Monday, April 30, 2018

Living at Peace

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18

We’ve been hearing a lot about trying to live at peace with each other lately.  From messages on how to handle conflict to a couple on forgiveness and reconciliation.  Now this idea of living at peace.  I hope that we all know the importance of forgiveness, even Jesus commands that if we don’t forgive that person we are in conflict with, we won’t be forgiven.  But understanding the need for forgiveness, and knowing how to get there are sometimes two very different things.  How do you bridge the gap and start talking again?

Last Tuesday I attended a conference that was put on be the Peacemaker Ministries.  This conference was hosted by the Central NY association of the Wesleyan Churches, but I was able to finagle an invitation, and it was a very good conference.  Peacemaker works with churches and corporations dealing with conflict.  I learned some tips on opening up some conversations, as well as a fairly simple process for achieving peace again.

First, let me point out that not all conflict is a bad thing.  Some conflict or tension is healthy.  It stretches us and grows us, gets us working together, and brings unity.  Other tension is unhealthy and creates division, causes disrespect, and pulls us apart, often involving sinful behavior.  Sometimes it’s possible to turn the unhealthy tension into healthy tension by just recognizing it before it gets too bad.  Rubber band principle.  If it’s unhealthy, it can be made healthy, up until it snaps.

Once it snaps, there are four steps to resolving conflict.  Story – Ascend – Reflect – Connect.

Story – everybody has a story.  Find out what their story is, let them talk.  If you’re at odds, I can almost guarantee that they don’t see things the same way you do.  So let them tell you how they see it.  Let them take as long as they need, start back as far as they need, and don’t interrupt when they tell their story.  We all have different upbringings and different histories.  We all see things differently.  And it’s by understanding how they perceive things that will shed some light on the conflict.  Sometimes it’s helpful to write out the story, underline the basic facts that everyone agrees with, then circle the emotional memories, the statements that have their basis in emotion.  Find some common ground in the story, a place to build on.  You probably won’t find perfect unity, but common ground gives you a start point. 

Ascend – In the Ascend step, you go to God.  You find pertinent verses about God’s presence, His sovereignty, His character, and your identity and calling in Christ.  Pray together to find God’s purpose and calling.

Reflect – Personal reflection on the conflict should be aimed at finding where you need more understanding, to identify your blind spots, what are you missing, what are you contributing to the conflict, what can you overlook and leave at the cross, and what needs to be dealt with.  How can you walk humbly, love mercy, and act justly, in this conflict?

Connect – The connect step is where you work together with the one you’re in conflict with to find a way to move forward again.  There are steps here:  Asking, confessing, seeking, and forgiving.  Ask how you have hurt them, confess using I statements, seek forgiveness from the other person, and truly forgive them, entrusting your pain to God, and giving up any desire for vengeance, any bitterness and resentment, and showing them grace. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Do you have vision?

Without vision people run wild, but one who listens to instruction will be happy.
Proverbs 29:18 (HCSB)

This passage is always a good guide. It reminds us a little of our purpose on earth as
believers and as followers of Jesus. The word vision isn’t referring to physical sight, but
spiritual sight. It’s where God is calling us to be involved in His work. 

The word is sometimes translated as revelation or purpose. Seeing the word translated as purpose reminds us that the vision we are talking about is the purpose we are here, it’s what we are supposed to be doing. It’s where our focus ought to be. When we have a clear vision, it helps us understand what we should be doing. Every new idea, every ministry we participate in, literally everything we do should be consistent with our vision and help us achieve our vision.

Seeing the word translated as revelation reminds us that it is God who gives us our vision. God reveals to us through His Word, or through a divine touch, what ought to be important to us, where we ought to be focused. And not only churches and organizations should have a vision, but I think every person who follows Jesus should have a vision.

Our personal vision is a word from God, a revelation that gives our life and ministry with Jesus some direction and guidance. Not every believer can be involved in every ministry the church is involved in. But you should look to your personal vision to see which ministries the church is involved in that you should personally be involved in. Your vision is your guide – be involved in those ministries that help you achieve your personal goals, your personal vision.

At First Baptist Church we have a few statements that make up our mission and vision. These will be reviewed and revised in the coming months, but these are our guide now. Our vision at First Baptist is:
Making Christ known in the Twin Tiers and the world.

As a church, everything we do should be focused on this mission. God has called us to make disciples, and everything we do as a church should be focused on achieving that goal. Every board should be working toward achieving that vision.

We’ve gotten a little sideways in the last couple of years. Our focus has been taken off of our vision. But I believe that our boards are ready to move forward. I know that I am. And together, as we Make Christ known in the Twin Tiers and the world, we will be serving God and focused on the mission He has for us. Keep your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and the vision He has given you.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sermons from FBC - A Community of Forgiveness

This week we looked at forgiveness.  We'll see why we should forgive, how easy it is not to forgive, but how dangerous it can be to hold on to those past hurts.

To hear the message, click the link below.

Feel free to leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Is Lax Christianity still Christianity?

I am always worried about the almost lax attitude that some people have about their faith. I remember reading a devotion in Indeed (Walk Thru the Bible), it addressed that very issue. In fact, they addressed it far better than I could, so here is what they had to say…
Casual Christianity is an oxymoron. There is no such thing as a low-commitment version of our faith. It is impossible to say, “I’m a follower of Jesus, but I’m not prepared to lay down my life for the gospel.” Both of these assertions cannot be true. “When Jesus calls a man,” to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “He bids him come and die.” Ours is a faith that demands our entire allegiance; it can be no half-hearted thing…

Few of us are persecuted. Yet all of us can say with assurance that sometimes following our Savior is difficult. He asks us to make sacrifices. He asks us to be obedient, even when obedience is painful. And though He doesn’t ask us to die for Him, He does ask us to live for Him. When we were bought by His blood, we became His possession. Gloriously, joyfully His possession, but His nonetheless.

One of the great weaknesses of today’s American church is our unwillingness to humble ourselves as our Savior did. We are often consumer Christians, shopping around for a faith that suits us well. But when we really encounter Christ, we face a choice: Stand firm in our faith, despite our many tests and troubles, or settle for a luke-warmness that can barely, if at all, be called “Christian.” 

Trials will come, the question is, when they do, will you humble yourself and turn to God, or will you panic and worry and figure it all out on your own? It is how we react in these trials that will tell others of our faith.

Sermons from FBC - God's Sovereignty

This week we look at God's Sovereignty.  What does it mean that God is sovereign?  How should we live in light of God's Sovereignty?   I'll give you something to think about, so grab a cup of coffee and enjoy...   

To hear the message click the link below:


Hope you enjoy - love to hear your comments!

Faith First

  Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him...