Last Day for Conference Discount

Just wanted to remind everyone (in case you didn’t already know) that today is the deadline to receive a discount on registrations for the 2008 Peacemaker Conference. So if you are thinking of coming to Orlando this fall, get your registration in today in order to save some money. We’d sure love to have you there!

Here’s a short clip that explains how central the gospel is at the conference:

The Conference and The Gospel – Tim Pollard from Peacemaker Ministries on Vimeo.

Francis Schaeffer on The Final Apologetic

Tony over at Sets-n-Service posted a great quote from Francis Schaeffer on what Schaeffer calls “the final apologetic.”

Yet, without true Christians loving one another, Christ says the world cannot be expected to listen, even when we give proper answers. Let us be careful, indeed, to spend a lifetime studying to give honest answers. For years the orthodox, evangelical church has done this very poorly. So it is well to spend time learning to answer the questions of men who are about us. But after we have done our best to communicate to a lost world, still we must never forget that the final apologetic which Jesus gives is the observable love of true Christians for true Christians.” Francis Schaffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, pgs. 164-165

And then in the conclusion of his reflections on this quote, Tony posed an insightful and challenging question:

I believe that this final apologetic is often times an absent apologetic. People typically describe apologetics as something the church does outwardly for the sake of truth and polemics as something the church does inwardly for the sake of truth but I think Schaffer ingeniously explores their overlap here. Our defense before the world is dependent and part & parcel with how we function on a communal level inwardly. So my question for you, as well as for myself, is are there enough observable expressions of love between true Christians in your church for it to be considered a viable witness in today’s world? And how are you seeking to defend the faith by loving those who share it in practical terms daily?

Thanks, Tony, for the challenge!

Can suffering lead to sinful pride?

I led the staff devotions here at the PM the other day with a look at suffering in 1 Peter. It’s a theme that runs through the whole book, but I became intrigued with chapter 5. I would summarize the first part of Chap 5 this way:

  1. Elders, be good leaders (vv. 1-4)
  2. Followers, follow your leaders (v. 5a)
  3. All of you, be humble (v. 5b)
  4. Humble yourselves, all of you, before God as you leave all of your worries (about your trials and sufferings) with God (vv. 6-7)
  5. Be on the lookout for temptations of Satan (as you suffer/undergo trial). Resist the temptations of the devil (the temptation not to be humble??), because lots of other Christians are suffering the same way. (vv. 8-9)
  6. The God all grace will bring you through this trial through Christ. He’s in charge and he’ll get you though it. (vv. 10-11)

I was wondering: is this passage teaching (at least in part) that one of the temptations the devil places before us when we’re going through trials is to not be humble? So often when we suffer we think it’s unfair, that we’re in the right, that all the blame belongs on the other person…or even on God.

Maybe Peter is saying to us,

Watch out…people who are suffering can easily succumb to the sin of pride. They think they know the end from the beginning and can even pridefully doubt (i.e. fail to trust) God. But Christians who are suffering (even in conflicts) need to trust (2:23 & 4:19) the good character of the God of all grace who will soon “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” them.

I don’t know…maybe I’m seeing things in the text that aren’t there. But I found it intriguing. It certainly is true of me.

Romantically Stubborn

I’ve been wondering lately why we tend to romanticize stubborness. Take this for example:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Edith Macefield, the owner of this house, died on Sunday at the age of 86.  She refused to sell her home to the construction company that was developing the property around her, and the above picture was the result.

The people in her neighborhood admired her, as did the rest of the nation when the story broke last year.  I have to admit, there’s something cool about a little old lady standing up to the machine of  “progress.” If Edith had a memorial (she explicitly said she didn’t want one) people would be standing at the pulpit, smiling and reminiscing about her stubborn streak.

The reality is much more sobering though.  I was just thinking that stubborn people (myself included) are often skilled at destroying relationships, wasting money, and being pains in the you-know-what, all in the name of pride.

Is that really something to romanticize?

“But my people would not listen to me;
       Israel would not submit to me.

 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
       to follow their own devices.”

                                    Psalm 81:11-12

“The Israelites are stubborn,
       like a stubborn heifer.
       How then can the LORD pasture them
       like lambs in a meadow?”

                                     Hosea 4:16 

 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”

                                   Romans 2:5

Biblical forgiveness looks different

A friend recently sent an article to me on forgiveness written by Dr. Laura Berman.  As a woman who has struggled with some significant forgiveness issues in her past, my friend lauded the article, saying “I like how it makes you look at your role in the situation. I find that it’s easy to hold grudges and be angry with someone without looking at how you contributed to the problem.” That’s true.  There were a couple of good points that the article made:

“Maybe the most important part of our ability to forgive is our sense of responsibility for our own lives and relationships… no adult in a consensual relationship is ever a completely innocent victim. And if you are able to really look at yourself, you will almost always see ways in which you contributed to the problem or conflict. ”

“Maybe what you disdain in [the person who hurt you] is really what you disdain about yourself. When you are aware of how little the grudge you are holding has to do with your partner and how much it has to do with you, it’s that much easier to release it.”

I struggled with the rest of the article, but it does represent a good picture of how the secular world views forgiveness.  In particular, there were two suppositions that the article made that are, I believe, contrary to Christianity.

The first was that the article stated that forgiveness was dependent upon our emotional stability. “So much of forgiveness depends on our own emotional state of being…how we feel about ourselves plays a role in how good we are at forgiving.” For Christians, forgiveness can only be rooted in a transformed heart that is not beholden to its emotions.

The second supposition that I struggled with was Berman’s idea that “what inspires us to forgive is more often selfishness than anything else.”  Forgiving for the sake of feeling better about ourselves will result in an artificial conversation that only resembles the mechanics of forgiveness, not the heart. A Christian’s motivation for forgiveness must come from 1) an overflow of grattitude for our own reconciliation to God, and 2) a dominant desire for unity rooted in love.

If anything, Berman’s article reminded me of how strange our version of forgiveness must seem to the world. What?  Forgive without expecting anything back? Forgive even if you don’t feel like it?  Forgive even when the person isn’t repentant? 

Strange, isn’t it?

Update on my Bonhoeffer quote

Hey everybody — I just wanted to direct you to Pastor David Wayne aka the JollyBlogger, where he took the time to reflect in depth on the quote I posted the other day from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  I especially appreciated his ability to comment on this quote from a pastor’s perspective and his thoughts on Bonhoeffer’s aversion to constantly “taking our spiritual temperature.” 

Take a few minutes to check out his post!

The Waves Will Not Overcome You

I was sobered and saddened this morning to see pictures of flood damage at Parkview Church in Iowa City, Iowa on a blog this morning.  I can’t even imagine how frustrating, scary, discouraging, overwhelming, etc, it would be to be part of the congregation or church leadership there right now.

Let’s all remember to pray for this church, as well as the many other people who are affected by this flooding.

I was thinking how appropriate God’s promises in Isaiah 43 are … for the literal flooding, and even more so for the emotional and spiritual flood:

But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob,
      And He who formed you, O Israel:

      “ Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
      I have called you by your name;
      You are Mine. 
     When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
      And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
      When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
      Nor shall the flame scorch you. 
     For I am the LORD your God,
      The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
      I gave Egypt for your ransom,
      Ethiopia and Seba in your place. 
     Since you were precious in My sight,
      You have been honored,
      And I have loved you;
      Therefore I will give men for you,
      And people for your life. 
     Fear not, for I am with you;
      I will bring your descendants from the east,
      And gather you from the west; 
     I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
      And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’
      Bring My sons from afar,
      And My daughters from the ends of the earth— 
     Everyone who is called by My name,
      Whom I have created for My glory;
      I have formed him, yes, I have made him.

(Isaiah 43:1-7)

Bonhoeffer, great counsel for a congregation

I never cease to be amazed at how insightful and biblical Dietrich Bonhoeffer is.  Yesterday I came across this quote in his classic book Life Together (if you haven’t read it, run to a bookstore and read it this weekend!)

 This quote struck me as a great peacemaking passage — he’s exhorting us with regard to how we should think about fellowship within our local church congregations … and if we are dissatisfied, what the solution ought to be.  Enjoy!

 “A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men. When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament. But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God.

Christian community is like the Christian’s sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.

Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognze that the ground and strength and promise of all our fellowship is in Jesus Christ alone, the more serenely shall we think of our fellowship and pray and hope for it.”

Life Together, page 29-30