Where Extraordinary Grace and Celestial Joy Meet

Follow this link to read a really cool story about a man who was under the most severe form of church discipline 14+ years ago, and who returned to the Lord recently.

A few quotes that I appreciated, that will hopefully whet your appetite:

“Why was it that the person Steve wanted help and trusted the most was the pastor who 14 years ago would not let his blatant sin go unaddressed?”

“How many pastors minister long enough to every see an excommunicated member restored in the same tenure?”

“It’s a love that does the hardest things and receives the sweetest expressions of reconciliation this side of heaven.”

“It was extraordinary grace on display as the Great Shepherd pursued and captured one that had strayed, fallen, and wallowed in the pit of emptiness.”

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing – it’s such a sweet reminder of a pastor’s faithfulness to his sheep … and ultimately of our Great Shepherd’s unrelenting love for those he paid such a high price to redeem.

Without This, You Can’t Even Get Started

carol-with-brown-2.JPGLast week I had the pleasure of taking some of the ladies from the ministry to the Bighorn River for a day of fly fishing.  One of my passions is teaching people to fish, so I spend hours in preparation for a trip like this to make sure that everything goes well.  I get the boat ready, go over all of the equipment that we need, and prep a big lunch (this way not all is lost if the fish aren’t biting).

God blessed us with a beautiful day and a number of the ladies caught their first fish on a fly rod.  Based on the smiles on their faces, I think they had a great time. 

At home that evening I was unhooking my boat trailer from my truck when something occured to me.  A small pin about the diameter of one of my fingers is all that connects my truck to my trailer. Trailer Pin

This hitch pin bears all of the weight of my boat and trailer as I pull it over the Montana hills on my way to the river.  The pin was absolutely necessary for everything that happened on the trip that day, yet it was something that I overlooked and didn’t even think about.

In many ways, this hitch pin is to my fishing trips as the Gospel is to peacemaking.   Without the hitch pin my boat, rods, and all my other gear are worthless.  Likewise, without the Gospel, all of the peacemaking tools and all of the training that Peacemaker Ministries offers is meaningless. When it comes down to it, without the hitch pin, I can’t even start fishing.  In a very real way, without the Gospel, we can’t even begin to help people reconcile with one another. 

It is easy to see the Gospel as just a small piece of biblical peacemaking.  In reality it is the foundation for everything that follows.  Without it, we can’t even get started.boat-photo.jpg

Ambassadors for Christ

Several weeks ago, I came across an excerpt from a short Bible study on 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.  I really appreciated what he had to say about Paul’s words on reconciliation in this passage; it’s been rattling around in my mind since then, so I decided it would be worthwhile to share.

This is from Darrell L. Guder’s Bible study called “Ambassadors for Christ;”it’s kind of a long and weighty quote, but definitely worth chewing on a bit:

Seen through the lenses of the gospel, the world is desperately in need of reconciliation. Certainly we would confirm that diagnosis-the news reported in any daily paper would document humanity’s need to be reconciled. But the human diagnosis will not identify the problem as our need to be reconciled with God. We focus upon the brutal divisions that make nations, tribes, religions, and cultures into each other’s deadly enemies. We struggle to find human resources to bring about the reconciliation for which we all long. The gospel defines creation’s distress as the result of our separation from God. It is not merely a matter of human resources but of divine intervention. So, the gospel announces that God has intervened. Our separation from God and each other has been overcome, the chasm bridged, the opposing factions brought together. Our message starts with the assurance that in Christ there already is a new creation. The work of reconciliation was accomplished at Calvary, Easter, and Ascension Day. Thus, our calling to the role of ambassadors is a consequence of what God has already done. As ambassadors, we are called into royal service, to bear this wonderful message to the world: your distress has been resolved, your rebellion overcome, your separation ended. Nothing more needs to be done before the reconciliation can take place-except that we should accept and receive the gift of forgiveness and healing that seal our reconciliation. The unlikely ambassadors who make up the church of Jesus Christ are sent out to the world to make plain that God has transformed our plight on the cross of Jesus. We are to invite the world to receive what is already available and to claim what is already true. Of course, this means that the church itself must live out this wonderful reconciliation in every dimension of its life. So the call to be reconciled is still addressed to the church as well, so that we can embark upon the embassy to the world that is our calling: “Be reconciled to God” (5:20).

(Link was from Sets-n-Service)

Piper on Discerning Idolatry in Desire

This is a post from Sean Thom, who works in our bookstore. Thanks, Sean, for contributing your thoughts!

The blog over at Desiring God posted an interesting article: “Discerning Idolatry in Desire”.  In it, John Piper outlines 12 markers that show a desire is becoming an idol.  Here are some parts that stood out to me:

  •  Paul says in Colossians 3:5, “Covetousness is idolatry.”  Covetousness” means desiring something other than God in the wrong way. But what does that mean-“in the wrong way”?  The reason this matters is both vertical and horizontal. Idolatry will destroy our relationship with God. And it will destroy our relationships with people.
  • Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is starting to feel like a right, and our delight is becoming a demand. It may be that the delight is right. It may be that another person ought to give you this delight. It may be right to tell them this. But when all this rises to the level of angry demands, idolatry is rising.

This mirrors how, on pages 102-109 of The Peacemaker, Ken describes the progression of an idol, moving from “I Desire” to “I Demand” to “I Judge” to “I Punish”.  That insight into how a desire in my heart – whether it is for a good thing or not – can become sinful idolatry has been very helpful by revealing the ways I am sinning in the midst of conflict.

I highly recommend reading the rest of John Piper’s article.  It adds layers of depth to how desires can become idols.

Easily edified or easily annoyed?

Justin Taylor has a great entry this morning in which he meditates on a quote he heard recently: “A mature Christian is easily edified.”
Justin says:

“I’m afraid that far too often an accurate assessment of myself would reveal: easily annoyed and easily irritated…”

I saw myself in his list of things that come easily, and I was able to add plenty more. Mostly I was struck by how “easily” I fall into sin in the midst of my conflicts.

Read the whole thing; it’s not long and you may be easily edified.

Clearance Sale on CCEF Booklets

CCEF BookletsOur friends over at Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation recently updated their line of topical counseling booklets that we carry in our bookstore.  As a result, we are selling the discontinued booklets at a clearance rate of only $1.00/each! (The new ones will be $3.99/each.)

Topics range from God’s Love to Worry to A.D.D. to Conflict.  They are great tools for applying biblical principles to many situations encountered in life and are useful in counseling (or conflict coaching) situations.

These are only available while supplies last, so hurry and place your order today!

The Gospel of Peace Mirrored Through Peacemaking

I just noticed a new feature on our website, at the end of the Foundational Principles section.  (I’m forever referring people to our Foundational Principles as a great starting point, so I notice new things quickly.)

This new section is called The Gospel of Peace Mirrored Through Peacemaking, and it’s a thorough statement of the Gospel through the lense of peacemaking. When I was in seminary, one of my professors said that the Gospel is like a diamond, beautiful viewed through any one of its facets, but most beautiful when you see the light of God’s love reflecting in each of its facets.  The following statement, I think, is one way of polishing one of those facets.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and
live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us
as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1).

The gospel is the good news that the King has come,
as promised in the Holy Scriptures,
in the person and loving work of Jesus Christ,
the Son of God, Prince of Peace, Savior of the world, Lord of all;

who died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected from the dead,
sending forth his Spirit and Word to give us life through a new heart and spirit,
forgiving all who will believe in him and crediting to us his perfect righteousness,
reconciling and uniting us to the Father and adopting us as dearly loved children,
and giving to us the supreme gift of knowing and enjoying God in Christ forever.

Having given us peace with God, Jesus enables us to mirror his peace to others by:

inspiring us to love, worship, glorify, obey, and serve God with all our hearts,
uniting us in spirit and purpose with other believers in his body, the Church,
empowering us to lovingly restore and forgive others, even our enemies,
enabling us to put off sinful ways and be renewed in his likeness,
and making us ambassadors of his life-giving, reconciling power.

If you click on this link, you will see a list of Scripture references supporting each line in this statement of the Gospel.