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3 Healthy Ways to Handle Conflict

Written by Madeline Twooney, Germany

A few Sundays ago, an acquaintance of mine from church pulled me aside before the morning service to talk to me about a weakness in my character. She thought that l was too occupied with accommodating other’s needs in church, that I neglected my own needs. In her opinion, l could do with standing up for myself more.

l smiled and muttered some vague thanks for her concern.

But in the back of my mind, l was fuming—absolutely fuming. I found her words condescending and her intervention inappropriate. I was not a frightened, insecure person. While I am fallen and flawed like everyone else, l believe that God has gifted me with a kind and generous heart that is always seeking to help others—I’ve always looked at that as an asset.

To this day, my acquaintance doesn’t know how l feel. I opted out of negatively responding to avoid an unnecessary storm.

And yet I wonder. . .was avoiding conflict by ignoring her confrontation the correct thing to do?

As the body of Christ, we need to be able to respond to conflict within the church and in our lives in a healthy way that does the following:

  • Gives us peace as individuals
  • Promotes love
  • Lifts us up as a body of believers that can serve God both in the church and out in the world

So, how do we do that?

The apostle Paul approaches this dilemma in his epistle to the Christians in Colossae. Because of false teachings, the church was suffering from severe division. In Colossians 3:13-15, Paul shows us three principles that we can use today to help us respond to conflict.

 

1. Forgive Others As God Forgives Us

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

The act of forgiveness is of such great importance to Paul, that the word is used three times in this Bible passage. Not only are we called to forgive others, we need to strive to forgive them in the same way God has forgiven us.

This means that whatever harm the other person might have caused us, we do not hold it against them. This also means blotting out any bitterness or anger we may feel towards them. Forgiving as the Lord forgives not only frees the person who wronged us—it liberates us as well.

My acquaintance has an impression of me that may be untrue. But that’s ok. I know who l am, and God knows who l am. Irrespective of what prompted her to push her opinion on me, l am practicing every day to forgive in a way that frees us both.

 

2. Put on Love

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:14)

Jesus commands us to love one another (John 13:34-35). However, how do we love someone we have a conflict with? In that case, we need to make a conscious decision to love them—to accept them for who they are, warts and all, and recognize that they are a work in progress, just like we are. We need to put on love.

Loving someone with whom we are in conflict is easier when we understand the motives for their actions. My acquaintance had good intentions in mind, so showing her anything but love would only promote confusion and hurt in her heart.

That doesn’t mean that l shouldn’t talk to her openly about her actions and their effect on me—l can, and l might at some point in the future. However, if l confront her, l need to do it from a place of love, not from hurt or accusation.

God is love. When we were still His enemy, He loved us (Ephesians 2:4-5). If His love can unify us with Him, shouldn’t we be sharing this love with others?

 

3. Let Peace into Our Hearts

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace (Colossians 3:15)

Being in conflict is stressful and takes up a lot of our mental energy. Why would anyone choose to live that way, when we have the option to receive the peace Christ offers (John 14:27)?

Choosing to accept Jesus’ peace has been a great blessing for me in my situation. It isn’t always easy to apply, but it helps to think of how much inner turmoil and stress l am avoiding in my life by simply trusting Jesus to work things out in His perfect timing. With that in mind, choosing peace is a better option!

The church is of great importance to Jesus. For it to function well, He requires us to be at peace. So, if you are holding tightly to an issue or a conflict today, could you let it go for Jesus’ sake?

 

It would be nice to say that conflict is something that can be avoided. Unfortunately, we are imperfect people living in a broken world—a prime breeding ground for discord and strife.

How comforting it is, then, to know that we have a perfect God who loves us in our brokenness, and guides us to respond or deal with these conflicts in a Christlike manner, through His love and teachings!

Does It Matter How I Worship God?

Written By Madeline Twooney, Germany

A couple years ago, a colleague of mine invited my friend and I to visit an African church. l settled in my seat at the beginning of the service, expecting a heartfelt but rather demure time of praise and worship, just like the kind of church services I grew up with in Australia.

Gosh, was l ever wrong! As the worship band dropped its first chords, there was a wave of raised hands and fervent clapping that resonated throughout the church. People stood up and started dancing; some even held tambourines that they jingled animatedly to the rhythm of the music.

It was a wondrous sight, and l marveled at the energy and enthusiasm for God that this church community displayed. However, it was totally out of my comfort zone. Though l didn’t feel pressured to raise my hands, I just couldn’t see myself worshiping God in such a lively manner. It didn’t seem like something a shy, quiet person like me would do, so I did not join in.

However, after moving cities and joining my current church, l found myself raising my hands as l clapped and danced in worship. My actions surprised me. Until then, l had never considered myself a hand-raiser! But I was in a strange, new city, my husband was away on a trip, l was in a new church, and l didn’t know a living soul apart from God. So, l clung to Him and wow, did it feel fantastic to raise my hands and worship Him! I felt a freedom l hadn’t felt before, because l had finally found an avenue to physically express to God how much l love Him.

My journey has prompted me to wonder: Does it matter how we worship God? Are the people next to me insincere in their love for God, just because they aren’t singing or raising their hands? Should people be encouraged to worship in a certain manner if they don’t feel like doing it?

Here are four truths about worship that I’ve arrived at:

 

1. Worship begins in the heart

Though Christians sometimes discuss whether or not to raise hands in worship, it is important to remember that worship is first and foremost a desire to praise and honor God. It is the attitude of our hearts that takes precedence in worship.

What changed my worship experience was that my heart changed. In the past, l had viewed the worship part of a church service as lyrical and enjoyable. But l did not have a heartfelt encounter with God until I experienced burnout and depression last year. Since then, l have started raising my hands and dancing around during worship. When l do so, l feel the depression and anxiety lift, as though through raising my hands, l am handing over my problems to God.

This is how I best express my love for God. We may all praise and love God in different ways, but the most important thing is the attitude of our hearts when we come before God in worship.

 

2. Worship is more than just singing and raising hands

Though singing is a fundamental part of worship, the essence of worship is to ascribe worth to God. King David writes in Psalm 29:1-2, “Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.”

Worship is a gesture of reverence to our God. The Hebrew word for worship in the Old Testament is shachah, which means to “bow down” or “prostrate oneself.” The New Testament uses the Greek word proskuneo, meaning “to do reverence to.”

To me, revering God can be expressed by singing, clapping, or raising our hands, as well as by kneeling, praying softly to ourselves, or even bowing our head in reverence.

Romans 12:1 further calls us to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” This verse has encouraged me to view worship as an act that isn’t just expressed by outward actions, but with our entire lives.

 

3. Worship is greater than our feelings

I am a hand-raiser, but that doesn’t mean that l always feel like lifting my hands when l worship. Sometimes l am tired, or l feel weighed down by problems that are affecting me outside of the church’s four walls.

However, though worship can release intense emotions and can be itself an emotional experience, its purpose is to bring us into the presence of God in humility and thankfulness. When we choose to worship even when we don’t feel like it, we honor God and show Him that we trust Him above our emotions.

 

4. Worship should be done in spirit and truth

Jesus said in John 4:24 that God desires worshippers who “will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.”

In other words, God wants us to worship Him filled with the Holy Spirit—with love, peace, and joy that come from Him in our hearts—whether by dancing to a contemporary worship song, or by singing a hymn in solemn reverence.

God also wants us to be guided by the truth that Jesus preached on earth—that He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). After all, we are not set free by standing on ceremony in worship, but by this precious truth (John 8:36).

 

I’ve learned that singing, raising hands, and clapping during worship doesn’t make us holier than our brothers and sisters. Nor does standing in reverence and singing hymns. Everybody has their own approach to honoring God, and that in itself is to be honored.

So, next Sunday, if you see your neighbor raising his hands and singing his heart out during worship and you’re not feeling it, know that God sees your heart to worship, and that’s what matters.

3 Challenges to Worshipping God in a World of Choices

Written By Madeline Twooney, Germany

I love worshipping God and spending time with Him.

Every morning, I try my best to set aside time to worship God through prayer, music, Bible study, and journaling. During this dedicated time, I give thanks to God and meditate on His Word. In turn, God’s presence—His answer to prayers, the mercy and comfort He shows me—fills me with strength, gives me peace, and reminds me that God is always looking after me. When l come out of my time with God, l am strengthened in the assurance of His love.

That being said, making time to worship God and commit myself to Him isn’t easy. The world offers distractions and pursuits that tempt me to take my eyes off God. Hence, l am constantly challenged to choose between spending time with God in worship and what the world offers.

Over time, I have come to recognize the things that are most likely to distract me from God. This helps me work on re-focusing my attention back to God.

Here are three of my most pressing challenges to worshipping God in a world full of choices. Perhaps you might be able to relate to them as well:

 

1. Caught Between Two Masters: Technology or God

I remember receiving my first mobile phone in the late 90s. Before that, l was hightailing it to a pay phone every time l wanted to ring someone when l was on the go. Similarly, l am grateful for the invention of the Internet. Teaching myself makeup application from YouTube tutorials jumpstarted my freelance career as a makeup and special-effects artist (makeup application using prosthetics, face paint and casts).

However, at some point, my life began to revolve around my devices, apps, and social media feeds. I began relying more and more on the Internet for information, as well as the endless possibilities for entertainment.

It is scary how easily we allow the digital world to rule our lives. God says that we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). When we can’t stop scrolling through social media feeds, or when we just have to play one more game of “Candy Crush” on our phones, then we’ve become too addicted to technology. Too often, we look to Google for answers to our problems instead of coming to our Father who created Heaven and earth—the God who says that when we seek Him, we will find Him (Matthew 7:7).

When it got to the point where l was tempted to check my WhatsApp messages during church services, l knew technology was becoming more attractive than being in God’s presence. It was time to cut the digital umbilical cord.

These days, instead of looking at my phone when l get up in the morning, l thank God for the day He has made (Psalm 118:24). During my worship time with God, l turn off all my devices. If someone wants to get in contact with me during this time, they can leave a message. In church, l switch my phone off before the service starts. Knowing my phone won’t vibrate or light up during church helps avoid distraction and keeps my focus on worshipping God.

 

2. FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out

Every day when l get up in the morning, my focus is to spend those first hours of the day with God.

However, more often than not, by the time l give my one-eared pussycat his breakfast and start brewing my first cup of coffee, my mind starts formulating a list of all the activities l want to do that day, such as my plans to exercise or meet up with friends. I start to get so nervous at the thought of not experiencing any of these events, that l become tempted to exchange my dedicated worship time for the pursuit of my other endeavors.

Today’s fast-paced society is a result of an oversaturation of choices. Our anxiety at missing out on an experience causes us to run from pillar to post. We’re suffering from FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out.

When I notice myself getting anxious from an abundance of choices and too little time to choose them all, l remind myself to go back to the Bible for guidance. Matthew 6:33 encourages us to seek God’s kingdom first above all things. After that, God will provide us with everything we need. l am learning to fear missing out on my daily encounter with God more than the pursuits of the world.

 

3. The Allure of the Things of this World

One of my favorite recreational pursuits is going to the gym. Although l work out to live a healthy lifestyle, a part of me is very aware of the “body goals” that are portrayed on Instagram and splashed across the pages of magazines. Sometimes, when l lift weights, l wonder whether I should be working toward these goals instead of being content with the body God has given me.

We all chase after different goals—whether it’s a perfect body, the latest iPhone, or exotic holidays. But too often, these “goals” can easily turn into objects of worship, drawing our attention away from God.

Romans 12:2 encourages us to not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. When l find myself choosing to go down rabbit holes of superficial pursuits instead of spending time with God in His Word, l need to stop and remind myself that the only truly worthy pursuit is that of seeking God’s presence. Meditating on the Word keeps my eyes fixed on the unchanging nature of God in a fad-induced society. It reminds me that God’s opinion matters in my life, not the world’s.

Knowing that I am easily tempted by these goals, I have learned to prioritize my relationship with God. When I spend time regularly worshipping God, I can work out for the sake of being healthy, without worrying that it would eat into my time with God.

 

We are only temporary residents in this world, but our relationship with God is one that crosses into eternity. When we consider that Jesus made the ultimate choice to give His life for us at the cross to purchase our freedom, then making the decision to spend time with God in worship and praise becomes a lot easier, and the choices of the world begin to pale in comparison.

If you find your worship of God challenged by the choices and expectations of the world, l get it. Choosing to put my worship time ahead of my pursuits of this world is something l’m still working on every day.

This doesn’t mean we need to change our entire lifestyle, but can begin by taking small steps at a time. Perhaps we can get up earlier and dedicate that time to God, or maybe we can put aside 15 minutes a day to read the Bible. These small steps add up, daily drawing us closer to God. As we seek Him, He will also give us the desire and will to worship Him.

Am I Responsible for My Friend’s Salvation?

Written By Madeline Twooney, Germany

I remember the moment l entered a relationship with Jesus as though it were yesterday.

It happened 10 years ago, on a chilly January evening. My friend Hannah led me in prayer and confession while we were seated in her car, parked outside a supermarket. In a declaration of faith, l accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

The change was immediate: l felt clean and light, as if all my past mistakes and bad decisions had been erased. More importantly, l felt loved and accepted for who l was, despite my failures and flaws; a love which could only have come from God.

As the months went by, l embraced the chance to start my life afresh with God, with fervent gratitude and a heart that burned to know my Savior more and more. Hannah became one of my mentors, and she taught me about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20)—how God calls us to spread the good news of the Bible.

My thoughts went immediately to my closest friends who didn’t know Jesus. I realized that the struggles and pain my friends experienced were often a reflection of their search for purpose in life, for identity. This broke my heart.

l wanted to help my friends know the same freedom, peace, and love from a merciful Father that l did. Additionally, l was concerned about the possibility of my friends’ eternal separation from God if they did not enter a relationship with Him. Therefore, l made up my mind to “help” my friends along the path to salvation, which led to an awkward incident between them and myself.

It happened one fateful weekend when my friends and l were visiting Amsterdam. On Saturday night, a few members of our group wanted to visit the red light district, where tourists flock in droves to look at sex workers behind red-lit glass doors. This did not sit well with me. While my friends thought that the experience would be a harmless act of cheeky window-watching, I thought of the desperate circumstances that pushed these women to such a place. l felt for them.

I told my friends that God intended our bodies to be holy and acceptable to Him (Romans 12:1), and that as a Christian, l would not pursue the things of this world. Instead, l would pursue God and so should they. Well, as we British say, that went down like a lead balloon. Some of my friends told me straight out that it wasn’t my place to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do, and most of all, what they should believe.

I wanted my friends to know the love of Jesus, but that setback helped me see that l wasn’t responsible for their salvation—they were. God desires each of us to willingly choose a relationship with Him, and I could not force anyone to a choice—whether through shame or other methods. However, l do have an obligation to share the Gospel. Since that awkward incident, l have been learning to minister to my friends in different ways, in the hopes that it would draw them to the light of Christ.

Here are four ways that I’ve learned to reach out to my non-Christian friends:

 

1. Let Our Faith Shine Through Our Lives

l can be a good spokesperson for Christ when my friends see the way l live my life as a Christian. I love the words of Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

One big change that happened after I became a Christian was that I no longer used swear words. Not only did my friends notice this change, but now they actually apologize to me if they accidentally swear in my presence!

Instead of speaking negatively, l now try to use my words to encourage and uplift those around me (1 Thessalonians 5:11). I try to show my friends God’s love by being patient, kind and empathetic with them, just as Jesus is with us.

 

2. Share Testimonies

God is constantly working in our lives, and we get to share it with our friends. When my husband and l were struggling financially, God came through and provided us with income from sources such as friends, an unexpected payment in our account, and even a scholarship for my husband! Not only do my friends get to witness how God has changed my life around, but they also get to learn more about God through what occurs in my life.

I have noticed that my friends are more receptive to hearing about God when they can see a tangible working of His role as a living God and loving Father. Some of my friends have even started attributing good things in their lives to God’s blessings, instead of the result of their hard work or simply luck or fate.

 

3. Create A Safe Space of Mutual Respect

My friends and l have created a safe space in our relationship, where we mutually respect one another, and each person is free to be themselves. We accept each other’s weaknesses and forgive each other when we make mistakes.

I do talk about God with my friends, but l now use discernment and weigh each situation carefully before sharing my opinions, instead of bombarding them with verses from the Bible.

Because of our safe space, my friends feel comfortable in approaching me when they do have questions about God, because they know l will neither judge them nor be sanctimonious towards them.

 

4. Pray for Our Friends’ Salvation

Have you seen the movie War Room? The elderly woman in the movie had a special closet—which she calls her “war room”—set aside for regular, passionate, dedicated prayer on behalf of people around her.

I pray for my friends’ salvation a lot. l have written down a list of people l hope will one day come into a relationship with Christ, and hung this list up in my spare room—my own “war room.” During my quiet time with God, l pray over this list and intercede for my friends and loved ones.

 

My friends may one day choose Christ, or they may not. Either way, l will continue to be friends with them and love them with the love that Christ has shown me.

Having said that, l will not give up hope that, one day, my friends will accept Jesus into their hearts. Until that day comes, l will continue to have faith, believe in God’s mercy, and pray.