Worship at Home, Jan 16 – Zeal for Your House

WELCOME to worship for Digby Baptist Church, while we are all staying home. The plan here has elements of worship to share by reading, listening, and viewing. There is a little bulletin also published, with some announcements, here on our website. Paper copies of the sermon and some prayers are delivered to local folks each Sunday, who cannot view this online.

Psalm 127:1-2
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.

HYMN # 699 Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation

Opening PRAYER: God of Sabbath rest, today is the Christian Sabbath, and wherever we find ourselves, we rest in You. This season in our whole world is filled with anxieties, Holy One; we call out to You. Dealing with illness is such a trouble right now, and we in the first world have such high expectations for our healthcare. O Great Physician, You showed us how our well-being and our behaviour are closely connected. We want to know the best steps to take. We don’t want to be upset by others who make different decisions. And many of us are getting so weary of this problem that overshadows everything. How long, O Lord?!

Christ, You once promised to build Your house, and not even the gates of hell would stand against it. So we keep on trusting You to build Your Church, You being our Cornerstone. By the Holy Spirit keep us in close contact with one another, while we are not meeting, and let us be strengthened and united. In Your name. AMEN.

John 2:13-25 read by Sharon White

SOLO: Mercy Tree – Sharon Marshall, 2020

SERMON: Zeal for Your House It is 1660 in Bedfordshire, north of London, England. The Church of England is clamping down on ‘non- conformist’ preachers – these ‘free Church,’ non-Anglicans are simply not allowed! Out in a field, one day, a certain John Bunyan is arrested while speaking. This tradesman in his early thirties had, after years of religious and spiritual crisis, been baptized and joined a Particular Baptist Church in Bedford. John’s gift for speaking became apparent, and he took up preaching, alongside the pot and pan repairs he’d learned from his father. 

But now, he was in prison. And, because he refused to pledge not to preach again, he stayed in prison, for the most part, for the next twelve years. John was in and out some, and even got to do occasional preaching outside. Inside, he wrote: books and books. It is likely, near the end of this time, that the zealous preacher wrote his most well-read and widely published story: The Pilgrim’s Progress. It was published in 1678, after he was free and then the pastor of the Bedford Church. 

The story of a person like John Bunyan is the tale of a zealous man, zealous for the things of God, as he understood them. Bunyan was part of the puritan movement that was keen for a new and vital form of Christianty to take over. Zealous for a new way to do Church, with a lot of freedom, simpler worship, and an emphasis upon personal holiness and piety. 

Bunyan knew persecution by the religious and political authorities of his day. And this came out in his stories, like that of the pilgrim named, simply, Christian, on his arduous journey to the Celestial City. This character faces so many temptations and enemies and dangers along the way. Each one representing a real life challenge. Today’s chapter in this children’s version of the story mentions Lord Beelzebub and Passion and Patience, whose names declare their identity. And Christian faces opposition exactly because he does right, stays to a good path, and tries his best to trust King Jesus. 

This is much like the words of Psalm 69, which Jesus’  disciples thought of that day He overthrew the merchants in the Temple. “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 

To be passionate for true religion can get one into trouble. That’s the message of Psalm 69; that’s the story of Christian’s progress as a little pilgrim; that was the experience of the preacher and author John Bunyan. Just glancing at that Psalm quotation in John chapter 2, we might wonder what it really means, at first. When we go back to the rest of the Psalm, we get to understand the message. It is a long prayer for help when surrounded by enemies, enemies of faithfulness. What did the Psalm writer do to get into trouble? Listen and understand: (Ps. 69)

9 It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
10 When I humbled my soul with fasting,
they insulted me for doing so.
11 When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
12 I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me.

Being faithful to his spiritual practices got the Psalm singer in trouble, it seems. Persecution came for doing right things, including the spiritual discipline of fasting in humble clothing – which usually goes with prayer.

All these centuries later, as followers of Jesus now, modern Christians can say the same things. It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.  There are believers in parts of the world who are oppressed and threatened – even killed – simply for living a Christians. 

Here, in Nova Scotia, what has our experience been of opposition to our faith? There is some push-back to the ways we live as disciples of Jesus and citizens of the Kindom. And we may sacrifice certain things for the sake of being Christian.

One thing we do is worship – we share worship like we are today, and at other times we do physically gather for divine worship. This part of ‘keeping the Sabbath holy’ is not without its costs. Gone is the time that workplaces and the marketplaces were shut down on Sundays. Remember when the big stores were still not open on Sunday? And remember how promises were made by some of them, in the fall of 2006, when the laws changed? Promises that those who wanted to worship on Sundays would not be forced to work then. How is that going now?

I have been zealous enough about worship that it has remained a personal priority for me. It is one of the few spiritual disciplines that I am disciplined about!

When Jesus cleared the Temple in Jerusalem that day, He spoke of it being a house of prayer, not of business. That’s getting at the activity – the worship that happens. Another aspect of ‘His Father’s House’ is the actual building, the Temple. When questioned about His actions and authority, Christ mentioned destroying the temple, and rebuilding it. Which immediately was understood as the impossible: taking down this giant stone structure and then putting it back up in three days!

As much as a stone temple or wooden church can be misunderstood to be what faith is about, these buildings have their value. And like me, you may have some zeal about sacred buildings you’ve known. I am a lover of church buildings, from time to time. Some are very special and sentimental to me. Two I think of were places I worshipped at a formative time in my life: one a little, white country church, one an elegant university chapel. They both have their unique beauty, physically, but it was really what happened there, week after week, for several years, that was profound in my life. 

Still, I need to take the scene with Jesus in the Temple to heart. I need to notice that Jesus wanted what happened there to be good, but when He spoke of destroying and rebuilding the Temple, He was not even talking about stone and wood. He was speaking of Himself. He took the opportunity for prophecy and metaphor.

Wow, it is only chapter two, page two we could say, in the Gospel of John, and already we have to give a ‘spoiler alert!’ The finale of the story is being given away already: hero Jesus is going to die and get raised back up to life. It says right here, “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this…” John the gospeler does this so much more than Matthew, Mark and Luke: declaring the amazingness of Jesus, His glory and power, His divine nature, His saving work. From the start, John keeps no secret of who Jesus of Nazareth might be. 

And so, as the rest of the New Testament testifies, Jesus builds a spiritual temple: He the Cornerstone, we the rest of the structure. For some of us, we are most zealous about the Church being the people, the gathered worshippers who scatter to serve the world. Our devotion to the mission also has its costs. There are costs to discipleship, which Jesus described as ‘talking up your cross to follow Him.’

In conclusion, I think about the changes that always come. Jesus clearing the Temple is a scene of changes. It suggests changing the way they were running their Jewish Temple at that time. A change to their revenue, their focus upon prayer, and so forth. What Jesus says then points to a big change in salvation history: the big event of His own sacrifice was coming in just a couple years. 

These days, we may feel that the pandemic is forcing some changes upon Church life, but there has been much more going on that demands Christians enter the next reformation of our history. The past twenty two months certainly have led us to reflect upon what it means to gather in congregations, to worship and learn, and to work as a ministry team. Our Saviour is also our great Master Teacher. In the midst of these years we are discovering what changes are in store for Christendom, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Some ways of being Christian that people were passionate about in the past are dying out. 

Then new things crop up. Like Messy Church, a gathering for families in which the service is really like a morning at Vacation Bible School. Crafts, songs, games, stories: all created to ‘be Church’ in a different form. Our neighbours of Trinity Anglican used to offer this regularly.

What’s getting born? What are the new ways of being disciples of Jesus together? This is our exciting project now. Our adventure, our journey, our pilgrimage. God has all the power, all the love, and all the creativity needed to take Christianity deep into the 21st century. The bottom line is this: shall you and I be zealous for the Kingdom of God, and for King Jesus? Look for what inspires you, or gets you all stirred up, about Church and about Christ. Let the Spirit use that to grow new faith and action in you.

PRAYER after the Sermon:  God of our Church House, thank You for our building at the corner of Mount St. and Montague Row, even though we have not been there much lately. God our Hearer of prayer, thank You for receiving our worship and giving Yourself to us. Triune God of love, thank You for our fellowship in Christ. May we be teachable when it comes to the new path forward. And may we be good forgetters of the old ways that are to be replaced. AMEN.

PRAYERS of the People: Jesus Christ, true and only Head of the Church, may these words that are read and shared unite the fellowship in prayer, by the power of Your loving Spirit. O King of the Justice, we gather our prayers on this weekend that honours Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The legacy is huge, left by this peace activist who was a  Baptist Pastor. Brother of all nations, we are still needing racial justice, and still need Dr. King’s voice to be heard as a messenger from You. May we all have the same dream.

Christ our Cornerstone, our prayers for ourselves begin with the Church today. We have a couple buildings, Lord. Bless and keep them, in the face of faulty wiring and failing furnaces, holes in roof and vinyl siding, piano to be replaced and organ to be tuned.

We have worship services and study groups, Lord. Inspire and instruct us, in the face of long absences from one another, attempts to meet online and sing only as single people, and intentions to keep in touch with everyone.

We have membership and ministries, Lord. Bless us so that we may be a blessing to others, in our fellowship and loving care, in our weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who celebrate, and in our wise and wide generosity to people in need of almost anything. We call out for the teachers & workers & students going back into the classrooms this week: let there be wisdom and energy for all education. We put all our healing prayers together for the sake of many people, including Joe, Dwight, Mike, and Doug. Even in the face of death we pray in the power of the Spirit, for folk like Cathy and Heather for whom we are asked to intercede. O Great Physician, may all who work in healthcare be encouraged this week, when they need it most; we are concerned for them all.

Spirit and Advocate, our praying together is also for the whole world. You’ve got the whole world in Your hands! 

In the wake of tsunami threats in the Pacific, let there be safety and hope. In the midst of places like British Columbia where there is flooding, and places like Western Australia where there is terrible heat and drought – may there be mercy in creation for every creature. In the days of uncertainty for Churches around the globe, facing threats and failures and apathy of every kind: renew, rekindle, regrow, reinforce, and regenerate Your people, Holy God! Our prayers are the tip of the iceberg today; we share also in the prayer taught by the Lord Jesus: Our Father… AMEN.

SONG: He’s Still the King of Kings – Men’s Choir, 2021

BENEDICTION: 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

10 Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy


Worship at Home, Jan 9, 2022 – First Sign

WELCOME to this plan for worship that we can share, wherever we are. This service includes text to read, audio to hear, and video to watch. We are not meeting in person at the moment; as the weeks progress we will reevaluate and plan for the future.

Psalm 104:1-2a, 14-17
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honour and majesty,
wrapped in light as with a garment.
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.
The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has its home in the fir trees

PRAYER:   God of the Promised Land, thank You that, in the winter, this land is still Your land. Thank You that, in the hardships, this life is still Your gift. Thank You that, in the uncertainties, the path is still guided and Jesus is our Way. Thank You that, in the aloneness, we still have purpose and reasons to be Yours! 

Today, from our fears and sins release us, we pray. We get bogged down in the same old weaknesses and failings, it seems. Bring us through, bring us up, bring us out, we pray, by the power of Jesus! And give us, Your people, some sign of hope, some measure of grace, some glimpse of glory. In worship of You, with Jesus, and the Spirit we pray. AMEN.

CELEBRATION of Ministry – check out announcements in the Bulletin:

John 2:1-11 – Bonnie VanTassell

SERMON: First Sign. Just before I begin the sermon, let me declare to you that half of it is simply going to be a video I will show. A comedy satire, really, 8 minutes, from an Australian team.  Let us pray…

Have you ever seen a living sign? I’m sure you have. More often in the past, people would wear ‘a sandwich board’ on the street, advertising a local business – the diner’s special of the day, perhaps. More often, people wear a T-shirt or a hoodie with a message on it – usually humour or just advertising. If you have ever jogged in a trail run you have seen, along the route the runners take, people, holding flags, making sure the runners stay on the right path. I first saw this in 2008 when Sharon and I were in the Not Since Moses Run, at low tide in Five Islands. Out on the muddy beach were faithful volunteers, living signs, pointing the way for us on the foggy route, and cheering us on!

Today’s step into the story of Jesus is into John chapter 2. At this wedding in a village called Cana, the miracle Jesus performs – turning water into wine – gets called not a miracle, a sign. ‘Jesus did this, the first of his signs… and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.’

John the gospeler gives seven signs in his book: special events from Jesus that show His glorious unity of humanity and divinity. There are a few healings, there is feeding a crowd of more than 5000 people, walking on water, and finally raising a dead friend back to life. 

This water into wine was a very practical miracle at a community wedding celebration. Also symbolic, or at least very meaningful, beyond what happened. On a few levels, the glory of God shines through this Jesus. His closest friends, His apprentices, get it, and their confidence grows.

I hope you each have events in your life that impressed you with Jesus, or whatever you call the Holy One. I know some of you have several (or many) moments in life that were powerful signs of God. I have my own stories to tell. I suppose, whenever I tell them, I am putting up some signs that point to Jesus, for others to see. I hope some follow. 

The classic story of the Pilgrim’s Progress is of a young Christian, and others, on a journey. All along the way help is needed, signs and clues point the way. Helpers also.

We Baptists have this very strong ‘evangelical’ flavour to our religion, which could be thought of as advertising. We are advertisers for Jesus. Compelled to find ways to tell the world about the Saviour. Isn’t that what all disciples are being trained to do, from the first ones until today? 

Let me stop the sermon now to show this video. It is not a Christian production. It is really a comedic satire about the advertising industry these days. I think this is well written, produced and acted. It is about eight minutes long. It is called ‘For Your Sins.’

Advertizing Jesus: I suppose this could have been my sermon title. It is my topic, in a sense. Consider the things, out and about, that point to Jesus, point out Jesus, reveal a glimpse of glory! What signs today are among us? What signs of Jesus are visible to our neighbours in the world?

No, I am not thinking of ‘signs of the End Times.’ If I dare lump all the signs of the End and the Second Coming in one pile, I would be getting off track. I think. Wars and rumours of wars, the rise of certain world powers, events in the nation of Israel, the decline of Christianity in some places, and of societies all over… I think most of these are signs of what is falling and failing, not of Jesus who is rising and winning. 

Rather, let us seek to know what we see and know of God, and how we ‘bear witness’ to the Holy One. How can we be good signposts for God?

We might think of our very new and contemporary tools. Yet, religious social media posts are just the old ways put into new wineskins. Not usually effective. 


He Is Near

And let’s not simply tell people ‘come to church!’ (Though I am in favour of inviting people and of showing hospitality.) I’d actually say ‘you are the church.’ If someone is talking with you about spirituality, they have already ‘come to church’ – they have come to you

Our witness, I believe, is a matter of taking good notice of where God is alive out there in everyday life. Do our bit to point to the Spirit of Jesus when we are at a banquet, on a journey, in the marketplace. Even now, when so much gathering of people together is curtailed, there are ways to glimpse the glory of God. 

This happens in the best of times; this happens in the worst of times. Lutheran minister Nadie Bolz-Weber spoke in a radio interview about her CPE hospital chaplain training. (CBC Tapestry, 2013)

I’d find myself in the trauma room in the ER, with the life going in and out of people, and Drs doing things to bodies on tables that were not meant for my eyes and sorely represented on TV… It feels like chaos, but it’s very orchestrated; everyone has their job and everyone knows what they are doing, and they are doing it. And that first time I was in a trauma room I finally caught this nurse’s eye and she stepped back with me and I said, “Um, I’m a new chaplain, and you guys obviously know what you’re doing here, what am I doing here?” 

And she looked at me and she said, “Your job is to be aware of God’s presence in the room, while we do our job.” And I thought, ‘Thank you. I can do that.’

And so that’s taught me alot about to be with people in crisis and in trauma; you’re not there to like give them some sort of easy platitudes or make them feel better; you’re there to be aware of God’s presence in the room,’cause probably they can’t feel that; and to just sit in how awful it feels and not try to explain it away and not try and distract yourself with something else; but to just sit with people in how absolutely awful the thing is they are experiencing. That to me is ministry.

Bolz-Weber’s experience is perhaps extreme. Yet there will be the presence of the Crucified Jesus in the midst of the world’s real suffering and pain. At other times, our glimpses of the glory of God will be in creation and in other people – beautiful things. Like Andrew and Peter and Philip, we are given a bright light, something to share. And to be a witness to the real Jesus, we must be signs, first, and not draw attention to ourselves. It’s not about me: Him.

One of the wise elders in my life, years ago, was Robert Matthews, who was a retired Baptist Pastor when I knew him. What a dignified, serious, intelligent, hard- working, compassionate, British pastor he was! I remember Bob talking one day, about God and the Gospel, and our human role (even the role of a minister). He put it this way: we are but people who are pointing to the Light, pointing out a Star, far in the distance. We don’t have a corner on the truth. But we can see the Truth, and greet it from afar. 

That always resonated with me – not being a highly confident person – yet I can be very confident in Christ Jesus, and turn His direction.

Perhaps my best final words would simply be this famed quotation from D. T. Niles. “Evangelism is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”

PRAYER after the Sermon: Word of God, our Saviour, keep speaking to us and let us speak, in word and action, some real good news. Hide from our eyes and eyes things false and dangerous. Keep the true path before us, we pray.
Lord, let Your glory fall, as on an ancient day.
Songs of enduring love,
And then Your glory came.
And as a sign to You,
That we will love the same,
Our hearts will sing that song,
As we pray!
Amen. (Matt Redman, 2002)

PRAYERS for the world

God the Father bless you and keep you,
God the Son save you and direct you,
God the Spirit teach you and guide you,
this day and evermore. AMEN.

The Ability to Handle Conflict

(1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11) – J G White
11 am, Sun, Jan 27, 2019 – UBC Digby

I read in my devotional time a week go a story from Genesis that reminded me of a joke. Where do you find the first Baptists in the Bible?  All the way back in Genesis 13, when there was some strife between their families and livestock, so Abram says to Lot: ‘you go your way and I’ll go mine!’

‘The Ability to Handle Conflict.’  This is a sermon about capability; not a sermon about conflicts.  It is about ability: our abilities; God’s abilities.

When I looked at Dennis Bickers’ chapter about how a healthy church can handle conflict, and looked at some Bible readings for today, I saw a match.  First off, John’s great story of Jesus at a wedding in a Galilean town called Cana.

“What does this story have to do with handling conflict?” we might well ask. I see a few examples.

Wine at a wedding.  Yes, real wine. Wine that can actually get people drunk, as the chief steward mentions to the groom.  Wine made by Jesus, when the party ran out of it.

Baptist Christians have always liked miracles, certainly Jesus’ miracles, but we have not always liked wine, or other alcoholic drinks.  When the temperance movement developed, two hundred years ago, the Baptists got on board. Many congregations adopted a standard Church Covenant, written by J. Newton Brown in 1834, that included this promise to one another:  to abstain from the sale of, and use of, intoxicating drinks as a beverage…  A version of this very covenant was the one used by Digby Baptist, for years, and by Windsor Baptist, and by so many others.

I remember so fondly a man in the Windsor Church, Clayton, who lived his whole life as a very faithful servant of Jesus there: deacon, choir member, trustee, and always at Mid-week Prayer and Bible Study.  One Wednesday, I asked people to share an accomplishment of their lives they could be rightly proud of, and the one thing Clayton mentioned was that he had never taken a drink, ever. That was his accomplishment!  

To drink, or not to drink – that is a question.  And can certainly be an issue, with conflict to be handled.  

Also, the Gospel story of Jesus at the wedding starts with what could seem like a conflict with his own Mother.  She points out the problem to her son, and He says, “What does that have to do with us? It’s not my time.” I have not quite figured out, to my own satisfaction, what that little conversation means.

And any family wedding can be an occasion for ‘drama,’ as we say.  Anyway, the scene of Jesus attending a wedding gets us wondering about the issues that divide people and the trouble we give one another, from time to time. Yet this story has very little conflict, and maybe that is an inspiring part of it.  Alcohol, your mother giving you hints, and a big wedding, are not necessarily a recipe for a fight.

But wait; I just went off track right there.  A conflict does not need to be a fight.  They are not the same thing.  Conflict can be handled – handled well.  
So I’ve heard, anyway.

Unhealthy conflict is what we think of first. In a group, such as a congregation, conflict can become something we dearly want to avoid, instead of deal with positively. In his book about being a healthy church, Dennis Bickers says: Healthy churches are able to see conflict as a means by which change can occur in the church. (Dennis Bickers, The Healthy Small Church, 2005, p. 72)  Yet, in this chapter, he does not say much about how conflict is constructive.  He talks in detail about about things that cause conflicts, & ways to deal with conflict.  But never quite tells us details about how conflict helps us change for the better.

I think about the roots of conflict. Conflicts come out of our differences. We are, each one of us, different. Differing skills and gifts. Differing personalities and opinions. Differing life experiences and influences.  Differing strengths and weaknesses. Differing sins, differing righteousness.

No wonder Paul wrote at length to the believers in Corinth, Greece, a couple thousand years ago.  For pages on end he wrote to them about their conflicts. These were believers, remember, a church. But Paul has to talk to them about sexual immorality and prostitution, about lawsuits against one another, about marriage problems, about foods to eat or not eat, about his own spiritual leadership to them, about their worship – what to wear, how do to up your hair, how not to fight about the Lord’s Supper… you get the idea.  By the time we get to chapter twelve, Paul is getting beautiful and poetic. Those Christians were diverse, but wonderful! Talking about what they do when the gather to worship, he wrote:

12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

You and I cannot be confused with one another.  We are each quite different: looks, personality, voice, attitudes, interests, abilities, personal story. Problems.  No two of us alike. This is actually a great thing.

For some years it has seemed to me that my greatest weakness have, with them – within them? – the opportunity for a great strength.  And my greatest strengths have within them the danger of a weakness or problem. And so it might be for every one of us.

I look back upon my own life, and sometimes think I am indecisive.  I don’t make decisions well – small choices or big ones – I don’t know how to decide things!  But then, the other side of this coin is my ability to see more than one side of an issue, the gift of viewing the big picture, and the virtue of being humble about what ‘I’ know. So I pray: how can Christ use the strength here, instead of me using the weakness?

I think of my friend, J_____, who lives far from here in Nova Scotia.  For twenty-five years she served as registrar for an annual week-long conference of adult education and spirituality.  More than being the Registrar, she was in control of everything. All the local arrangements with the campus where the event happened, all the meal plans, details for the guest speakers where they stay, what microphones they would use, everything.  She was the main planner and designer of the schedule and the brochure. She got her son to run the website. On and on. She knew the fifty year history of the event. She was so capable, and so on top of every detail, but if she dropped out, who would know what she knows?  Who could run the seminar? She did so much… too much.

Her greatest strengths for us also had the greatest weaknesses attached.  But, as the time of her retirement came, she handed over the reigns and is helping others with the hundred tasks she used to do.

I think of a famous man – Catholic author and teacher of the 20th century – the late Henri Nouwen.  We read that he often felt so isolated, struggling with where he belonged, with loneliness, what was ‘home,’ struggling with his sexuality, wondering if he was loved.  But out of his life Nouwen inspired so many by teaching ‘you are the beloved of God, so deeply & completely loved and accepted by our God!’  One of his great little books is called, “The Wounded Healer.” That’s what he was.

Walking with God, we grow to understand ourselves, and we cooperate with the Spirit to make our weaknesses into strengths.  We are given gifts, of that Spirit, to do even more.

As we do this, we see the same in others.  We appreciate those very different from ourselves.  I see someone with a great gift to lead by making decisions – so I give thanks.  If I also find that person to be too bossy or controlling, God gives me more patience and understanding for the individual.  

So our times of conflict – as we face any change or challenge – call for us to appreciate one another.  Knowing that what bothers us about someone has, beside it, some gift that blesses. Knowing that the special skill of someone else is a gift to the whole fellowship, not something to compete over or compare.

The ability to handle conflict.  

God is able!  And may you be able. Able to handle conflict one bit better than before.  Because we value one another. Because you understand yourself better too, and love yourself better, thanks to the Master.