PeaceLinks

This new weekly feature highlights key articles on topics relating to peacemaking for some great weekend reading. Enjoy!

PeaceLinkThe Cross and Criticism

by Dr. Alfred J. Poirier, senior pastor of Rocky Mountain Community Church and former Chairman of the Board of Directors for Peacemaker Ministries. This is a helpful discussion of how we, as Christians, should thoughtfully, mercifully, and humbly give and receive criticism.

“In light of God’s judgment and justification of the sinner in the cross of Christ, we can begin to discover how to deal with any and all criticism.  By agreeing with God’s criticism of me in Christ’s cross, I can face any criticism man may lay against me. In other words, no one can criticize me more than the cross has. And the most devastating criticism turns out to be the finest mercy.”   Read more…

PeaceLink: True Stories: Confession from the Pulpit

by Ken Sande, President of Peacemaker Ministries. A pastor’s “embarrassing” confession left a big impression… just not the one expected!

“My stomach sank as I thought of the impression Cindy would get from this very personal scene. Of all the days to bring someone to church, I thought, why did I pick this one? I was sure this incident would scare Cindy away.”  Read more…

PeaceLinkAnswering the Call to Peacemaking

by Chip Zimmer, Vice President of International Ministries. Chip answers the question, “How do I become a peacemaker?” by providing practical advice to begin a lifestyle ministry as a peacemaker.

“Peacemaking is more than something we do. It is who we are. If we are not incarnating the peace of Christ in the way we live, we should not expect to be very useful in bringing the peace of Christ to our churches and communities. On the other hand, if we are alert to all the peacemaking opportunities around us, personal peacemaking can easily become a full-time calling.” Read more…

Video: Biola Torrey Conference Session 7: Now What? Serving God with Intentional Relationship

Peacemaker Ministries was invited this week to present all 7 sessions at Biola University’s 2010 Torrey Conference. This is the final of 7 keynote session videos with speakers Tim Pollard, Gary Friesen, Ed Gilbreath and Annette Friesen addressing relational health, conflict and relationship reconciliation and how the gospel is at the very core of all of it.

Session 7
Annette Friesen: Now What? Serving God with Intentional Relationship

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I desire: The Idolatry and Adultery in Our Hearts

Over at The Gospel Coalition, Thabiti Anyabwile posted this great excerpt a couple of days ago:

What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? (James 4:1-4a)

“An idolatrous heart will produce idol words, words that serve the idol that grips us.  It is hard for us to hold our desires loosely.  Instead, they tend to take hold of us.  Our desires tend to get elevated to a position where they should never be.  Here is what happens: A desire battles for control until it becomes a demand.  The demand is then expressed (and usually experienced) as a need.  (“I need sex.”  ”I need respect.”)  My sense of need sets up my expectation.  Expectation when unfulfilled leads to disappointment.  Disappointment leads to some kind of punishment.  ”You want something, but you cannot get it.  You quarrel and fight.”  So when James says, “You adulterous people,” he is not changing the subject.  He is saying something very significant.  Adultery takes place when I give the love I have promised one person to someone else.  Spiritual adultery occurs when I give the love that belongs to God alone to something or someone else.  James is saying that human conflict is rooted in spiritual adultery!  This is a momentous thought!  We will not solve our problem with angry words until we humbly address the adultery and idolatry of our hearts.”

Paul David Tripp, War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2000), p. 59.

HT: Pure Church

Video: Biola Torrey Conference Session 6: Beyond the Reconciliation Blues

Peacemaker Ministries was invited this week to present all 7 sessions at Biola University’s 2010 Torrey Conference. This is the sixth of 7 keynote session videos with speakers Tim Pollard, Gary Friesen, Ed Gilbreath and Annette Friesen addressing relational health, conflict and relationship reconciliation and how the gospel is at the very core of all of it.

Session 6
Ed Gilbreath: Beyond the Reconciliation Blues

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Video: Biola Torrey Conference Session 5: A Different Point of View

Peacemaker Ministries was invited this week to present all 7 sessions at Biola University’s 2010 Torrey Conference. This is the fifth of 7 keynote session videos with speakers Tim Pollard, Gary Friesen, Ed Gilbreath and Annette Friesen addressing relational health, conflict and relationship reconciliation and how the gospel is at the very core of all of it.

Session 5
Ed Gilbreath: A Different Point of View

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Emptying My Backpack – Report from Cape Town (Day 7)

Every morning before I walk to the  conference center, I put several copies of The Peacemaker and dozens of “Peacemaking Principles” pamphlets into my backpack. I then pray that God will give me opportunities to give every one of them to a person he has prepared to embrace gospel-centered peacemaking and become an ambassador of reconciliation in his or her own land.

It has been a joy to experience God’s daily answer to that prayer. Each evening I return with an empty backpack and many new friends from other parts of the world. One of the ways this has happened is that people who have been receiving my reports back home are emailing friends who are at the conference, telling them I am here and urging them to contact me. Many of those people have gone to the registration desk, asked for my table number, and then visited with me during breaks. Thank you to those who have been arranging these other-side-of-the-world connections!

Many of these meetings have involved people whose lives are being turned upside down by conflict. One man who leads a large ministry in Africa sought me out to seek advice and prayer. Just a few days before the conference, he was notified by his board of directors that he must either resign or be fired. He has devoted 25 years of his life to this ministry and is grieving as he realizes that unresolved conflicts from the past have accumulated to this explosive level. We had a good talk and developed a plan on how he can confess his wrongs and appeal to his board to work with one of our conciliators so they can either restore their relationship or at least part in peace and maintain a positive witness to the thousands of people in Africa who are watching this conflict unfold. Please pray that his board will respond favorably to his confession and request.

Our first speaker was Calisto Odede, an eloquent pastor from Kenya. He pointed out that evangelism is often undermined because so many believers, including pastors, have made Christianity unpalatable to others by the way they live. Evangelical churches are too often plagued with lack of love, sexual immorality, church splits, and indifference to the poor and helpless. Such behavior belies our profession that we follow the God of love, and it destroys our witness for Christ. As Pastor Odede taught, the solution is to humble ourselves before God, confess our failures, and seek his grace to become the kind of true Christ-followers described in Ephesians 4-6.

Our next speaker was Chris Wright, a ministry leader from the UK. Chris built on Calista’s talk, pointing out that “idolatry is one of the biggest impediments to world evangelism.” He identified three primary idols in the church: (1) power and pride, (2) popularity and success, (3) wealth and greed.

By the way … all of the messages I’m describing in these reports are available for free download from the Lausanne web site (www.Lausanne.org/cape-town-2010).

These are some of the most gifted Christian teachers in the world, so I encourage you to view their talks and share them with others close to you or in your church.

Chris gave several all-too-convicting examples of how these idols rule the hearts of so many believers, including the leaders of prominent churches and global ministries. These idols are often the spark and fuel of conflict among believers, which contributes to our diminished credibility in the world today. The solution is to confess and repent of our idols, and call out to God for grace to become people who are clearly HIS (marked with humility, integrity, and simplicity. Like most of the people in the room, I was deeply convicted of how often these idols rule in my heart and how much I still need to grow in humility, integrity, and simplicity. The time of personal and corporate confession that followed was one of the most moving experiences of the conference. I was so impressed with Chris’s insights that I purchased his new book, The Mission of God’s People, which I strongly recommend to you.

Femi Adeleye, a ministry leader from Nigeria, then provided a hard-hitting critique of “prosperity theology” (also known as “health and wealth” teaching) that is sweeping through the global south. He graciously but firmly showed how this teaching is utterly contrary to Scripture, sets people up for inevitable disillusionment, and ultimately undermines true evangelism. I noticed that many of the people sitting around me were not applauding with the rest of us, which seemed to indicate that they have embraced this doctrine and were unhappy with his critique. According to Femi, prosperity theology is one of the greatest heresies to hit the church in our time. It turns God into a heavenly ATM, sets up expectations that he never promised to fulfill, and promotes a lifestyle that is contrary to the simplicity, sacrifice, and suffering that our Lord  taught and modeled.

This teaching is especially appealing to poor people, who are desperate and often turn over much or all of their possessions to a teacher in hopes of getting a hundred-fold return from God. When that does not come through, he has observed that they usually lose faith, fall away from the church, and are “immunized” from the true gospel. (When someone later shares the real gospel with them, all too often they say, “I’ve already tried Jesus, and he didn’t work.”) Please pray with me that God would open the eyes of those who preach this distorted concept and instead hold forth the real riches and treasures that are ours in Christ.

During lunch, I met with a pastor named Philbert who is leading a reconciliation ministry called REACH in Rwanda, which is still recovering from the after-effects of the 1994 genocide between Hutus and Tutsis. I was impressed with his understanding of the underlying causes of the violence and the steps that are need for healing. It was especially encouraging to hear his emphasis on the forgiveness we have received through Jesus’ atonement for our sins on the cross. I understand that some of the groups doing reconciliation work in Rwanda seem to be encouraging forgiveness primarily on the basis of self interest. (For instance, “Forgive those who abused you because it will release you from bitterness and anger.”)

While it is true that forgiveness does ultimately benefit us, self-interest is an insufficient motivation to forgive those who have hurt us deeply. (People often develop a perverse taste for hating those who hurt them, and think they will find more pleasure in hating their enemies than in forgiving them.) Only by focusing on the infinitely great love Jesus showed us and the infinitely great price he paid for us on the cross can we find sufficient inspiration and motivation to truly forgive our enemies. (Forgiveness was the theme of Peacemaker Ministries’ recent annual conference; you can download audio versions of outstanding 2010 keynotes on forgiveness here.)

Philbert is concerned that much of the forgiveness that has occurred in Rwanda is superficial and has not done away with the long-standing roots of ethnic hatred and bitterness. Like many others involved in ministry there, he fears that violence could break out again if the people are not deeply transformed by the love and grace of Christ. He asked for copies of our seminar and training materials, which he hopes to adapt for use in his reconciliation workshops. I look forward to developing this relationship more fully as God allows.  

Later in the day I met with Mouneer Anis, the Anglican Bishop of North Africa. He is deeply concerned about the way interpersonal conflict between believers in churches, hospitals, orphanages, and other Christian ministries in his region continually undermines their witness of Christ. I will be speaking at a peacemaking conference he has planned in Egypt next May. Mouneer is one of the most respected conservative Bishops in the Anglican church, and he has cultivated close relationships throughout North Africa and the Middle East with Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Evangelical leaders, many of whom are being invited to this conference. I love interdenominational gatherings, not only because they spread our teaching more widely, but also because they model the very peace and unity we are encouraging believers to pursue.

By late afternoon, I was so tired that I returned to my room for a brief nap before the evening sessions. I was more weary than I realized and slept solidly for 10 hours. I was sorry to have missed the evening speakers, but was grateful to have caught up a bit on my sleep. This has one of been the most intense, information-packed, and fast-paced conferences I’ve ever attended, so it was good to get physically rejuvenated for the final day of worship, teaching, and interaction. Stay tuned for my final report.

Video: Biola Torrey Conference Session 4: Go…and Be Reconciled

Peacemaker Ministries was invited this week to present all 7 sessions at Biola University’s 2010 Torrey Conference. This is the fourth of 7 keynote session videos with speakers Tim Pollard, Gary Friesen, Ed Gilbreath and Annette Friesen addressing relational health, conflict and relationship reconciliation and how the gospel is at the very core of all of it.

Session 4
Gary Friesen: Go…and Be Reconciled

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Update from Cape Town (Day 6)

Friday in Cape Town

Brits have a way with words. It’s not just their delightful accent; it’s their command of the English language (they started it, after all) and their unique ability to string thoughts and words together in such attention-grabbing and persuasive ways.

These skills were marvelously displayed by this morning’s opening speaker, Vaughan Roberts, a former lawyer who is now Rector of St. Ebbe’s Church in Oxford. He did a masterful job of unpacking two key points from Ephesians 4. First, Christian unity requires an outworking of God’s calling for us to live lives that reflect his sacrificial love and redeeming grace. He illustrated this point by telling us about Tutsi students in Rwanda who risked their lives to shelter and feed Hutu friends during the 1994 genocide.  When a Rwandan leader learned of their willingness to move beyond traditional tribal loyalties even at the risk of death, he said, “Ah, I see we have now three tribes in our country: Hutus, Tutsis, and Christians.” This is exactly what God calls us to do—to give our highest allegiance to Christ and to imitate him.

Vaughn’s second point was that Christian unity requires the diligent proclamation of God’s Word. He pointed out that there is a “famine of God’s Word” in most of the world. In some lands this famine is because his Word is simply unavailable. In other places, including many churches in the West, Bibles are available but Christians fail to study them faithfully and pastors fail to teach God’s Word in all of its fullness. Vaughn concluded that the greatest need in world evangelism is recruiting, training, deploying, and maintaining believers to preach and teach the Word of God.

During the break I talked to several church and missionary leaders from Asia. They said that leaders in their churches and mission teams are often embroiled in conflict that is fueled by pride, control, and power struggles. These conflicts disillusion the members of their churches and teams and often result in crippling divisions and splits that destroy their witness. We had a good discussion about how to equip leaders to practice and model biblical peacemaking, so their lives reflect the reconciling power of the gospel. We all exchanged cards, and I look forward to engaging more with them in the months ahead.

Our second speaker for the day was Paul Eshleman, the founder of Campus Crusade’s JESUS Film Project. He provided a fast-paced and compelling presentation on the unreached people groups in the world, and challenged us to join together to reach 632 “unengaged and unreached” groups in the next three years. He was accompanied on stage by a young American woman who described her experience of living in a remote Muslim village to develop an oral version of key Bible stories, so the people could hear the gospel in their own language. One of the local women who heard the stories came to Christ right away and began to tell them to other women. Many of them also came to faith and are now traveling to neighboring villages to share the good news with others.

We also heard from a former Muslim named Daniel who has devoted his life to witnessing to Islamic scholars and imams. In spite of constant death threats, he and his associates have shared the gospel with 10,000 Muslim leaders in the last ten years. One thousand of them have put their trust in Christ. May all of us remember their courageous witness whenever we have the opportunity to share the gospel with those God brings across our path.

Later in the afternoon, I joined my friends in the Reconciliation study group to discuss stories of hope and healing. Lisa Loden described the efforts that Musalaha is sponsoring to promote reconciliation between Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians in Israel. Célestin Musekura, president of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries in Rwanda, shared a powerful testimony of a collaborative effort to promote reconciliation between conflicted tribes in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

After sharing similar stories in small groups, we identified several principles that are essential to peacemaking regardless of cultural context. These included an unshakable focus on the gospel, prayer, the support of fellow believers, a genuine desire to understand and see things from the perspective of others, and a willingness to engage, even our enemies, over a long period of time. After the meeting I spent quite a bit of time talking with other delegates about how we could partner with each other to deepen our understanding of biblical peacemaking and to strengthen churches around the world in their efforts to be agents of reconciliation. I look forward to working more with these friends in the future.

Video: Biola Torrey Conference Session 3: God’s Glory and Coming Clean

Peacemaker Ministries was invited this week to present all 7 sessions at Biola University’s 2010 Torrey Conference. This is the third of 7 keynote session videos with speakers Tim Pollard, Gary Friesen, Ed Gilbreath and Annette Friesen addressing relational health, conflict and relationship reconciliation and how the gospel is at the very core of all of it.

Session 3
Gary Friesen: God’s Glory and Coming Clean

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Video: Biola Torrey Conference Session 2: The Hope and Impact of the Gospel

Peacemaker Ministries was invited this week to present all 7 sessions at Biola University’s 2010 Torrey Conference. This is the second of 7 keynote session videos with speakers Tim Pollard, Gary Friesen, Ed Gilbreath and Annette Friesen addressing relational health, conflict and relationship reconciliation and how the gospel is at the very core of all of it.

Session 2
Tim Pollard: The Hope and Impact of the Gospel

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