debt, children who've forgotten you exist. Either way, you've a decision to make. Get over it, or get even. Let it heal, or turn to hate. Release it, or resent it. Resentment allows whatever's eating you to eat you up. It stokes the fire, fans the flames, and replays the pain.

Think about it: has your resentment brought you relief? If today you stood by the grave of the one who hurt you, would you be free? It's doubtful. 'The merciful...will be shown mercy,' because they've experienced an even greater grace - God's - and forgiveness is the key to understanding it.

Soulfood : Zech 5-8, Lk 23:1-12, Ps 39, Prov 24:26-28

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PRAY ABOUT IT

The Bible says: 'The Lord answered [Isaac's] prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, "Why is this happening to me?" So she went to enquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger"' (Genesis 25:21-23 NIV).

Even when your vision is born of God, you'll experience times of both faith and fear. You can have clarity in one area, yet experience confusion in another. What should you do when this happens? Do what Rebekah did: take it to the Lord in prayer. She asked, 'Why is this happening to me?' Question: Are you experiencing fear and foreboding in the middle of your success? Are you wondering, 'What's wrong with me? Things are going well, so why am I anxious?' You've achieved some success and things are starting to come together after a long, hard struggle. But instead of feeling happy, you're disappointed because you're not experiencing the joy and fulfilment you expected; you're actually worrying about what might go wrong in the future.

In every success story you'll find chapters of uncertainty. And when it happens, you must bring your turmoil to the Lord. Ask Him for help with the inner conflict you're experiencing, and to give you peace concerning the vision He's given you. And remember - no matter what you achieve, its ability to satisfy you is limited. No amount of success can ever take God's place in your life.

Soulfood : 1 Ki 17:1-6, 1 Ki 18:16-39, 1 Ki 19:9-18, 2 Ki 2:1-12

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