No Back Door

I read a great blog post this morning from a church planter reflecting on one of the primary factors that contributed to the success of their first year of ministry as a church plant: there was no “back door” and no option to quit.

When you run headlong into the kind of severe frustration that has the potential to spark a breakthrough concept, you start figuring out how to get out instead of how to fight through…. But many people miss the blessings and breakthroughs born only by perseverance because they keep one hand on the back door.

How true is this in all of our relationships?  I can’t help but think that there’s probably be less divorce, less church-hopping and less broken friendships and family relationships if we were compelled to remain together and get creative about how to work things out.

Conference Deadline and Shirts

I know that this headline doesn’t make much sense, but I just wanted to alert you all to a couple of different things:

  1. Prices for the 2009 Peacemaker Conference go up after January 31st, so I wanted to remind you all that if you want to receive the lowest registration price for the conference, you’ll need to register soon!
  2. In the past, some folks have been interested in the nice embroidered shirts that you often see the staff wearing at our past conferences. Our shirt vendor (a friend whose business is right next door to our office) has decided to take orders for these shirts from the general public for a limited time. If you get your order in before March 1st, you can essentially get these shirts at cost. So visit www.vashirts.com/Peacemakers.htm for more information. You always wanted to look like a peacemaker, right?

And now back to your regular programming…

Sermons We Don’t See

Our conference manager, Kerri Takeuchi, shared at staff devotions this morning about what it looks like to extend grace to people, especially those who clearly don’t deserve it.  She mused a bit about how we all can find ourselves of needing to choose between “setting boundaries” and “showing tough love” and giving grace to the offending person.  Kerri said that she’s been learning that deliberately erring on the side of grace toward others can help them to pause and take note of how we are showing Christ’s love to them.  One example she mentioned was this: If we receive poor service in a restaurant, how often do we not leave a generous tip? What would it say to the server if we gave them the benefit of the doubt and left an overly generous tip?  What if we included a note that we hope this blesses them, and we are leaving it in Christ’s name?

Here’s a poem Kerri shared with us in conclusion — an exhortation to show our faith through our actions more than our words. I think the same thing can be said about peacemaking, specifically, as sermons generally:

Sermons We Don’t See, by Edgar Guest

I’d rather see a sermon
than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me
than merely tell the way.

The eye’s a better pupil
and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing,
but example’s always clear;

And the best of all the preachers
are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action
is what everybody needs.

I soon can learn to do it
if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action,
but your tongue too fast may run.

And the lecture you deliver
may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lessons
by observing what you do;

For I might misunderstand you
and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding
how you act and how you live.

When I see a deed of kindness,
I am eager to be kind.
When a weaker brother stumbles
and a strong man stays behind

Just to see if he can help him,
then the wish grows strong in me
To become as big and thoughtful
as I know that friend to be.

And all travelers can witness
that the best of guides today
Is not the one who tells them,
but the one who shows the way.

One good man teaches many,
men believe what they behold;
One deed of kindness noticed
is worth forty that are told.

Who stands with men of honor
learns to hold his honor dear,
For right living speaks a language
which to every one is clear.

Though an able speaker charms me
with his eloquence, I say,
I’d rather see a sermon
than to hear one, any day.

Kids… Our Backup Consciences

Ken Sande is fond of referring to his kids as his “backup conscience,” particularly in how he treats his wife. What he means is that there are moments we we are having a particularly heated (ahem) “discussion” with our wives where our primary conscience seems to be malfunctioning — we are no longer treating them with care or gentleness, to say the least. And that’s when our backup consciences (our kids) kick in to remind us to stop concentrating so much on the logs in Mom’s eye and start thinking a little more about getting the logs out of our own eye. Ken has many stories to tell of how his kids have reminded him to do what’s right, even when he was tempted to do otherwise.

I had my own experience of seeing this principle in action this past weekend. As my wife and were going back and forth trying to work through an issue, I could tell that my five-year-old daughter was trying to figure out what she could do to help. (Other times when we’ve been in these situations, she would often go to each of us and whisper in our ears, “Please be a peacemaker.” That in itself is helpful, I must admit.) But this time, after her mother left the room for a few minutes, she spoke directly to me.

“Daddy,” she said. “How excited was Mommy when you asked her to marry you?”

I had to smile at that moment for two reasons:

  1. She had to have been thinking hard about it all, and I could picture the wheels turning in her mind. She must have wondered, “Hmmm… what is something I can say to Daddy to remind him how much he loves Mommy. Something that will make him forget that he’s mad at her right now. I know! I can ask him about when they got engaged!” I liked following her train of thought and where it eventually arrived.
  2. But moreso, when you think back on the nervousness, fun, and joy involved in your marriage proposal, as well as all the reasons you wanted to get married to this person, how can you not smile? My daughter had reflected the truth of Philippians 4:8 in reminding me, “Whatever is lovely… think on these things.” 

It’s not like the issue immediately went away, but a definite softening of my heart happened there. And that helped us to deal with the issue more constructively. (I told my wife about it later, and she appreciated it, too. You can read her side of the story here.)

I was proud of my daughter for acting as a peacemaker in that moment. She really did help to serve as my backup conscience — even if I wasn’t really asking for it to kick in (but I guess that’s the point of having a backup). This is certainly one of the fringe benefits of teaching our children these principles of peacemaking. (If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take a look at the Young Peacemaker materials and consider how you might incorporate them in your own family.)

From Broken Pieces to Reconciliation in Rwanda

I opened my inbox this morning to find a story from Prison Fellowship International; it’s the President’s Weekly Message, called From Broken Pieces to Reconciliation.  I was gripped by the story of a bishop in Rwanda who is spearheading reconciliation efforts following the 1994 genocide — he has facilitated some of the program where offenders are building homes for victims, in addition to founding a boarding school for orphans.

I encourage you to read the whole thing, but here are a few quotes that caught my eye:

From the Latin word conciliare, “to bring together,” reconciliation literally means a drawing together, a re-uniting. Or, as Bishop John puts it, “Christ brings the parts back together.” Jesus allows us to re-tell the story of our lives, to re-concile the broken pieces of that story. This labor is divine, yet conducted with willing human hands and hearts softened by His mercy. As Christians through the centuries have taught, it often involves tears, what some Christians even call “the gift of tears.”

And this is what makes that reconciliation possible…

Bishop John embraced the broken man and said, “No. You are forgiven. We have a forgiving God.” Years after the genocide, this inmate’s heart allowed for a certain mercy-won on a forlorn hill outside of Jerusalem-to unfurl; the collecting of the broken pieces of this prisoner’s life had wondrously begun. He began to understand that he is forgivable.

Like the cross, Rwanda can seem so remote. The Rwandan calculus of sin-with so many hacked to death, as the bishop says, “drunk with evil”-and grace seem to defy all categories. It is easier, more comfortable, to understand Bishop John’s stories as fiction. Both the sin and the grace-that Christ could receive into eternity any man who has raped and slaughtered-seem too offensive and far-reaching.

And yet, perhaps it is this incredulousness, this posture of a hardened heart, this shirking of Christ’s offensive grace, which requires the Holy Spirit to “break us up”; to jackhammer the cement which encases the pieces of our unredeemed stories; to get us to the point where we turn to Christ and beg Him to helps retell the story of our lives, to reconcile. If all of this is really true, it should make us weep.

The Ministry of Listening

I was in the mood for some Bonhoeffer today.  This is from Life Together:

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word  but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.

Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking when they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon no longer be listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it. Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 97-98)

As I was typing this, I was both blessed and convicted — blessed by thinking of the times in the last few weeks, months, year when people have genuinely ministered to me simply through listening.

I’m convicted, though, that I don’t listen enough.  I don’t listen when people are hurting and simply need a sympathetic ear rather than hearing platitudes or a sermon from me.  I don’t listen when I don’t have time.  I don’t listen when I want to “fix” that person’s problem. I don’t listen when I feel like I have the right to get something off my chest, or when I don’t really care what the other person has to say. And I don’t listen when — as Bonhoeffer says here — I’m thinking that I have such great things to contribute to the conversation that they simply must be spoken.

May the Lord help me to listen more and to speak less, both in conversation with Him and with those around me.

Upcoming Peacemaking Seminars!



Salem, Oregon (DVD series) – Jan. 19, 26, Feb. 2 & 9: http://tinyurl.com/salemseminar

Roanoke, VA – Jan. 24: http://tinyurl.com/roanokeseminar

Sparta, WI – Jan. 24: http://tinyurl.com/spartaseminar

Cedar Park, TX – Feb. 15: http://tinyurl.com/cedarparkseminar

Bakersfield, CA – Mar. 6-7: http://tinyurl.com/bakersfieldseminar

Jesus and the Fruit of the Spirit

I was reading Sinclair Ferguson’s book Grow in Grace this morning and came across an interesting section about how Jesus developed the fruit of the Spirit in his own life and ministry.  Ferguson’s point is to help us see Christ as both trailblazer and helper in our own struggle to grow in grace — Scripture demonstrates how Christ suffered, struggled, was tempted and even had to grow … and one of those areas of growth was in the fruit of the Spirit.

When Paul describes the fruit of God’s Spirit in the life of the Christian in Galatians 5:22-23 he is also giving us a picture of Jesus. He was the one who was  baptised with the Spirit and experienced him without limitation (John 3:34).

It is an illuminating Bible study to examine Paul’s list of Spirit-grown qualities and trace each of them through the life and ministry of our Lord. See his love in giving his life as a ransom for all. Think of his joy as the Great Shepherd who carries his lost sheep home to the Father. Notice his peace and poise. Watch the kindness of his actions to the poor and needy. Trace the sheer goodness of his life as he ministers publicly for three years. Meditate on his amazing faithfulness both to God and men, even when he felt forsaken by the one and was rejected by the other. Then there is his gentleness, to the sick, to the broken hearted, to needy and hopeless sinners. Remember his self-control when wicked men mocked and scourged him. Grow in Grace, 12-13.

I guess what caught my attention about this passage today is that the fruit of the Spirit are all things that that we need to be growing in as Christians and peacemakers.  And Ferguson’s point (made more fully in the rest of the chapter) is so true — that Christ is not only our example in how we should live, but he is also our power — because Christ was fully tempted and it was (believe it or not!) just as difficult for him to live out the fruit of the Spirit, his success in this area and sending the Spirit into our hearts makes it possible for us to even fathom living lives characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.  Thank him!

Quotes for the weekend

“Peace is not only better than war, but infinitely more arduous.”

— George Bernard Shaw

Putting it in more of an inter-personal context, this quote reminded me of another one that we cite frequently around here:

“Nothing is so cruel as the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.”

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

John Piper Keynote Address at our ’06 Conference is now available!

A message from our media guy:

We now have the 2006 Peacemaker Conference keynote session from John Piper available!

John Piper Annual Conference Keynote Address 2006 from Peacemaker Ministries on Vimeo.

Login in to Vimeo to download the Quicktime video or simply watch it. You may not know this, but we provide you with the ability to download several of our videos for free! Simply login to Vimeo (an account may be necessary) and look for a video that interests you. If it’s downloadable, scroll down on the right until you see the “Download Quicktime Video” link.

Also newly available are MP3 downloads of our past conferences! To access, go to: Peacemaker.net/downloads and select the conference and the audio you want. They vary in price, but we offer the keynote sessions for FREE!

Currently available are:
2006 – John Piper
2007 – Ken Sande
2007 – Victor Nakah
2007 – Randy Alcorn
2007 – Ed Gilbreath

Check back regularly as more audio and video are added.