An exclusive dinner

For our wedding anniversary earlier this year my wife and I were treated to an exclusive dinner. Our young niece and nephew spent the week with us and they decided to turn our basement into a restaurant for one night. They worked hard and decorated with readily available materials. There were candles and music playing softly. We were even given menus with very limited options. The kids had us dress up and they did all the cooking and serving. Understandably the cuisine was not on par with a four star restaurant. However, the ambience was nothing short of magical.

It had been some time since my wife and I could enjoy an actual date. Proverbs 15:17 came to mind as we ate dinner; A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.  Somehow the food tasted better that evening than many other previous meals. That exclusive dinner will be a lasting fond memory.

Take time to enjoy a meal with a friend, spouse, or loved one. Focus on the other person and enjoy time together. Everybody eats so why not make a memory while enjoying some food and fellowship.

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Scholastic sticker shock!

Just to prove I have graduated State the Obvious, COLLEGE IS EXPENSIVE! I have reached a season in life that allows for me to return to school using a distance learning program. Today reality hit me about how much this program will cost in dollars. Education is definitely going to cut into my vacation funds. Now is not a good time for me to plan a mid-life crisis. Last time I was enrolled in college it was a local community college at $35 a credit hour. To sound older than dirt… that was a lot of money for me to come up with. Honestly I don’t know how young people are able to pay for the education that’s required to have a foothold in the working world. My hat’s off to those who are able to escape a Ramen noodle diet after paying for school.


If you are thinking about college consider these wise words; “the most expensive degree is a pedigree.” I don’t know who coined that term but it is true. Get the best education you can truly afford. If you are living a life honoring to God it won’t matter if that education is an Ivy League college or a series of classes at church.

Is a higher education really necessary? That question has been debated since the invention of school. In short college is not a necessity but it is a vehicle to advancement. My opinion and experience is that continuing to advance in learning is vital to personal growth. In some cases it can be a matter of survival. There is value in reading articles and books on a regular basis that pertains to whatever hobbies, career choices, or personal interests you may have. Seminars and classes are a couple of ways to expand knowledge along with having some social interaction with like-minded people.

It is easier to learn new insights and skills when you have a purpose and goal. One reason to seek additional Bible knowledge is found in 2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Seeking truth through scripture is a great way for anyone to improve their life. The best part is you can study the entire Bible without having to pay any tuition.


Rev. Burt Schwab



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Bees, spiders, and other distractions…

Distractions are common in life. It is during the most important events that distractions seem amplified. A recent weekend full of events reminded me of that fact. I officiated a wedding on a Saturday followed by being a guest speaker on a Sunday. I live in Illinois but these events were in Iowa. At least the locations were relatively close to each other. Anyway the wedding took place at a public park and during the rehearsal some kids were playing on the swing set. Normally the noise would have been easily ignored but while coordinating a wedding ceremony it seemed loud. The chains made a creaking noise that kept getting my attention. The entire wedding party was instructed to be prepared and ignore common distractions associated with being outside during the ceremony.

The day of the wedding had spotty rain showers and that caused some concern but it remained dry at the right time. With all the possible distractions that could occur it was a honey bee that almost got undo attention. During the ceremony with the bride and groom facing me a bee landed on the pulpit. The groom fixated his attention on the bee for what seemed like a full minute. (Amazing how much slower time seems to go during certain situations.) After the bee flew away the thought of it crossed my mind more than once during the wedding. The end result was a beautiful outdoor wedding despite what turned out to be minor distractions.

The next morning I had a pulpit assignment at a small rural church that I’ve spoken at a few times before. During the praise and worship time a spider made its appearance on the podium. The lady leading worship was so disconcerted that she actually stopped the worship set to have someone eradicate the intruding arachnid. The Pastor of this church got up and used a Kleenex to dispose of the unwanted creature with the exclamation of “oh my that is a big spider”. The worship time continued with no further interference.

When it was time to preach I set my notes on the pulpit and scanned the area for more spiders. My opening began with thanking the Pastor for taking care of the spider for me. He quipped “I noticed you didn’t jump up to help with the spider” and I said “no, I draw the line at spiders.” The sermon was well received with no further spider interventions.

One of the biggest distractions for preachers is when someone falls asleep during the sermon. I have both been the sleeper and the speaker responsible for public nap time. There is comfort in knowing that even the Apostle Paul faced distractions when he preached.

Acts 20:7-12 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.” 11 Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. 12 And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.

More than one person has had a good snooze in church but falling out of a window is a pretty unusual event! Someone falling to their death during a church service would constitute more than a minor distraction. In the case of Eutychus, his little nap made him famous. God can change any situation into an event to show His mercy and glory.

Maybe those of us who have an active role in church activities can learn to accept less than perfect worship conditions. Sometimes bees, spiders, and other distractions happen. If we allow those things to be the spotlight we minimize what God may be doing in that moment. Think about that the next time the person beside you sings off key during worship time or the person in front of you falls asleep in church. Enjoy the life God wants you to have and don’t worry about the small stuff.

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Satan is not a metaphor for truth

Just recently a Satanic Temple was allowed to start an after school Satan Club in Portland, Oregon. This is from a group primarily made up of atheist that want to combat evangelism in the public school. The website for this movement has the following quote.

“It’s important that children be given an opportunity to realize that the evangelical materials now creeping into their schools are representative of but one religious opinion amongst many. While the Good News Clubs focus on indoctrination, instilling them with a fear of Hell and God’s wrath, After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us. We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors.”

Can anyone tell me where these people get their views of Christians? The reference is about the Good news Club that teaches from the Bible. Clearly the implication is that Christians do not understand the world we live in and furthermore our beliefs are not based on rational thinking.

How about taking time to read the Bible and see what is says about the world, science, rational thinking, and true morality! I’ll make it easier and point out a few verses.

Genesis 2:19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. Here is just one verse that shows God created man with the intent of using intelligence. To study an animal and name it based on observable traits is clearly a form of science and critical thinking.

Genesis 1:26-28 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Being given dominion over the earth can be viewed as God encouraging technology. Everything humans create is using resources already available to them. Can you think of anything man has created that did not use material found in the earth and or known physical limitations? Neither can I. The truth is God gave us intellect and provided us with natural resources to do everything from work with fire to send men in space.

We were also created with freewill. With freewill we have the choice to accept or reject God’s authority over us. Look at the account of the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:15-17 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Notice man was given the choice to obey or not. God could have created man without choice but instead He gave us freewill.

Genesis 3:1-7 Documents the account of the first sin. Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

Compare Genesis 3:3 with what God actually said to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” It is through the misuse of God’s word that man was deceived into sin and it is the same tactic being employed on us today!

The accusation that Christians use “a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors” to educate our children is founded only on the desire of some to make Christianity seem unappealing. The message of the cross is not to invoke fear of punishment rather to bring hope for a life eternal with God. John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

The Word of God will stand forever. Even this Generation will fail in all modern attempts to defeat the Holy Scriptures.

Rev. Burt Schwab



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Prove me wrong!

I am a creationist. That means I hold to the belief that God created all things. It would be a pointless matter to try to convince someone of my belief system that embraces evolution. Many examples of poor use of science can be given to speak against evolution, however, in all fairness many examples of poor use of scripture can be given to refute Christianity also. Reasons I believe in the creation account of the Bible begins with faith. Beyond that as a fan of science there is much more evidence that supports creation and certainly a world-wide flood as described in Genesis than there is of evolution. The difference between viewing evidence as evolution or creation begins with a desired outcome of the facts. To be truly unbiased would render a person completely awed by the world around them and would be the catalyst for seeking truth of origin.

I cannot prove God exists, in fact nobody can. Additionally nobody can prove God does not exist. So working both with science and logic I have thought out my beliefs. Just for some ground rules the terms science and logic can be understood in the following illustration. When you observe a flock of geese flying in a V-shape typically one leg of the V is longer than the other. Science explains how the birds use this flight pattern to help each other fly longer distances. The lead bird is working the hardest while the followers benefit from drafting the others. As the lead starts to grow tired the geese change leaders and keep flying. There are pages that can be written on wind loads etc. Logic explains the reason one leg of the V of flying geese is longer because it has more birds in it.

Observing the world around us there is clear evidence of intelligent design. These observations include the skeletal system of every animal. It is the skeletons of animals turned into fossils that has been used as a basis for evolution theory. For an evolutionist the evidence suggests that animals changed from one species to another. Logic shows that the fossil record only shows changes in kinds of animals. For instance every dog descended from wolves however there is great physical differences between a wolf and a poodle.

Ultimately the bantering of creation versus evolution comes to the same point and that is how did it all begin. If you subscribe to the idea of the big bang theory your view could be summarized that in the beginning there was nothing. Then one day all the nothing exploded and everything began to form from the nothing. I subscribe to the belief that in the beginning God created everything out of nothing. Neither of these views are provable with logic or science therefore each view is accepted by faith by the individual believers. The beginning of faith is at the end of human reason. It is your faith in God or human reason that will decide your destiny.

Rev. Burt Schwab







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Would Jesus attend your church?

Rev. Burt Schwab

A good friend of mine challenged me with the question of what kind of church would Jesus attend if he were walking the earth today. I have pondered this question deeply and wrestled with self-desired answers. Mostly I would like to think that Jesus would attend a church that suits my own desires. Let’s face it most people want church to fit a model designed around their own idea of comfort. But what if Jesus doesn’t want us to be comfortable? What if our own ideas and agenda for church is not what is asked of us? It is a sad reality that some church congregations turn to sensationalism to attract contributors. At the other end of the spectrum some churches are cemented in their own traditions and are ineffective at reaching their own community. Both of these models are at risk of shutting the door on Jesus.

The best way to answer…

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Stuck in the middle.

Have you considered the people who are in your daily life and the influence they have on your behavior? Lately I’ve given a considerable amount of thought to the people in my life. To be clear I am one of those guys people either like or hate, that’s just the way it is. In the work place most people respect me. For the most part the people I work with do not have a faith in God. That is a distinct difference and because of that it is rare to be social outside of work. Not because I somehow feel superior or uncomfortable around my fellow workers but rather because our interests are different. On the flip side one might think that people like me would have many Christian friends. Oddly enough that is not the case. I have many great Christian friends scattered across the globe but few in close proximity. It is rare that a local Christian friend calls to just chat. Although I attend a larger than average church there are only a few that reach out socially beyond a church function. Without a doubt some who read this opening paragraph may try to contact me out of guilt. It is not my intent to seek pity just share insight.

A disturbing reality that is observable in daily life is the falseness of people. It is understandable when a non-believer acts differently around a known follower of Christ. Most unbelievers I associate with show me respect by using cleaner language or resisting the urge to share the details of their latest sexual experience. Some even call me when they have a personal crisis. But there are those that go to church every time the doors are open to be seen by others as spiritual. You know the type. If the Pastor is present so are they. It is most common for this type to live in a state of constant drama and spew it on social media. Using Christian memes in one post and dramatize a situation in the next with statements like “I’m under spiritual attack by….”. People like that annoy me.

Another type of person is the ones who hide their faith. They are sincere worshippers that desire to do the will of God but something holds them back. This person is viewed as a nice guy or a pleasant woman. These are the ones watching the world go by and maybe even praying for change. This type of person is often viewed as disinterested in church matters. The danger is they can become lukewarm in their faith. My heart is burdened for these Christians.

Another type of person seeks the will of God and engages in spiritual warfare. Without exception this person is often wounded and struggling. The moment this person fails to speak in love they are criticized by both the church people and the worldly. The daily struggle is to die to sin. It is a battle fought prayerfully and emotionally. This person is not accepted by the world or the churchly population. This person is stuck in the middle and looking forward to a glorious eternity.

Using logic to think things through it seems that if a person was to hide their faith the worldly would accept them readily but the churchly people would ignore them. If a person acts churchy and vies for self-glorification to appease the Pastor the true Christian will avoid them. If the true Christian lives life actively seeking to please God they become stuck in the middle between the desires of the flesh and the will of the Father.

I chose to not use scripture refernce in this post. Those who know the Bible can readily see the spiritual truths stated here. Those who don’t accept God’s word will not care.

Rev. Burt Schwab

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We all want to feel useful with our life. In some way almost every person seeks to be remembered. It has been said that a person dies twice. The day they breathe their last and the day someone speaks their name for the last time. That’s a sad statement but have you thought about people who have impacted history and we don’t know their names?

For example purposes let’s look at three figures in the Bible that had two things in common. All three made choices in their lives that have been remembered for generations, and all three are anonymous. We only know them by their circumstances.

  1. A poor but wise man.

Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: 14 There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. 15 Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man.

16 So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded. 17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.

I think we often miss the excitement of scripture in the way we read it. This man accomplished through wisdom what an entire town could not do through military might. Yet he was not thanked and his name forgotten. This man was written in history as anonymous. We don’t even know the town he lived in. It is not recorded how his wisdom saved the town. The only recognition is merely a pondered thought written in a book.

I have wondered about this man. Why was he poor? How old was he at the time? Was he physically disabled? We know so little of this man. A few things we can deduct about this anonymous man are it is possible this was a God-fearing man. (Proverbs 1:7 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.) He had the courage to take action against seemingly overwhelming odds. He probably was not popular. Nobody even thanked him for saving the town. Despite great life adversity this man showed concern for others.

    poor man

     2. The woman at the well

John 4:1-30 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

Initially my mind imagines an attractive, young woman. There are clues in this story that this woman had withdrawn from society. Maybe she isn’t popular.

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Now we see this is a “popular” lady with the fellows! The idea of youthfulness fades as we learn this woman has had five husbands. For all we know this woman had a face of a horse and the body of a hippo! It is easy to imagine an attractive woman speaking with Jesus but men who take another man’s wife really don’t focus on looks! Anyone who would take another person’s spouse is only interested in fulfilling their own selfish desires.

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

It is common that people will ask religious questions when they are seeking truth.

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

I love the wisdom of Jesus. He didn’t get into a religious debate but rather redirected the conversation to truth. Jesus wisdom was from his daily time spent with God. Those quiet times away from life’s struggles and worries. Jesus disciples understood this about him and that could be the reason they left him alone at the well.

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” 27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

 This anonymous woman is remembered for her encounter with Jesus rather than her personal sins. Once again we see an entire village impacted by a King and a brave person. After all it takes courage to overcome past mistakes and tell other’s about Jesus. In this case the village was right in not giving thanks or credit to the woman but rather showed honor to the King of kings by coming out to see him. The best possible outcome to hope for when telling someone about Jesus is they choose to seek him.

3.  A rich young ruler.

Matthew 19:16-22 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” 20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

 Again we see a religious question posed but this time Jesus answered in a way to cause the man to reflect on his own character.

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

 Another anonymous person. Unlike the poor wise man this is a rich man with great influence. Some things we know about him is he was young. He lived a religious life. This was a man of wealth and means. Probably well respected in the community. Based on the culture of his time we can infer this was a highly educated man.

This man had a personal struggle in his life. In a face to face encounter with Jesus this man put material possession above a relationship with God. Instead of being remembered for overcoming great adversity he is remembered for walking away as a defeated man.


We have looked at three unique individuals that are not named. We only refer to them as what they did. One man who saved a town through wisdom. We call him the ‘poor wise man’. One woman who had a colorful history. We call her ‘the woman at the well’. One man who seemed to have it all. ‘We call him the rich young ruler’. In their day each of these people had a name that has been lost to history. They may be anonymous to us but not to God. Nobody is anonymous to God!

What will you do with your circumstances? Will you use the talents God gave you to help others as the poor wise man did? Are you fascinated by Jesus enough to tell others about Christ like the woman at the well? Will you allow position, power, or possessions prevent you from completely following God like the rich young ruler? Long after your name is forgotten, what legacy will your life leave for others?


Rev. Burt Schwab

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I am that guy….

Everybody knows that guy. You know, the person that you just don’t hang out with. The kind of guy that has a different set of moral standards than you. He’s a little weird with his world views and outspoken opinion. Did you see what he had the audacity to post online yesterday? Where does he get off dressing like that? Why can’t he just get a grip and quit thinking that way? I might like him better if he would just be me more like me!

Really we could be talking about a man or woman. Doesn’t matter how much a person claims to be open-minded we all know “that guy”. That one person that you just don’t like. The problem is we are judgmental beings. Let’s look at two different guys in the Bible.

Luke 18:9-14 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

This is that guy you would expect to be at church every Sunday. He knows scripture, is fluent in the customs and traditions of church service. This guy would never even consider stopping with the boys after work and having a couple of beers. In his mind it’s justifiable to look down on others. After all, other people live in a dark, dirty world that is unfit for the presence of a righteous man!

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

This guy is comfortable in his dark, dirty world where profanity is common vocabulary. The world this guy lives in has a set of standards that are dictated by social acceptance rather than moral absolutes. This guy doesn’t know how to sing worship songs and is very uncomfortable when the offering plate is passed in front of him. Just the fact he is in church at all is a small miracle. In his mind others judge him because he is not “religious” enough. But this guy knows he is a sinner in need of forgiveness.

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Some days I am the Pharisee and sometimes the tax collector. I can push people away with my self-proclaimed righteous behavior. It is easy to judge others by their actions, clothing, speech, or a variety of other things. But sometimes the mirror is not so foggy and I can see the filthy wreck of a man I am. What a blessing it would be if I was that guy who always understood how God views him!

Rev. Burt Schwab


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Conflict is an inevitable part of life. The real problem is when emotions are elevated beyond reason. A wise person said when logic and emotion enter the battlefield emotion always wins.

The local church congregation, being made up of humans, is not immune to the possibility of personal conflict becoming a destructive force. With some advanced thinking and preparation it is possible to prevent conflict from escalating. The essence of conflict management is not prevention as much as it is to find a resolution. Conflict management is a subject of such depth that it would require multiples of hours of discussion to explore all the concepts available. In this post I will briefly overview five levels of conflict and some tips to assist in resolution. My desire is that you are able to apply the information presented to your ministry and personal life.

In order to understand any concept we first need to define it. The definition we will use for conflict is; “Striving for one’s own preferred outcome, which, if attained, precludes the attainment by others of their preferred outcome, thereby producing hostility”.

Some things to know about conflict

Not all conflict is sin. Here are a couple of verses to ponder;

Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Not all conflict is unhealthy. Appropriate conflict management is a sign of health for any relationship. If you think about it a game of checkers is a form of conflict.

Conflict does not always have a long-term negative outcome. In fact the gospel message spread because of conflict. (Nero persecuting the church). The position of deacon came about because of conflict. (Acts 6)

Progress is rarely made without conflict. Conflict is the companion of change! There are times that conflict is predictable such as;

  • Change in leadership
  • Economic change
  • Change in tradition
  • Change in a program or system
  • Change in team members
  • Changing lanes in traffic in a large truck, or maybe that’s just me…..

Most conflict issues begin with poor communication and not taking the time to understand or be understood. It is essential to learn and use biblical conflict management skills. That is not the same as using the Bible to beat someone with. Conflict does not go away just because we ignore it. Typically it will grow and escalate until we have no choice but to deal with it.

In Matthew 18:20 Jesus said “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (NIV), but I say where two or more gather there will be issues to resolve.

There are different degrees or levels of conflict. Speed Leas is credited for defining five levels of conflict that must be addressed in different ways.


At this level people feel discomfort in one another’s presence. Level 1 conflict is a daily part of life. A few example causes of level one conflict are;

  • A slow driver
  • A fast driver (ever notice anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster is a maniac)
  • Speakers that don’t use “your style of talking”
  • Falling asleep in church
  • Aunt Bertha bringing that green jello dessert to the holiday dinner. (Okay, I added that for humor……)

At this level people are focused on problem solving. It is possible to have short-lived anger or even denial of hostile feelings. Rational thought and clear communication is present. People are open to other opinions.


Level 2 conflict is not yet a win/lose destructive level; however, it is more difficult and emotionally charged than level 1. People involved in level 2 conflict are less concerned with solving a problem and more concerned about self-protection. Some indicators of level 2 conflict are;

  • Involving others in their discussion to justify their case and plan a strategy
  • The language shifts from specific to general, (“I am not interested in what you are talking about” becomes “you are oblivious to reality”)
  • People involved tend to withhold information that may enhance the other or hurt themselves.
  • Hostile humor
  • Labeling (name calling)
  • Distancing
  • People begin to choose sides.

This is the point when things start to get hairy. People can permit arguments to linger by not responding properly. If someone is involving you in their discussions of someone else ask clear questions such as “did you see or hear that yourself?”, “were there any witnesses?” Be sure of the context of the issue and pray with the person for a peaceful resolution. DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. Remember “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge” (Proverbs 15:1-2)

III.  CONTESTS (I want my way)

This is the point where the conflict enters the win/lose stage. The focus shifts from self-protection to winning. Competition enters in as one party wants to win while making the other party lose. Level 3 is more complicated and usually has more than one problem to resolve. Perceptions of the real problem are very different, and people begin to depend on their gut feelings rather than on the facts.

Level 3 conflicts usually require a third-party to intervene.  These types of conflict can be hard to resolve.

Occasionally we encounter a divisive person. A divisive person usually tries to turn any difference of opinion into a contest. NOT ALL PEOPLE IN A LEVEL 3 CONFLICT ARE DIVISIVE PEOPLE. If in fact it is a divisive person, it is best if someone of authority tries to work with the person through proper counseling. The goal of counseling is to help the individual grow through the process. Titus 3:10 says “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that have nothing to do with him.”

IV.  FIGHT/FLIGHT(Someone has to go)

At level 4 the goal of the parties changes from wanting to win to wanting to hurt or get rid of the other. At this level people will not even speak to each other.


This level is unmanageable. At level 5 the situation is out-of-control and the conflict is not solvable unless there is divine intervention and the parties are open to that. The mentality is “How can I destroy the other side?” Annihilation is the goal. The other party is viewed as harmful to society at large and needs to be removed. It is possible for one person to be at level 5 conflict while the other is at level 1.

There are situations that a person is completely justified in getting mad. We are given emotions as a gift and tools, not as a punishment. But remember, you may have the right to be angry but you never have the right to harm yourself or others!

The goal of conflict should be to reach resolution 

Resolution usually does not always prove one side totally wrong and the other side totally right. Keep focus on the issue. Keep one issue on the table at a time. Cooperation and understanding should be the goals even if both sides are in opposition to each other. If the issue does not call for moral compromise or a legal action, allow that the other person has another opinion. Healthy disagreements can strengthen relationships and be a positive force. However, not dealing with conflict in a manner consistent with healthy principles is harmful to relationships and even organizations.

Show humility in your attitude. Admit when you have made a mistake and accept correction that you may learn from it. The antithesis of humility is pride, which is a magnification of self-importance and self-esteem.

Micah 6:8 He has shown you O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I encourage you to consider the other persons opinion when conflict arises. By understanding the issue to be resolved it is easier to begin a plan of resolution. It is wise to discuss how the future will look as conflict is resolved. Conflict is never over until a plan or goal as to how the people will function in the future is agreed on. As Christians our goal should be fulfilling both the great commission and keeping the great commandment. Remember that mature people seek truth and immature people want to win, no matter the cost.

Keep in mind the definition of conflict is: “Striving for one’s own preferred outcome, which, if attained, precludes the attainment by others of their preferred outcome, thereby producing hostility”.

I will end on this thought;

Albert Einstein is credited with saying “We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Rev. Burt Schwab

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