The Cure for Bitterness

Brooks Hanes wrote a great post this week over at The Gospel Coalition blog on The Cure for Bitterness. I’m not at all familiar with Pastor Hanes, but I hope that will change as I read more from him like this! He really captures the pain of bitterness:

Leaders who treated us with contempt, friends and family who pushed us out of their lives, bosses who lied to us about job openings, or respected business people who told us one thing and told our friends another—similar types of people have hurt us all.

After years of subsiding anger, the free-flowing pain slows its sloshing, and turns to concrete: It is bitterness.

And then points to the (admittedly difficult) antidote of forgiveness:

Of course, we know what to do! Confront and forgive the wrongdoer (Matthew 18). The gospel tells us that God loves us so much he sent his Son Jesus to pay for all our sin. This includes the sin with which someone hurt you badly in your past. For Christians the sin is forgiven; have you forgiven that person, even if they do not know they did something to hurt you?

Knowing what to do—and doing it—are good and evil twin brothers. In many cultures, candor is a social sin, only because comfort is the greater idol. We therefore deal with any pain rather than “speaking the truth in love . . . growing up in every way into him . . . ” (Eph. 4:15).

And speaks from personal experience:

My own bitterness story came from a friend. I was injured, and he was oblivious to his own infliction of it. Salt overflowed my wound…

During that time of loneliness, where I knew I was treated wrongly, I even grew out of talking about it. I couldn’t address it without anger or a spirit of pride. I was “better” than that man. I knew “more” than he did. I would “never” do to anyone else what he did to me. The most bitter people are the ones who don’t know they’re bitter! We think we are immune to it.

Wow, that’s convicting: The most bitter people are the ones who don’t know they’re bitter! Anyone for a bit of heart examination? Let me leave you with the call to examination that he gave:

If no one accuses you of bitterness, is it at all possible you have some? Find out: trace any “dead” feeling toward someone or some church back to an event or a conversation. Ruminate in that time or place. Ask yourself why you hang onto it. Ask God to show you exactly—specifically—why have you not been able to have peace?

Then grab the only known medicine proven to heal this type of pain. It is the good news of Christ Jesus…

Read the whole thing.

PeaceLinks

Highlights from some of the many helpful articles on the Peacemaker Ministries website for some great weekend reading.  Enjoy!

The Harvest is Great but the Laborers are Grumbling

by Donald L. Bubna, member of Peacemaker Ministries’ Board of Directors. This article identifies the divisive spirit that characterizes many churches today, and then shows how a church can change to become unified for the glory of God.

“The real enemy is not the person we are reacting against because of his disruptive behavior in the church. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world” (Ephesians 6:12). The enemy is the devil, who delights in disunity. He hides in the background, preferring we not recognize his role in our conflict. Riding on our selfishness, he can work through well-meaning folks like us.” Read More…

True Stories: The Policeman Who Made Peace

You don’t have to be a pastor, counselor or lawyer to guide others through a conflict. Here’s an account of how one layperson successfully applied the knowledge he learned through peacemaker training.

“When I was transferred into a new department three weeks ago, I learned of a conflict that had been going on between two co-workers for over five years. It was so intense that it was affecting the entire department. So I began to pray that God would use me to make peace. He answered that prayer more dramatically than I expected!” Read More…

A Conciliator’s Prayer

by Ken Sande, President of Peacemaker Ministries. A prayer that captures the heart of a peacemaker.

“Oh Lord God,

Today I am called to be a peacemaker,
but I am unfit for the task.

By nature I am a peace-faker
and a peace-breaker,
so I myself need help.”

Read More…

Peacemaking in the Dominican Republic

We love to hear of folks in our network sharing their passion for peacemaking in exciting ways. Take this report, for instance, which describes a group from Gig Harbor, WA who went to the Dominican Republic to teach the principles of biblical peacemaking there. Great job Jerry, Cathie,  and Jon (and any others that made it possible)! Love to see the Young Peacemaker sitting there on the table… we pray God would use it and all the other materials that are now there for His great purposes!

Teaching Peacemaking in the Dominican Republic

Remembering Sam Ericsson

Our condolences and prayers go to our friends and family over at Advocates International in the loss last Friday of a spiritual giant and great Kingdom servant, Sam Ericsson.  Chip Zimmer, our VP of Global Ministry, serves on the Advocates board, and many of the rest of us here have also had the opportunity to meet Sam and see his passion for “doing justice with compassion” through the global work of Advocates. He will be greatly missed.

This anecdote from a friend and colleague captures a small piece of Sam and his legacy:

Years ago Sam conceivably argued more cases before the US Supreme Court than any other attorney his age.  After losing a case, he would return to the CLS headquarters with pizzas and sodas to celebrate.  His colleagues wondered if he was confused about the outcome of the case.  His response?  “We celebrate when we win. Why not celebrate when we lose?  God is still in charge.  We’re celebrating the opportunity to serve Him.  The results are in His hands.”

May we all celebrate the opportunity to serve Him every day.

Conflict and Church Leaders

A nice little interview of Ken Sande recently appeared in Leadership Journal, and is worth the read. Not that it’s always easy reading–Ken calls church leaders to account in several areas: approachability, accountability, pride, succession planning, and other critical aspects of leadership. Here’s one example of the counsel Ken gives related to conflicts over “theological” issues:  

Often conflicts are pitched as theological—differences over doctrine, which can lead to impassioned disagreements in a church and charges of heresy. How do you counsel leaders in that scenario?

Number one, pray for humility. It’s so easy to become very proud. People should remember how much their own understanding has changed over the years. We are always growing; always learning. Things we believed passionately years ago may not be the same as today. So maybe there is an issue that I’m wrong about today. Humility is vital.

Number two, realize that the only way to carry on a meaningful discussion is in the context of relationship. So preserving the relationship is crucial. It means listening, being kind, being forbearing, even if the other person is wrong and being offensive. Consider some important questions: How do I approach a brother on a very important doctoral issue and yet still treat him with love, respect, and humility? What do I owe a person just because he’s made in God’s image? And if he’s a believer, he has also been redeemed. I owe him a great deal in our engagement.

The controversy between John Wesley and George Whitefield has been an example to me. They had strong theological disagreements. But I saw one letter that Whitefield wrote to Wesley at the end of his life, earnestly trying to persuade him. Yet in the midst of it, he kept addressing him as “my dear brother.” You see them both valuing and preserving the relationship and not just winning the argument.

(And note: many of the themes Ken addresses in the article are covered more thoroughly in our resource for church leaders, The Leadership Opportunity: Living Out the Gospel where Conflict & Leadership Intersect.)

PeaceLinks

Highlights from some of the many helpful articles on the Peacemaker Ministries website for some great weekend reading.  Enjoy!

Being Equally Yoked

by D. Wayne Myrick, the CEO of Myrick, Gurosky & Associates, a nationally recognized church design and construction company. As a business owner who works frequently with churches, contractors, and other professionals, Wayne shares his insights related to resolving (and avoiding) conflicts in business relationships.

“We should expect conflict in our lives, because we live in a fallen world. But the best way you can know that you’re equally yoked to those you deal with—both in business and personal relationships—is to agree on how you will deal with conflict.” Read More…

True Stories: A Good Pair of Walking Shoes

by Heidi Thomas. When her neighbor has a conflict with her son’s teacher, Heidi learns that being a peacemaker often involves first being a friend.

“I suggested the team approach. Both Jenni and the teacher wanted what was best for this child, and they needed to feel they were on the same team to accomplish this goal. It took a lot of courage for Jenni to approach that teacher a second time. But, this time she had been trained how to approach a conflict in a different way. She knew there were no guarantees to the teacher’s reaction. Her goal was just to try to make things right from her perspective.” Read More…

Children Can Be Peacemakers

by Ken Sande, President of Peacemaker Ministries. This article gives a helpful introduction on how to raise our own children to be peacemakers.

“’He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother’ (1 John 4:21). In a fallen world, such love for others does not come naturally. Nobody has to teach us to put “me” first; we do not need instruction on how to be selfish. And, if you didn’t know it before you had children, you certainly know it after: Nobody has to teach kids to fight.” Read More…

Gospel Conversations

I posted this  great piece from The Resurgence on our ministries Facebook and Twitter feeds a while back and it got a lot of positive feedback, so here’s an excerpt:

Listening to others by asking good questions, empathizing with their struggle, and discerning their heart’s desires and beliefs only gets us half-way to good gospel conversation. To bless one another with true, Christ-shaped counsel, we need to reveal the gospel in each other’s story. Here are a few ways to lovingly make the gospel-turn in conversation.

Apply the Gospel to your own story

It is important that the conversation-leader be a “lead repenter” when answering heart-penetrating questions. This does not mean you are the first to answer the question; however, you must come to the gathering prepared to share how the Spirit has led you to repentance in your own life. Lead-repenting begins at home in your heart and naturally carries over into how you lead during gatherings. Be bold with your brokenness and invite words of correction and encouragement.

  • Confess your own sin & idolatry. Ask for prayer, help, and encouragement in your own life.
  • Apply the gospel to yourself. We often become focused on discerning the wounds and cracks in others’ hearts and forget to apply the gospel to our own hearts first. Let your community see you applying the healing balm of the gospel to your own wounds. This will dissolve a self-righteous hierarchy, as well as show them how to apply the gospel to their own lives.
  • Lead with grace. When revealing the gospel in other people’s story, the goal is not to rebuke publicly, but rather to graciously point them through their circumstances to Christ who is present in their struggle.

Read the whole thing (it’s a good one).

God Speaking in the Midst of Conflict

A year ago this week, I completed Conflict Coaching and Mediation training through Peacemaker Ministries and one of the things I remember most vividly was hearing story after story about how directing someone to the truths in the Bible and the Holy Spirit revealing its relevance led them to pursue a radical reconciliation.

You see, in the training we’re taught how to listen well, how to identify the root of the problem and how to offer wise counsel on how to approach reconciliation. Not coincidently, all of these components beg the question:

“What does God have to say about these things, if He speaks about them at all?”

Well, God does speak about how believers should approach conflict and knowing what He says is why Scripture memory is a vital part of solid, lasting conflict resolution skills.* This is b

ecause when Christians are in conflict, the most important thing for them to know is what God has already said.

Why do I say all of this?

  1. Because it’s mid-January and now that I’ve had time to sit down and think about the things I’ve learned in the past year and what I’d like to get better at in the coming year, I’ve discovered that treasure the Word of God more is near the top of my list.
  2. I’m going to start a series on Scripture memory. The content for it will primarily come from an article written by Ken Sande, but you’ll see there will be some nuances that will make it worth checking back here. Look for the first in series to come out later this week!

*and any other part of the Christians life, really… but that’s for another day.

How the Gospel Can Transform a Marriage

This was over at Justin Taylor’s blog last week and I thought it’d be good to share here:

  • Because of the gospel, Christians have become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Therefore, in our marriage, our past does not define us, confine us, or determine our future.
  • Because of the gospel, we are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7). Therefore we can live free of all guilt and condemnation for every sin, and we can trust that God, in his mercy, will be gracious to us.
  • Because of the gospel, we can forgive, just as Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32). Nothing done against us compares to our sin against God. Therefore all offenses, hostility, and bitterness between Christians can be completely forgiven and removed.
  • Because of the gospel, we are accepted by God (Romans 15:7). Therefore we are not dependent on a spouse for who we are or what we need.
  • Because of the gospel, sin’s ruling power over us is broken (Romans 6:614). Therefore we can truly obey all that God calls us to do in our marriage, regardless of any circumstance or situation.
  • Because of the gospel, we have access to God through Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). Therefore we can at any time take any need in our marriage to the One who can do all things.
  • Because of the gospel, we have hope (Romans 5:1-4). Therefore we can endure any marital difficulty, hardship, or suffering, with the assurance that God is working all to our greatest good (Romans 8:28).
  • Because of the gospel, Christ dwells in us by his Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14). Therefore we are confident that God is always with us and is always at work in our marriage, even when progress is imperceptible (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
  • Because of the gospel, we have power to fight and overcome remaining sin, which continues to dwell and war within us (Romans 7:19-2124-25Galatians 5:16-17). This indwelling enemy represents the essence of what is called the doctrine of sin.

These are just a few of the ways the gospel can transform a marriage. Sometimes it’s not easy to live in the reality of these truths. But it is always possible—and not because of our strength or determination, but because of God’s empowering and enabling grace.

Gary and Betsy Ricucci, Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace (Crossway, 2006), pp. 22-23

PeaceLinks

Highlights from some of the many helpful articles on the Peacemaker Ministries website for some great weekend reading.  Enjoy!

PeaceLink: Polemic Theology – How to Deal with Those who Differ from Us

by Dr. Roger R. Nicole, Visiting Professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. This article gives an in-depth look at the universal principles for relating to those who differ from us, helping us understand how to contend earnestly for the faith without being contentious.

“In order to approach this subject, there are three major questions that we must ask; and I would like to emphasize very strongly that, in my judgement, we need to ask them precisely in the right order: (1) What do I owe the person who differs from me? (2) What can I learn from the person who differs from me? (3) How can I cope with the person who differs from me?” Read More…

PeaceLink: True Stories: Church Discipline Saves a Marriage

Church discipline often has a negative connotation—harsh, retaliatory, or dictatorial. But church discipline, when its purpose is loving restoration, is a great benefit to the church and its “lost sheep,” as evidenced by this True Story of a reconciled marriage.

“The shocking words struck Kathy like a ton of bricks. Sam told her that he was filing for divorce and moving in with another woman.” Read More…

PeaceLink: Typical Logs on a Short-Term Missions Team

by Molly Routson, former Assistant to the Vice President of International Ministries.

Every year, more than two million people from the United States participate in a short-term mission trip. Many of these trips take place during the spring or summer, which means that the next few months will be filled with the initial planning for next year’s trips. The following article was written as something to think about as you begin planning for your short-term mission.

“Because that second G–“Get the Log Out of Your Eye”–is so key, this article specifically examines several “logs” that we tend to develop when we are on short-term mission teams. From my experience, here are a few common heart idols to look out for in ourselves during a short-term mission:” Read More…