Landmark Moments

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There are many national monuments that powerfully commemorate significant people and events in our nation’s history – the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial, and Mount Rushmore, to name a few.

Yet, you and I don’t just have national landmarks. We each have personal landmarks, too. For you it may be a childhood home, or a quiet park where you’ve sat and had precious quiet times with the Lord. That special spot where you said I do, or maybe that place where you said a final goodbye…. places where friendships ended, and places where they were mended.

As we read of Jacob and Laban, we see that their relationship had been punctuated by stress for several years (Genesis 30:25-31:55). At what appears to be the height of the tension, the Lord came to Jacob and instructed him that it was time to return home. Following the Lord’s guidance, Jacob left, but without so much as a good-bye to Laban, his father-in-law. When Laban made this discovery, his anger was stirred and he pursued Jacob to confront him about what had taken place.

When Laban finally caught up to Jacob, the two men spoke openly about their issues. While they both made mistakes in handling their differences, before going their separate ways, they vowed that they would do no harm to each other. As a reminder of their covenant, Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. He said to his relatives, “Gather some stones.” So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap…. Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today,” (Genesis 31:45-46, 48, NIV).

For Laban and Jacob, their journey to peace involved calling a truce and parting ways. If you find yourself in a similar situation, live up to your agreement. Honor it. Memorialize it. You don’t have to gather stones into a pile, but even if it is only in your heart, create your own personal remembrance of the time and the place when you resolved to live at peace with your fellow man.

Final thoughts…

As I close, I confess that there are landmarks on my path to peace that remind me of conflicts that ended well, and conflicts in which the outcome could have been, well… better. Still, with each step I take on this path, I have learned to rely on God, to realign my heart with His, and to approach others with humility and grace. Will you join me in this journey? Walk the path.

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Dale Pyne – CEO, Peacemaker Ministries

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Discoveries Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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There is much to be discovered in that all-too-familiar difficult place in our lives – the rock and a hard place. Sometimes when we come to this place, our less than stellar qualities are revealed, like the tendency to panic under pressure or struggle through debilitating indecision. Yet, there are other times when we find ourselves divinely empowered to face our fears, to tackle tough choices, and to overcome obstacles.

The Scripture tells of one such man who found himself between a rock and a hard place. Jacob used deceptive tactics to receive the blessing of the firstborn, but it came at a high price. It resulted in his parents instructing him to move far away from home so that he would not fall victim to the murderous intentions of his angry brother (Genesis 27:42-43).

So, under unpleasant circumstances, Jacob left home. Knowing what he’d left behind, but not sure of all that was ahead, he began his journey. Did he have questions? Doubts? Fears? Who wouldn’t? Yet, that night when he stopped to rest, “Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway,” (Genesis 28:11b:12, NIV).

As Jacob’s head rested against that rock, the Lord gently reiterated that He was the God of his father and grandfather, and that He would make good on the promise to bless him and his children. What’s more, the Lord offered assurance of His protection along the way. In that moment, Jacob was no longer between a rock and a hard place. He was between a rock and a heavenly place. A place that gave him the hope and strength to continue his journey.

Final Thoughts

I’ve had my fair share of moments between a rock and a hard place. As hard as they’ve been, I’ve made some of my most important discoveries during these difficult times. I’ve discovered my weakness and my Savior’s strength, my inadequacy and His sufficiency, my limitations and the infinite bounds of His greatness.

If you find yourself between a rock and a hard place in your relationships, you may not be able to move the rock, but perhaps the hard place can be transformed into a heavenly place – a place where your heart is touched by the Savior, comforted by His precious promises, and reminded that He will never leave or forsake you.

No matter what personal or relational challenges you may be facing, I urge you to go to Christ. As you do, may you discover – or perhaps rediscover – the strength you need to continue on your way, to do some soul searching, and to pursue a place restoration and peace. Leave behind the hard place. Embrace the heavenly place. Walk the path.

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Dale Pyne – CEO, Peacemaker Ministries

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Agree to Agree

Maybe we should just agree to disagree. This sentiment is usually offered when it becomes clear that a dispute cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved. When such an impasse has been reached, there are times when the better, more pragmatic thing to do is to simply “cease and desist.”

Yet, we all know that there are situations when this simply is not practical. On the home front, there are daily decisions that must be made on issues ranging from parenting to finances. When a husband and wife experience a marked difference of opinion on pressing issues, agreeing to disagree usually doesn’t lead to conflict resolution, but rather to more conflict.

When tactical differences lead to tension, one of the bigger challenges for couples – or any two parties who are pursuing a common goal – is to find a way to work through these differences in order to achieve the greater good.  Unfortunately, too often a clash of tactics leads to an attack on the person and not the problem. This is detrimental to everyone involved, and never results in the best outcome.

Final Thoughts…

John F. Kennedy famously said, “What unites is greater than what divides us.” Yet, in the midst of heated discourse, these words tend to fall on deaf ears. Whether the dispute occurs among friends, families, married couples, church members, co-workers, business partners, or world leaders, sometimes we get so embroiled in a conflict that we lose sight of the common ground we originally shared.

Whether you agree to disagree, or must find a way to agree to agree, when conflict emerges, attack the problem – not the other person. Consider what is dividing you.  Are you in disagreement over goals or tactics? Once you have this more clearly in focus, you may find the road to common ground is easier to navigate.

The search for common ground isn’t always a simple task. Yet, I have found it goes so much better when I make time to meet with my Savior, and ask Him to shine a spotlight on my priorities and motives. I’m still learning… still striving to move forward in this journey. Come with me. Walk the path.

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Dale Pyne – CEO, Peacemaker Ministries

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Unintended Pharisees and Leaf Raking

Ed Stetzer has a great post over at The Exchange that really resonated with some issues that I find myself dealing with and I thought it’d be a good thing to share a bit here:

Along the way I would start a Bible study while in high school, but it sometimes seemed that no one was as committed to it as I was. By college, I was a youth pastor, and still felt more committed to the process than everyone else. This frustration continued into pastoral ministry.

As I moved into roles where I trained other pastors, I found that I was not alone in my frustration. Many pastors feel the same way.

The reality is that the Pharisaical spirit often hides in fields of high expectations, and we pastors are often the source of those expectations.

As pastors and church leaders in general, we are often disappointed with the spiritual journey of many people in our care. We don’t understand why they don’t take the faith as seriously as we do. We often get to thinking that they do not truly want to grow in Christ.

“Why? Why was no one else as committed as I was?” we utter in frustration.

At this point we must stop, look in the mirror, and ask ourselves, “Wait… Why was I putting myself above others, wondering why they weren’t measuring up to my standard of passion and intensity in discipleship?”

and later:

I wonder how Jesus dealt with the issue—seeing their lack of commitment so evident among his disciples. And, perhaps that is the answer. After all, while we are comparing ourselves to others, we need to remember that none of us measure up to Jesus.

And no one expects us to.

That’s the key—Jesus gives us grace and calls us to grace, and that’s the answer to the problem of phariseeism in my heart.

Along the way, without even recognizing it, a disciple becomes a Pharisee.
Passion is good—becoming pharisaical is not good.

As I was reading about his own progression from high expectations to bitterness and pharisaical thoughts, it reminded me of this wonderful section from The Peacemaker:

LeafPileIf you look for something bad in another person, you will usually be able to find it. On the other hand, if you look for what is good, you are likely to find that too–and then more and more that is good.

As you regain a more balanced view of the other person, you will often find it easier to overlook minor offenses. I have experienced this process many times in my marriage. One day Corlette said something that really hurt me. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember going out into the back yard a few minutes later to rake leaves. The more I dwelt on her words, the more deeply I slid into self-pity and resentment. I was steadily building up steam to go back into the house and let her know how wrong she was. But then God brought Philippians 4:8 to my mind.

Ha! I thought. There’s nothing noble, right, or lovely about the way she’s treating me! But the Holy Spirit wouldn’t give up. The verse would not go away; it kept echoing in my mind. Finally, to get God off my back, I grudgingly conceded that Corlette is a good cook. This small concession opened the door to a stream of thoughts about my wife’s good qualities. I recalled that she keeps a beautiful home and practices wonderful hospitality. She has always been kind toward my family, and she never missed an opportunity to share the gospel with my father (who eventually put his trust in Christ just two hours before he died). I realized that Corlette has always been pure and faithful, and I remembered how much she supports me through difficult times in my work. Every chance she gets, she attends the seminars I teach and sits smiling and supportive through hours of the same material (always saying she has learned something new). She is a marvelous counselor and has helped hundreds of children. And she even took up backpacking because she knew I loved it! I realized that the list of her virtues could go on and on.

While Ken is specifically applying Philippians 4:8 to conflict in this context, it can easily be applied whenever we feel that bitterness over unmet expectations (like a lack of passion) creeping in. It’s my hope that we all strive to look at the noble, right, and lovely things in one another and pay attention to the hypocrite that can live within.


I heartily encourage you to read Stetzer’s post in it’s entirety here.

image credit: JuliaF

3 Rules for Troll Handling

No Trolls Allowed

Ah, internet trolls. They can be found in their natural habitat all over the world wide web from the comments sections of YouTube, Reddit, and CNN to Christianity Today and The Gospel Coalition. If you’ve ever spent any time online, you’ve probably come across one which is why I found this article by Emily McFarlan Miller over at the Her.menuetics blog so helpful (and humorous!).

As a Christian, engaging (or not) with internet trolls requires us to realize that there’s a person on the other side of that keyboard and we are called to treat them as Christ would. That’s why Emily’s advice is so good.

Here’s her three tips with a little snippet of the explanation she gives for each point:

1. Thou Shalt Not Feed the Trolls

The first commandment of the Internet is this: “Don’t feed the trolls.”

The reasoning is simple. If the intent is to make people angry or otherwise disturb them, the way to shut it down is simply not to respond. And certainly, there are Proverbs that speak to the futility of answering – or not answering – a fool.

2. Thou Shalt Not Troll

Our response to trolling, Harrington suggests, begins with our own online behavior – removing the digital plank from our eyes, so to speak.

For Jones, deciding how to respond to Internet postings begins with checking herself, asking if this is somebody with whom she normally would engage. Sometimes the seminarian tries to take the interaction offline, a tactic she learned about a year and a half ago when she was shown the same grace.

3. Love Thy Trolls

But even when a person is trolling, Jones said, “they’re still a human being. They’re still a person Jesus is crazy about. … It sounds cheesy, but it really does boil down to loving that person – am I being kind to that person? And it can be real hard to do on the Internet.”

It’s the Golden rule: Treating others on the Internet the way you would want them to treat you, even on your snarkiest, most impulsive of days.

There’s a lot more explanation over at Her.menuetics, so be sure and go read the whole thing.

Biblical Peacemaking… Coming to a TV Near You?

Ken Sande has some great and intriguing news over at his blog for Relational Wisdom360 that I’m cross-posting here in it’s entirety:

 

Peacemaking and The Good Wife

Nine million people will soon be introduced to biblical peacemaking through an hour-long television show called The Good Wife.

The Good Wife is a prime time CBS legal and political drama. Its central character is a woman named Alicia Florrick (played by Julianna Margulies), whose husband, a former state attorney general, was jailed following a moral scandal. After thirteen years as a stay-at-home mother, Alicia is forced to go back to work as a litigator to provide for her children.

The show has been highly acclaimed by critics and has picked up several major awards, earning it a sixth season, which premieres September 21. One of the show’s most popular and exciting features is when Alicia is faced with something completely new … like biblical arbitration.

How does she get into this unfamiliar forum? I can’t tell you the plot line for this particular show, but I can tell you how the idea for the script originated.

An Interesting Phone Call

Last February, I was interviewed by the New York Times for an article on conciliating a lawsuit between Christian leaders. Someone on The Good Wife production team saw the article and floated the idea of developing an episode involving Christian conciliation.

A few days later I received a call from one of the executive producers, who spent over an hour asking insightful questions about biblical peacemaking. Shortly afterwards, their team decided to build an episode around this concept.

This led to several more conversations, including a conference call with their entire writing team. They asked dozens of questions about the biblical basis of Christian conciliation, how it compares to other faith-based processes, what types of issues it can address, and its legal enforceability. They also dug deeply into the details of a typical conciliation process, such as where the parties sit, what they wear, and what role their attorneys play.

An Opportunity to Pray About

Although they’ve offered me no guarantees as to how they will portray this process or the parties involved in it, I have been impressed with their evident desire to be as realistic as possible. I’ve explained how the gospel informs a conciliation process and described several actual cases where God turned bitter lawsuits into dramatic reconciliations. This, of course, is what I hope will come through in the program, but that is in God’s hands (Prov. 21:1).

The screenplay is being finalized and filming should begin in a few days. So please join me in praying that the Lord will move the screenwriters, producers, and actors to portray Christian conciliation in a positive light and introduce millions of people to the benefits of resolving conflict—including civil lawsuits (1Cor. 6:1-8)—in a biblically faithful manner.

This episode is presently scheduled to air on October 5, but it could be bumped back a week or two by competing sports events. So if you want to see it, keep your eye on your Sunday evening television schedule in October, or visit The Good Wife web site to see the rerun.

Warning

Although the series is highly acclaimed by secular critics, many Christians would find the frequent sexual content to be offensive, which is why I do not recommend this series in general.

Some reviews indicate, however, that the program has presented Christian characters in a relatively positive light. One of them is Alicia’s daughter, whose conversion and growth as a Christian is portrayed through four seasons without the typical Hollywood clichés. Another positive portrayal involves a pastor who counsels and supports Alicia’s husband as he seeks to overcome his past.

Worldly themes certainly outnumber Christian themes, but as ReligiMedia writes, “The Good Wife has proven itself to be one of the most religiously nuanced and innovative shows in network broadcast.”

Let’s pray that the upcoming episode on biblical arbitration continues this pattern.

Learn More about Biblical Peacemaking

If you’d like to learn more about the basic principles of biblical conflict resolution, please visit the Relational Peacemaking section of our website. For more detail, read The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (Appendices B and D focus specifically on the mediation and arbitration of lawsuits between Christians).

If you’d like to be trained as a biblical mediator or arbitrator, please visit the Training and Certification section of Peacemaker Ministries’ website.

Better yet, attend Peacemaker Ministries’ Living a Legacy of Peace Conference in Colorado Springs (Sept. 25-27), which will feature keynote addresses, workshops, and training courses by some of the most experienced Christian conciliators in the world, whom I’m privileged to count as dear friends and respected colleagues.

May God use all of these channels (whether a prime time television show, our RW360 website, or a peacemaking conference) to draw people closer to a gospel-centered way of resolving conflict and preserving relationships.

– Ken Sande

Reflection Questions

What are the benefits and pitfalls of watching secular television shows and Hollywood movies?
How could Christians be tempted or misled by secular media?
How can we use these forms of entertainment to develop our powers of discernment, improve our relational abilities, and engage our culture in constructive ways? (See RW in the Movies and the movie books listed at the bottom of our Recommended Reading page )

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2014 Ken Sande

The Nuclear Power of the Gospel in Conflict

At our conference this year, we’re excited to be offering some workshops taught by Christian Muntean, Executive Director of Beyond Borders. His friend and colleague, JP Oulette, at Conflict Resolution Center wrote a great blog article explaining how relationships can be like an atom and conflict can have a nuclear power to it. He also does a spectacular job illustrating how the Gospel is crucial:

Atomic StructureIn the picture of an atom, we see a nucleus (bound protons and neutrons) surrounded by a cloud of orbiting electrons. This is a good picture of how the gospel relates to the conflicts we face in our lives every day.

The protons and neutrons in the center are the people in relationship. The electrons swirling around them are the issues that often create a cloud of mystery and awkwardness.

These issues seem to orbit our lives so fast that even one or two issues can create the illusion of a barrier between the relationship (nucleus) and the clarity of life outside the conflict. The more issues that exist, the harder it becomes to see the possibilities for resolution.

The people in relationship are tightly or loosely bound depending upon their foundation and conflicts that exist within. When relationship is severed through unresolved conflict, it can be a weapon of mass destruction leaving an aftermath of pain and bitterness in the lives of many.

Much like the individuals in the nucleus of conflict, those on the outside of the relationship often judge the situation by the cloud of issues surrounding it. It can be hard to get a clear view of the relationship or even see the potential for reconciliation. Intimidated by the cloud, we tend to back away from the situation all together.2f7e7a014c184d17ff7c9c45b2255e7c_f34

When we understand and appreciate, however, that the power of the gospel demonstrated on the cross was found in the midst of conflict, right in the nucleus, we are compelled to press past the issues and into the relationship.

Read the rest here.

Material Prosperity or TRUE Peace and Prosperity?

The Generosity Monk (one of our keynote speakers at conference, Gary Hoag) has a great meditation on his blog about the differences between true, biblical peace and prosperity and the counterfeit versions that the world produces.

Here’s an excerpt of the portion he quotes from Justin Borger’s “Personal Peace and Prosperity”:

“The bigger house, the higher salary and the comfortable retirement are poor substitutes for the Bible’s idea of peace and prosperity: shalom. Rather than defining prosperity as many Christians typically do in terms of personal affluence and professional success, shalom is a far richer sort of prosperity that encompasses every dimension of life. Perhaps most importantly, shalom measures material abundance in terms of a community’s ability to flourish as a whole, not just as individuals.

One of the Old Testament’s clearest illustrations of what true prosperity looks like can be found in a letter written by the prophet Jeremiah. Remarkably, this letter was written to a group of Jewish exiles who were anything but prosperous. Their homeland had just been destroyed, and they—along with all their material resources and possessions—had been carried off into captivity in Babylon. Nevertheless, it was in the midst of this economic disaster that God wanted to teach his people how to achieve true peace and prosperity.”

Read the rest here.

 

When Did Christians Get To Be So Mean?

There’s a great article over at Relevant Magazine that builds off of what we covered in last week’s PeaceMeal about e-mail and letters (and any digital communication, really) having the potential of sparking more conflict rather than resolving it. Michael Hidalgo has some really great contributions to the topic of why Christians so often resort to mean-spirited discussion online and how to prevent it. Here’s just a few snippets:

On the role of grace in our exchanges:

If our words are to be filled with grace it demands we give a gift to others every time we speak or write words. And too many of us are not crazy about giving grace to others, because something in each of us knows grace is expensive. If we are to speak words full of grace it costs us something.

Giving the gift of grace invites us to think outside of and beyond our agenda, our opinion and ourselves. And this is where the real difficulty comes in.

On how our small/currated social circles can impact our view of others:

It may do us well to break out of these enclaves we create for ourselves. Consider Jesus. He always hung out with those who made the religious—those who insisted on being right and defending their religion—uncomfortable. Whether it was prostitutes, tax collectors or “sinners” Jesus was often in their midst.

Not us. We stay away from them too often. And whenever something or someone from the “outside” comes into our space, we attack in the name of defending our faith, our ideas and our way of life—by any means necessary. These attacks are commonplace on the Internet and email. We launch explosive words caring little about the spiritual shrapnel that harms others.

On how listening is crucial to responding in a Biblical way:

For those of us who are passionate about God’s truth, it may do us well to ask: “Are we more concerned about the truth being known or about us being right?” I say this because if we are committed to what’s true, there is a good chance our attitude and approach will change. We will experience the move from being mean to being kind.

If our deepest desire is to know the truth, then we will be open to listening—not just speaking—because there is a good chance someone else may share a thought, insight or wisdom we have yet to learn. And when our desire for the truth surpasses our desire to be right, then we will be open and always seek first to listen and learn.

The whole article is more than worth the time to read, so hop on over to Relevant’s website to check it out!

Conference Prices Increase After June 16th

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Just a reminder that prices go up on June 17th so register today for Conference & Pre-Conference!

Register today for the best price on conference before it increases. Workshop tracks and topics now listed so you can see the workshops that are being offered at conference.

We also have our full line up of keynote speakers including Dr. Jason Meyer of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN; Dr. Gary Hoag (author and theologian), Dr. Val Shean Lomilo (veterinarian doctor who works with peace villages in Uganda) and Pastor Brady Boyd of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO.